Thursday, March 19, 2015

Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)




Customs for Chodesh Nisan (Prior to Pesach)
From “Breslov Eikh Shehu: Breslov the Way It Is”
Customs and Practices, Past and Present
Work-in-progress by Dovid Zeitlin and Dovid Sears

Nisan
The Rebbe taught that the days of Nisan are days of teshuvah, like the days of Tishrei.
(Likutey Moharan I, 49)

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The Rebbe was born on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, which is the Mishnah designates as the "Rosh Hashanah shel malakhim," the day on which the reign of a Jewish king officially begins. Today many Breslover Chassidim travel to Uman to pray near the Rebbe's tziyun on Rosh Chodesh Nisan because it, too, is a “Rosh Hashanah,” and perhaps to some extent possesses the segulos of Rosh Hashanah.

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In a letter to Rabbi Avraham Jacobovitch, Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz mentions that Nisan is the head of all months, and is a time of simchah in all the worlds; each day is comparable to a Rosh Chodesh and a Yom Tov; and through this simchah, one can attain tikkun and shemiras ha-bris, as discussed in Likutey Moharan I, 49.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, Michtevey Shmuel [Jerusalem: Keren R’ Yisrael Dov Odesser, first edition], Letter 26, p. 103)

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Beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the minhag in the Ukraine was for each person to recite the parshas ha-nasi followed by the “yehi ratzon” after Shacharis, not to read it from the Sefer Torah in public. This was also the Breslover minhag.
(Heard from Rabbi Michel Dorfman. Those who read the nasi privately include the communities of Chernobyl-Skver, Boyan, Karlin-Stolin, Chabad, etc. Reading it from a Sefer Torah was the minhag of Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz, also mentioned in Darkei Chaim ve-Shalom [Munkatch])

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However, in recent years it became the minhag in the Tzefas Breslov community to read the nasi from the Sefer Torah. This change was made out of concern that people not forget to do so.

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Reb Elazar and a group of talmidim from Tzefas usually go to Uman immediately after Pesach to spend the last days of Nisan at the Rebbe's tziyun. The chaburah spends one day visiting the kivrei tzaddikim in Berditchev, Medzhibuzh, and Breslov. While in Uman, Reb Elazar teaches Sippurey Ma’asiyos and Likutey Moharan every day, and the chaburah recites Tikkun ha-Klalli be-tzibbur.

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Reb Gedaliah and his talmidim used to go to Tzefas in order to pray there on Erev Rosh Chodesh Iyar. When asked about this, Reb Gedaliah said that this was the date that Mosdos Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma had purchased its first property in Tzefas.
(Heard from Rabbi Dovid Shapiro)

Mekhiras Chometz / Sale of Chometz
Reb Gedaliah stated that the mekhirah is a complete sale, and chas ve-shalom that one should think otherwise. Therefore, one may sell any quantity of chometz gamur.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein)

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Reb Gedaliah did not instruct his talmidim to sell their chometz through a Rov who used an arev kablan. Therefore, it seems he was not particular about this.
(Heard from Rabbi Yaakov Klein. The Baal ha-Tanya advocated the use of an arev kablan, a Jew who acts as the agent of the non-Jew who buys the chametz. )

Shabbos Ha-Gadol
After Minchah, it is customary to recite the Haggadah, beginning with “Avadim hayinu” until “le-khaper al kol avonoseinu.” One does so even if Shabbos ha-Gadol falls on Erev Pesach.
(RaMA, Orach Chaim 430:1; Mishnah Berurah, ad loc.)

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The Rebbe darshans on the custom that once prevailed in Eastern Europe to turn over the tables after Shabbos HaGadol.
(Sichos ha-Ran 88)

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The tables were commonly made so that the top rested on the legs. Therefore, by turning over the top, one was provided with a new, “chometz-free” surface.
(Heard from Rabbi Leibel Berger)


Erev Pesach
Reb Avraham Sternhartz told Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz that Reb Noson used to say: “As soon as one recites the berakhah for bedikas chometz, it is already a shtick Pesach (i.e., one is already connected to Pesach).”
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman, Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)

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Reb Avraham described how after the bedikah, Reb Noson would speak words of mussar to his sons: they should strive to remove the chometz from their hearts, etc. This was the only time he spoke mussar at such length the entire year. He did so order to awaken the paradigm of “yom nakam bi-libi . . . the day of retribution is in My heart, and the year of My Redemption has come” (Isaiah 63:4). This mood lasted until the burning of the chometz the following morning, when one must also destroy the chometz from one’s heart. Reb Noson’s allusion to the verse “yom nakam bi-libi” alludes to Likutey Moharan I, 83, which speaks of searching for chometz with the “light of the eyes” (see there), destroying the chometz in one’s heart, and other awesome tikkunim that are bound up with the Redemption and Beis ha-Mikdash.
(Rabbi Shmuel Horowitz, editor of Rabbi Avraham b’Reb Nachman’s Yemei T’la’os [Jerusalem 1982, fifth edition] p. 41)

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Reb Gedaliah had a large family and an extremely small dirah. Yet despite the challenges of operating within such circumstances, he remained calm and patient throughout the Pesach preparations, with tzelilus ha-da’as. 
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig)

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Reb Gedaliah showed great zehirus in all mitzvos de-rabbanan. Thus, he would not even drink water before bedikas chometz, even though this is halakhically permissible.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Yaakov Klein)

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Reb Gedaliah did not use a feather and wooden spoon during bedikas chometz, but only a candle and a sheet of paper made into a cone to collect the ten pieces of chometz, etc. One year one of his children came back from kindergarten and gave him a wooden spoon for the bedikah. However, he put it aside and did not use it, commenting, “Ich fier zach vie der Tate . . . I conduct myself like my father.”
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Gedaliah’s wife would place each of the ten small pieces of chometz on a piece of paper, and put them on the floor. Reb Gedaliah would collect them during the bedikah and put them in the paper cone together with the candle to be burned in the morning.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Gedaliah was not extreme in his manner of performing the bedikah. For example, if a drawer were not normally used for chometz, he would just open it and quickly look inside. He told his children to clean out the pockets of their clothes during the day, and he did not inspect them at night.
(Heard from Rabbi Yossel Sofer citing his mother, Mrs. Mirel Sofer)

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Reb Avraham Sternhartz used to fast all day on Erev Pesach and did not avail himself of the heter to make a siyum or attend one. This also had been the practice of his zeide, the Tcheriner Rov.
(Heard from Rabbi Elazar Kenig and Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn)

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Rabbi Avraham Shimon Burshteyn remembered hearing that Reb Avraham had had an older sister who died young, and therefore he was not obligated to fast on Ta’anis Bekhorim; yet he did so anyway. Another possible reason for this stringency, he speculated, was that Reb Avraham wished exempt his bekhor, Reb Noson, during the latter’s childhood, and he simply continued to do so after Reb Noson came of age.

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The Rav of Tcherin writes that there is no special inyan in Breslov to bake Erev Pesach matzos, which entails many halakhic risks if conditions are not optimal. "However," he adds, "if one can do so properly and without great difficulty, mah tov u-mah na'im."
(See Si'ach Sarfei Kodesh IV, 257. However, Reb Elazar has a copy of an unpublished letter from Reb Noson asking for wheat in order to make Erev Pesach matzos. This was a custom of the Baal Shem Tov still observed in many circles; see Shivchey Baal Shem Tov [Avraham Rubenstein, ed.] 199; Siddur ARI Rav Shabbsai, Seder Erev Pesach, et al.)

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Reb Gedaliah did not bake Erev Pesach matzos. Moreover, he was particular not to use them, due to the halakhic problems surrounding them.
(Heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Kenig, Rabbi Chaim Man, and Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

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Sometime after chatzos, Reb Gedaliah would recite the letter of Rabbi Shimshon Ostropolier, printed in many editions of the Haggadah. He encouraged his talmidim to do so, as well.
(Heard from Rabbi Moshe Grinberger)

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After Minchah, he would read recite the account of the Korban Pesach. This is the common minhag. It is possible that the nusach he followed was that of Rabbi Yaakov Emden’s Siddur. This was one of his favorite seforim, which he often reviewed at different times of the year.
(Heard from Rabbi Ephraim Kenig)

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