The development was so surprising that word soon came to the Rebbe Harav Shmelka of Nikolsburg. Ordinarily, a significant percentage of animals purchased by butchers are found after shechitah to be treif, yet at one local butcher shop, each and every animal was declared kosher.
When the Rebbe asked the butcher for an explanation, he explained that when he went to buy the animals, a certain Yid in the marketplace would tell him which animals to buy and which ones to pass on.
The Rebbe Reb Shmelka went to see for himself, and found that it was Harav Nota of Shineve, zy”a, who was in the marketplace guiding the butcher.
The Rebbe Reb Shmelka asked Harav Nota, a hidden tzaddik whose greatness began to be revealed at the time, why he was in the marketplace.
“I am waiting for Eliyahu Hanavi,” Reb Nota replied.
“Why is Eliyahu Hanavi in a marketplace of animals?” asked the Rebbe Reb Shmelka.
Reb Nota revealed that during the churban of the Beis Hamikdash, the enemy took the animals that had been consecrated for korbanos. Since the offspring of these animals are also forbidden for ordinary use, Eliyahu comes to identify these animals so that Jews don’t inadvertently buy them.
Word of the encounter soon spread among the tzaddikim of the time, and they would make their way to Reb Nota to converse with him in esoteric parts of the Torah. On one occasion they asked Reb Nota why we are so long in this unbearable exile.
“When Eliyahu comes to me during the Seder, I will ask him,” Reb Nota said.
The second night of Pesach, Reb Nota related that he had asked Eliyahu, who had replied, “Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilos — Why is this galus different from all other exiles? Because kulanu mi’subin, we all are made of coarse bran. (Misubin in lashon kodesh — and in the Haggadah — means reclining; mi’subin means made of coarse bran.)
The Chassidim understood that while in the previous generations there were also elements that were spiritually weaker, the merits of the tzaddikim of the generation picked up the slack for the weaker individuals. But as the level of ensuing generations fell, all that was left was coarse bran, the inferior side-product of wheat, and thus sufficient merits were lacking.
When the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk, zy”a, was told Eliyahu’s words, he gave a different explanation.
Unlike regular flour, he explained, coarse bran can’t be used to make a dough, as the particles don’t join together, symbolizing a refusal to unify.
Eliyahu Hanavi was teaching us that it is the machlokes and discord among Jews that is the reason why we have not yet been redeemed from this exile.
* * *
Accompanied by guests, Harav Elya Roth, zt”l, the famed gabbai of Harav Shlomk’e, the Rebbe of Zhvil, zy”a, arrived home one year on the first night of Pesach to discover that something had gone wrong. The table, which hours earlier had been set for the Seder, had somehow been overturned, its contents strewn on the floor.
Instead of losing his composure at this disconcerting sight, Harav Elya taught something uplifting and relevant.
When everything goes exactly as planned, that could hardly be referred to as celebrating “zman cheiruseinu,” for as long as one is dependent on and subjugated to circumstances, one cannot be called free.
It is only when one can manage to overcome his natural emotions and defy the circumstances in which he finds himself that a man can be called free.
Freedom entails breaking the bonds of hatred and anger — even when logically a feud appears warranted.
Every day we say in Pesukei d’Zimrah, “He makes your borders peaceful and with the cream of [the] wheat he satiates you.”
The Chasam Sofer explains that every person has a “border,” or a limit to his wisdom. For some people, jealousy can cause irrational behavior. For others, it is love of money that does it. For still others it is the pursuit of kavod.
But a tzaddik, a person who controls his desires and impulses, is not affected by any of these things. Rather, it is pursuit of peace that is his “border.” When he realizes that doing what appears to be the wise or good thing will cause machlokes he declares, “I’d rather be [called] a fool all my life and not be involved in machlokes.”
Even though parnassah is pre-ordained and one needs zechuyos to be able to change the amount that is coming to him, someone who has peace as his “border” deserves this great distinction and merits to be satiated with the cream of the wheat.
On Pesach, wheat — which symbolizes parnassah — is “judged.” It is a time to apply this teaching of the Chasam Sofer, and rather be a “fool” who is free than one who follows his logic and remains enslaved to his emotions.
May we be granted the wisdom to break down the barriers of personal animosity that divide us, so that when Eliyahu Hanavi visits our homes this Seder night, he may be the bearer of the glorious tidings of our final redemption.