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The Mitzvah of Matzah

For many years, it was the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s custom to personally distribute matzot on the Eve of Pesach to his many emissaries arranging public seders in locations around the New York area. The emissaries would then share the matzos with the members of their communities, along with the Rebbe’s blessings and good wishes.

On the Eve of Pesach, 1990, one of those standing in line was Moshe Tamarin, not a shliach (emissary), but a young man who lived in Moscow who had come to New York for Pesach and was about to direct a seder for Russian immigrants in New Haven. Tamarin was asked to get the matzos for the participants at the seder as well as for the Lubavitchers who lived in New Haven.

Usually the shliach, Rabbi Moshe Yitzchok Hecht, personally got the matzos from the Rebbe for his city, but this year his caRabbis engine had burned out and he couldn’t make it to Crown Heights. Rabbi Binyanim Katz, the organizer of the seder, had asked Rabbi Tamarin, who would be arriving in town that day, to get the matzos for them.

Also waiting was Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Stock, an emissary in Bridgeport near New Haven. Rabbi Stock was also holding a seder in his town and had invited ten Russian families to his home. Rabbi Stock was going to drive Tamarin until the highway between Bridgeport and New Haven, where a driver would pick him up and take him to New Haven.

Rabbi Moshe Tamarin and Rabbi Yossi Stock were among the first in line so that they could get back home in time for Yom Tov. When it was Rabbi Tamarin’s turn, he told the Rebbe in Russian, "…for the seder for Russian immigrants in New Haven." After the Rebbe gave him a package of matzos he asked for matzos for Rabbi Moshe Hecht.

The Rebbe leaned forward and asked, "Ah?" Rabbi Tamarin repeated his request. The Rebbe, as though not hearing him, asked, "You’re going to make a seder with Russian immigrants in Bridgeport?"

For a moment Rabbi Tamarin thought that the Rebbe hadn’t understood him, and he repeated, "No, it’s for New Haven." An uncomfortable silence prevailed. The Rebbe turned to Rabbi Stock and asked, "He’s going with you?"

"Yes," said Rabbi Stock.

"Do you understand what he’s saying?" asked the Rebbe.

The Rebbe’s aide finally told the Rebbe that Rabbi Tamarin was going to New Haven and was asking for matzos for Rabbi Hecht.

The Rebbe raised his hands and said, "Nu!" as if to say, "If that’s the case..."

The Rebbe gave Rabbi Tamarin and Rabbi Stock each a package and wished them "a Kosher un a freilichen Pesach." The two silently left.

• • •

Rabbi Stock and Rabbi Tamarin drove the twohour drive from Crown Heights. When they got to the highway between Bridgeport and New Haven, there was nobody waiting there for Rabbi Tamarin.

Finally, Rabbi Stock said, "Come and have the seder with me. I am also making a seder for Russians, and I don’t have anybody who speaks Russian to run it properly."

Rabbi Tamarin agreed -- did he have a choice? Now they both realized that the Rebbe had known where Rabbi Tamarin was headed. That was why he had asked, "Are you going to make a seder for Russians in Bridgeport?"

• • •

Right before Yom Tov began, the shliach in New Haven, Rabbi Berel Levitin, noticed that Rabbi Tamarin had not arrived.

The disappointment was great, for the Lubavitchers of New Haven would not have the Rebbe’s matzos for the seder that year. Rabbi Levitin decided to get up early the next morning and walk to Bridgeport, a distance of 25 miles!

After four hours of walking he found himself on the edge of a small town. Not far from where he stood was a large hospital. Rabbi Levitin decided to check if there were any Jewish patients in the hospital, to whom he could give a piece of matzah.

When he entered the lobby, he was told that there was an elderly Jewish woman on the second floor. "I see you are a rabbi," the nurse remarked to Rabbi Levitin, noticing his Chassidic dress. "Perhaps you would know what matza is. She keeps asking for matza..."

Rabbi Levitin entered the woman’s room and upon seeing him, the woman burst into tears. When she calmed down she said that she kept asking the doctors to bring her matzos. "I am Jewish and it’s Pesach, and on this holiday we eat matza. I told them, but they said they can’t get matza here in this town. I was so upset and I prayed to G-d that He send me matza, and a few minutes later you appeared with matza!"



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