Four Cups of Milk

Friday, 15 April, 2016 - 1:12 pm

A local Jew came to Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveichik with a strange question. "Is it permissible to use four cups of milk at the seder instead of four cups of wine?"

Understanding that this was an issue of finances (not health or any other reason), the Rabbi, without even responding, reached into his pocket and told the person "Take these twenty rubles and purchase wine."

After the Jew had left, a student asked the Rabbi, "Why did you have to give him twenty-five rubles? Five would be more than enough to purchase the required amount of wine."

Rabbi Soloveichik answered, "If he intended to use milk at the Seder, that means he also doesn't have money for meat [For Jewish law forbids having milk and meat at the same meal], and he probably also doesn't have money for the other items served at the Seder. I wanted to give him enough so that he could have a complete Seder."

I’ve always loved this story. It highlights what it means to really listen. To respond to only a particular question but to understand where a question is coming from. To truly care. And that care for others needs to be at the center of Pesach.

In just one week we will be sitting down at the seder. The Magid portion of the seder in which we tell over the story of the Exodus begins with the section of “Hei Lachma Anya” in which we extend an open invitation for anyone to join our seder Table.  It's am unusual introduction, especially as such invitations should take place long before the seder begins.

One moving explanation is that at this point in the Haggada we are giving a definition of freedom -- the ability to help others.  (A slave just doesn’t have those same opportunities to give…)  As we open the seder by contrasting slavery and freedom, we immediately note that in our own lives we leave our “spiritual Egypt” when we are able to transcend the occupation with oneself and begin to truly notice those around us that may need help.

As we prepare for the holiday this week, I suggest spending a few quiet moments thinking about who may need assistance this Passover.  Is there someone that may not have a seder to attend that you can invite or refer to our community Seder? An individual who needs some financial help before the holiday? Perhaps someone that needs a ride or some assistance around the house? Maybe just a warm call with wishes for a Happy Pesach?

And if you know someone that can use our assistance, please do not hesitate giving Chana or me a call. There is no better way to prepare for Passover…

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