Passover – A Pesach Story

This dvar Torah I heard on the first day of shiur by Rabbi Avrohom Kanarek zt”l over 20 years ago in Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim Yerushayim. Even though these words of mussar were given at the beginning of Elul zman, there is seemingly a well-known story about Pesach which is still worth sharing for its lesson.

 We say everyday upon waking up modeh ani, after we say ראשית חכמה יראת ד’ .
 This statement means, the beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem. The first pasuk of the Torah portion of Shoftim begins, “Judges and policemen shall be appointed to you in all your cities.” Why say “to you”? It is redundant! The answer is that each person should have for oneself, in oneself, a judge and a policeman. The basic quality of a judge is that he does not take bribes. So, a person to have a judge within himself means not taking bribes. What bribes a person? His negative middos, negative character traits, like taavah, physical desires. These make him believe “this is the right thing to do” or make up excuses like “that’s not what the Shulchan Aruch meant, it was talking about another case.” There are people who even don’t bother to convince themselves that what they are doing is correct, they simply can’t control their animalistic instincts, and even though they know what they are doing is wrong they proceed to do it anyways. That is why we have a policeman. What is the policeman? Yiras Shamayim, fear of Heaven. Not many people have Yiras Haromemus, Fear of The Exalted Hashem Himself, but at least fear of punishment one should have. This is the policeman.

There is a story of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, on erev Pesach he would go to the non-Jews and ask to buy something illegal from the black market, and they said sure! He went to simple Jews and asked them to sell him chometz and they would say, assur, it’s forbidden! We see even with all the police in Czarist Russia the non-Jews weren’t afraid but a Jew has fear of Heaven which is enough.

Chag kasher visameach,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder