The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 27 March 2004 / 5 Nisan 5764

Wine or Milk?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

As the Festival of Pesach approaches Jews throughout the world not only prepare wine and matzot for their own holiday celebration but care for others as well. Whether it is called Kimcha DaPischa or Maot Chittin, the campaign conducted in each community has the same purpose to provide indigent families with their basic holiday needs.

The story is told about a Jew in the Lithuanian community of Slutsk a century ago who came to the spiritual head of the community, the renowned Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, to receive help from the communal fund. Upon receiving funds to purchase matzot he asked the rabbi if it was possible to fulfill the mitzvah of the four cups on Seder night with milk instead of wine. Shocked by the question the rabbi called to his wife to give the man a large sum of money from the fund to purchase wine. She did as instructed but after the grateful man left she asked her husband why the man was given so much money when the wine he needed did not cost so much.

The response of the rabbi was an expression of the brilliance and sensitivity of this Torah giant. "If he was planning to use milk for the four cups," he said, "it means that he couldnt afford to purchase meat for the meal, and it was necessary for us to supply him with money for that as well."

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