As a young man, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh of Vorki, who in the future would become a famous rebbe in his own right (the "Sabba Kadisha", or "Holy Grandfather" of Radziman), tried to be close to the leading tzadikkim of the generation in Poland and Galicia. He especially loved to join them for Passover Seder night.

One year, Reb Yaakov very much wanted to be with the Maggid of Koznitz for Seder, but he knew that the Rebbe was one of those who preferred to not host chassidim that night. Still, he was determined to try; maybe he would be one of the few that merited to sit at the Rebbe's table.

Actually, Reb Yaakov had a plan. For the three weeks from before parashat Shekalim till after Purim he remained in Koznitz. During that time he was constantly in and out of the Rebbe's house, running errands and making himself useful however he could. He became almost like a member of the household.

The room hummed with activity and reverberated with song….

As Passover approached, he went into stage two. He asked various members of the Rebbe's household with whom he had become friendly to get him invited for the Seder. The Maggid didn't say yes or no. Reb Yaakov felt certain that he would eventually relent, but he decided to avoid the Rebbe's house and shul for the last few days until Pesach Eve. Then, when he would suddenly appear, the Maggid would surely instruct him to stay, because there would no longer be time for him to travel home.

By late morning on Pesach Eve crowds of chassidim had arrived to participate in the Maggid's matzah-baking and to hear him sing Hallel throughout the work. At precisely midday the Maggid entered the room, checked the tables and all the rolling pins, and distributed the various tasks among the chassidim present.

The work began. The Maggid himself ran back and forth between the different stations to observe and instruct, and to exhort and enthuse everyone with the call of "l'shem matzat mitzvah" - "for the sake of matzah of the mitzvah." When intermittently he would sing Hallel, everyone would join in. The room hummed with activity and reverberated with song.

At that moment, Reb Yaakov came in and busied himself among the workers. He was in a great mood. Surely his plan had worked. The Rebbe would have no choice but to invite him, and he would merit to see the Rebbe's holy face as he conducted the Seder.

The latter was thrilled speechless at the present the tzaddik had bestowed upon him….

When the baking was completed, all who took part lined up to receive three matzahs from the Maggid's holy hand, and his blessing for the holiday. When the turn came of Reb Chaim, a wealthy, much respected chassid from a neighboring village, the Maggid added a blessing that they should merit to bake matzah together the following year; he then added, "I also want to honor you with a special guest for Pesach," and pointed to Reb Yaakov, who the whole time had been standing nearby closely observing the Rebbe's manner of distribution.

With a crash like thunder, the Rebbe's words toppled Reb Yaakov's plans and dreams. He tried to muffle his disappointment in the face of Reb Chaim's excitement. The latter was thrilled speechless at the present the tzaddik had bestowed upon him. A Torah scholar to grace his table with deep words of Torah and Chassidut! How impressed everyone in his village would be that the Rebbe felt he, Reb Chaim, merited this blessing. His face beaming, he beckoned Rabbi Yaakov to climb up into the fancy carriage that awaited them.

Reluctantly, Reb Yaakov got in. He still hadn't fully accepted the Rebbe's sudden decree. His mind was busy, conceiving and weighing plans how to change the Rebbe's mind. His new host whipped up the horses and they sped off in the direction of their village. Reb Yaakov sat dejected, facing backwards, towards Koznitz.

His inner turmoil didn't last long, for at the first crossroads he jumped off the wagon and started walking determinedly back to Koznitz. By the time he reached town, it was already dark - the holiday had begun. Stopping at the first shul, he quickly prayed the Evening Prayer and recited Hallel, and then hurried on to the Beit Midrash of the Maggid. By the time he arrived, not a soul was there, the prayers were long over.

The holiness of the room was overwhelming; it was said that whoever entered it full of sins did not leave until he was fully repentant. Rabbi Yaakov paced back and forth the length of the building for a long time, alone, reflecting deeply. He was troubled that he had entered like a sneak thief in the night. Finally he emerged, and headed for the Rebbe's house. He was prepared for the Rebbe's displeasure that he had disobeyed a specific instruction.

It was already long past the Evening Prayer. The Maggid still sat isolated in his room, exalted, his face aflame, preparing himself for theSeder. On the way to her husband's room to see if perhaps he was ready to come to the table, the Rebbe's wife glanced out the window. She thought she felt a presence that disturbed the absolute quiet that imbued the courtyard. Peering closer, she saw Reb Yaakov standing immobile in the shadows, immersed in thought. Instantly, she empathized that the young man had endangered himself by his rebelliousness, solely because of his need to to be at her husband's Seder. She decided to intercede for him; to ask her husband to allow him to stay.

She quietly approached her husband's door. When he looked up, she entered and said, "I must tell you that Yankele from Rychivol is standing about in the courtyard."

The Rebbe didn't react especially. He simply said, "If so, tell him to go in and find himself a place at the table."

The Rebbe's wife went quickly to inform the beadle, and then to tell Reb Yaakov the good news that he was invited. At the news, Reb Yaakov lit up, outside and in. He ran into the Beit Midrash were the long table had been set up. The beadle showed him his place and whispered in his ear that the matzahs and wine had been sent for him from the Rebbe's house.

Sparkling candelabras and gleaming oil bowls filled the room with bright light. The long heavy table on which the chassidim studied Torah the whole year was now covered with a shining embroidered white cloth, and graced with vessels and utensils of silver, crystal and gold. The Maggid's place was set with a couch piled with pillows and cushions to a distinctive height. The few guests rose to their feet with baited anticipation as they heard the measured steps of the Maggid approach.

The door opened, and the Maggid entered. Dressed in white from head to toe, his face shone with heavenly splendor. Of short stature and frail, he now seemed to be tall and majestic like an angel of G‑d. The guests froze in their places, paralyzed with awe at the startling apparition. With surprising agility, the Maggid sprang onto his cushions and a powerful voice that reverberated through the room called out, "Kadesh!" to inaugurate the Seder.

Everyone concentrated intently so as to not miss a word or a nuance….

As he arranged his goblet next to his silver seder platter with the familiar symbolic foods, the guests started to relax. Awe transmuted into inspiration as an air of holiness - as if from the Garden of Eden - emanated from the Maggid's place and permeate the entire room. Everyone concentrated intently so as to not miss a word or a nuance of the Maggid's recital of the account of the emergence from Egypt.

No one present was as effected by the awesome atmosphere as Reb Yaakov. He anyway felt himself to be an intruder who had forced his way in. He couldn't stop trembling. Beads of sweat dotted his frightened visage. He felt so weak he thought he might faint.

The Maggid rose to begin kiddush. Everyone immediately rose after him, but Reb Yaakov didn't know if he could. With his last remaining strength he forced himself to stand straight and focus on the Rebbe at the head of the table.

After saying kiddush, the Maggid reclined and drank. So did everyone else. The tzaddik called out "Maggid!" - "Let us tell!"…and Rabbi Yaakov fell into a deep sleep.

The Maggid explained each paragraph of the Hagaddah with divine inspiration, accompanied with wondrous stories and parables. The enchanted guests felt themselves among those privileged to leave Egypt amongst wonders and miracles. Not one was aware of Reb Yaakov, who was sleeping soundly on the bench.

Reb Yaakov…understood quite well that the real reason he missed out was that he had rebelled against the Rebbe's stated wish….

After many hours the Maggid finally reached the concluding blessing. As he intoned the words "Redeemer of Israel", Reb Yaakov awoke. His disappointment was unbearable. All those months of careful planning and hard effort! He knew he had been totally exhausted, but he also understood quite well that the real reason he missed out was that he had rebelled against the Rebbe's stated wish for him to be the guest of the villager.

A true devotee, Reb Yaakov refused to be depressed. Instead he looked forward to the Seder of the second night. After all, his falling asleep this night could be attributed to his exhaustion from walking all the way back to Koznitz, toiling at matzah baking, and not having eaten anything the whole day. By the next night he would have eaten well, caught up on his sleep, prayed and recited Hallel properly, and prepared himself to be transported out of Egypt by the inspired words of the Maggid, he thought.

The awesome vision of the first night repeated itself again for all those who merited to be present at the second Seder. With the Maggid's entrance, the room was filled with light and the guests dumbstruck with fear. The holiness was palpable. The elder chassidim used to explain that this was because of all the angels crowding in who wanted to hear the Magid's Seder.

Reb Yaakov was excited and optimistic. This time he didn't feel sleepy at all. He looked forward with all his being to watching and listening to the Maggid.

The stubborness of a chassid is no match for the will of a tzaddik….

The tzaddik's face shone and dazzled like the sun. "Kadash" - "Urchatz" - "Karpas" - "Yachatz" - all passed with Reb Yaakov in a maximum state of alertness. Then the Rebbe called out "Maggid!", continuing the Seder. At last! Reb Yaakov concentrated mightily. "This is the bread of our affliction," read the Maggid…and Reb Yaakov fell sound asleep.

Several hours passed of extraordinary revelations and spiritual unifications. "...Redeemer of Israel," blessed the Maggid, and Reb Yaakov woke up. Finally he was forced to acknowledge that the stubborness of a chassid is no match for the will of a tzaddik. Still, he could not understand why he was not allowed to witness the Maggid's holy Seder while, for example, the guest seated opposite him in the coarse uniform of a Russian Cantonist (a young Jew kidnapped and forced to serve in the army) got to see and hear everything. What was he even doing there anyway?

At least the explanation for that mystery was unveiled that same evening. After the meal, as the second part of the Seder progressed, the boundless joy of the Maggid seemed to accelerate even further. After the fourth cup of wine, he began to sing the hymn "Chasal Sidur Pesach" in ecstatic devotion. Yet, as his singing increasingly louder and stronger, he was matched and even surpassed by the soldier, whose enthusiatic efforts nearly drowned out the Maggid's holy voice!

When they reached the last line, ending with the words "…peduyim l'tzion b'rina" ("...redeemed for Zion with joyous song"), the soldier leaped out of his seat and began dancing mightily while emphasizing the final two syllables of the word "peduyim" - "redeemed", but pronouncing it like the Russian word "duyon", which means "let's go". Over and over again innumerable times the soldier and the rebbe repeated the phrase "peduyim l'tzion b'rina" with Russian accents, until finally the frail Maggid jumped up and yelled, "Come let us go to Zion with joyous song!" in a mighty voice. He then crossed the room and joined the soldier for a few steps of rapturous dance until they reached the door. The soldier exited and immediately disappeared from sight. No one ever saw him again. "'Fortunate is he who sees him while awake,' " mused Reb Yaakov to himself.

Years later, the chassidim who participated in the Passover Seders of the Sabba Kadisha of Radzmin also reported many wondrous happenings. Nevertheless, Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh was fond of saying, "Nowhere else in this world can one hope to find the kind of Seders that I enjoyed in Koznitz. Perhaps in the World to Come it will be possible to repeat such experiences."

May the merit of the holy tzaddikim protect us until "like the days of our going out of Egypt, we see extraordinary wonders" and the full Messianic redemption.

Rabbi Yisroel Haupstein, 1737-1814, the "Maggid" (preacher) of Koznitz (the son of Shabtai the bookbinder, whose miraculous birth is the subject of a famous Baal Shem Tov story), was a major disciple of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lyzhensk and the author of the chassidic-kabbalistic work "Avodat Yisrael" and other books.

Rabbi Yaakov Aryeh Guterman, 1792-1874, the "Sabba Kadisha" (holy grandfather) of Radziman, was a disciple of Rabbis Yaakov Yitzchak and Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and of Rabbi Yitzchak of Vorki, who he succeeded as Rebbe in 1848. He was famed as a miracle worker.

Adapted mainly from Si'ach Tsaddikim, pp. 42-48, first published in Kfar Chabad Magazine.

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