Ra’anana Community Kollel
A Kernel of Truth
Rabbi Paysach Krohn
In Jerusalem, a young man was married just a few days before Pesach, and, following the custom of many families, he and his new wife went to spend the Yom Tov in the home of her parents.
The tables in the home of his in-laws were beautifully set, and all were dressed in their Yom Tov best, including the chassan who wore his new shtreimel, (rounded fur hat, worn by many Chassidic and Yerushalmi Jews on Shabbos and holidays). The Seder began and everything progressed smoothly,. The children recited the Ma Nishtanah, the Haggadah was read, and the matzah and marror were eaten. Finally the meal was served. However, as the new chassan was eating his soup, he suddenly noticed a kernel of wheat floating in his plate.
He was shocked! A wheat kernel in hot soup - surely that was chametz, a most flagrant violation of the holiday! How could chametz be served in his mother-in-law’s house? He had been under the impression that the family he was marring into was strictly observant, and now it seemed that they were actually quite lax.
He could not hide his displeasure, and soon others around him began wondering out loud how the kernel had gotten into the soup. The mother-in-law herself was humiliated, for indeed she was extremely meticulous in her Pesach preparations. How could chametz have gotten into the food she had prepared so carefully? Did that not make the rest of the food suspect as well?
The mood of the evening was shattered as everyone - especially the chassan became disenchanted. The Seder continued and finally ended, and everyone left the table silent and subdued.
The next morning in shul, after the davening had been completed, Rav Shmuel Salant (1838-1909), the Rav of Jerusalem, innocently approached the father of the kallah and asked cheerfully, “And so, how is the young couple?” The father-in-law could not mask his sullen face, and his eyes told the Rav that something was definitely amiss.
R’ Shmuel approached the chassan. “How is the Yom Tov going for you?” he asked, waiting for some hint of reaction from the young man. The chassan looked down dejectedly, and his feelings of disappointment were quite obvious. “Fine, fine,” he answered unconvincingly.
“What’s wrong?” asked R’ Shmuel, addressing both the chassan and his father-in-law.
Within a few moments he heard the story of how, to the embarrassment of all, a wheat kernel - chametz - had been found in the chassan’s soup. The Rav listened intently and then suddenly said, “Quickly, both of you, come out of the shul at once.”
Together the Rav and the two men went outside. R’ Shmuel asked that someone bring him a rag. The older man and his son-in-law looked at each other with surprise, as a rag was brought to the Rav. “Now give me your shtreimel,” the Rav said to the young man.
R’ Shmuel Salant then took the shtreimel and began rubbing the top of it vehemently with the rag. To the shock of those who had gathered around, two wheat kernels fell out of the top lining of the shtreimel!
As the kernels fell to the ground, R’ Shmuel exclaimed, “It’s just as I suspected. Last Shabbos at the Aufruf (when the chasssan is called to the Torah before his wedding), the children all threw wheat kernels (as a sign of blessing and prosperity) at you after you had your aliyah, and some of them got stuck in your shtreimel!”
R’ Shmuel smiled and added, “And that is why your soup and no one else’s had a wheat kernel. It fell from your shtreimel!”
When the Maggid of Jerusalem , Rav Shalom Shwadron would tell this story, he would smile and add, “This teaches, of course, that before you accuse someone else of having committed a wrong, you had better first check your own shtreimel! For in truth, the very transgression you are so sure another person caused may actually have been your own doing.”
Reprinted from “Echoes of the Maggid”
with permission from the copyright holders