I need a quick, punchy and inspiring story to tell at the Seder. It's a tough crowd so it's gotta be a good one. Can you help?
Try this one.
The saintly Rabbi Aryeh Levin was known as the Father of the Prisoners. In the 1930's, when Israel was under British rule, the prisons were full of Jews, mostly members of the Jewish underground organizations. They all knew that this kindly Jerusalem rabbi would regularly visit them, offering support and strength, a listening ear and a soft word of encouragement. Even the most hardened criminal would warm to his gentle nature and sincere love for his fellow.
One time during Pesach, Rabbi Aryeh went to visit his beloved inmates. They greeted him warmly and he asked, "Tell me friends, how was your seder?"
One of the inmates replied, "We had a fantastic Seder! We did all of the traditions and followed all of the customs, except one. There was one tradition that the prison guards did not let us perform."
The rabbi was taken aback. According to British law, even prisoners are allowed freedom of religion and can practice as they please. So he asked, "Which tradition did they not let you do?"
The prisoner responded with a bitter smile, "We ate the Matzah with no problems, and we had plenty of bitter herbs. But when it came to opening the door for Elijah the Prophet, we wanted to do it, but we weren't allowed...
"I guess," continued the inmate, "even on the Festival of Freedom, some people aren't free."
With a sympathetic smile, the rabbi said, "True freedom comes from opening the doors of your heart. It doesn't matter where in the world you're sitting, if your heart is open you are free. Our souls are stuck in a prison of materialism, of selfishness, pettiness and emptiness. When you liberate your soul and allow yourself to connect to G-d, to do good in the world and to be your true holy self, then no matter how many doors are locked in front of you, you are truly free."
This is the power of the Seder. It has kept us free, because no matter what else may be happening in our lives, no matter what doors may be closed to us, the doors to our heart are always ours to open.
Wishing you a Good Shabbos and happy and liberating Pesach,