Last week, we spoke about the great opportunity to ask from Hashem for our needs on the night of the Seder. Rav Elya Dushnitzer said in a Shabbos HaGodol drasha that Mordechai HaTzaddik had an option to wait till the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to make the three-day fast since Haman’s decree of annihilation wasn’t until the next Adar. Yet, Mordechai chose the Seder night for the three-day fast. This is the awesome power of the night of the Seder. The gematria of the words Pesach, matza and marror is 729. This is the exact equivalent numerical value of Kra Satan, to tear up the prosecutor. Such is the segulah of this awesome evening.
When, specifically, should one ask for their needs during the Seder? One ideal location is when we say the verse “Vanitzak el Hashem Elokei avoseinu, vayishma Hashem es koleinu – And we cried out to Hashem the G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voices.” There is a famous story from the Apter Rav, the legendary Oheiv Yisroel, zt”l, zy”a. One of his chassidim rented an inn from the gentile poritz. This inn served as both his home and his livelihood. The particular winter of our story was icy and frigid. The inn had no patrons and our innkeeper fell severely behind in his rent. The poritz sent his agent who told the innkeeper that if he doesn’t pay within a month, he and his family would be thrown into the dungeon to rot.
Without any other resource, the innkeeper traveled to the Oheiv Yisroel to ask what to do. He arrived right before Shabbos HaGodol and learned that, to his chagrin, the Rebbe was not seeing people due to Pesach preparations. Without any other recourse, the innkeeper stayed for Shabbos HaGodol. Like a good chossid, he went to the drasha. He didn’t understand the pilpul section. But then, the Rebbe started explaining the Haggadah. When he got to the stanza of Vanitzak el Hashem, the Rebbe proclaimed that this is where we can ask Hashem to solve all of our problems. The Rebbe added that even if the poritz wants to throw you into a dungeon, cry out to Hashem for help.
Right after Shabbos, the chossid left for home without even speaking privately with the Rebbe. But he had already received his answer. During his Seder, he and his wife cried out and begged Hashem by Vanitzak for assistance. About half an hour later, there was a banging on the door! A disheveled goy said in a rushed tone that he had just killed his wife and was fleeing from the law. He deposited two chests by the innkeeper; one to safeguard for him and the other as payment to the innkeeper for protecting his wealth. On Chol HaMoed, the innkeeper was able to pay all of his arrears to the poritz with the proceeds of ‘his’ box.
Rav Elimeilech Biderman, shlit”a, relates a much more recent Vanitzak story. There was a childless couple who had pined for a child for many years. They knew about the segulah of Vanitzak, but they always had company for the Seder, and they didn’t feel comfortable crying and wailing to Hashem in front of others. Then came the frightening Pesach of covid three years ago. He and his wife were in protective quarantine and therefore alone for the seder. When it came to Vanitzak they cried out their hearts for half an hour. Nine months later they were blessed with a child!
Another auspicious place to daven is right before the mah nishtanah. In most of our Haggadahs, there is an instruction: kan haben sho’el. While literally this means “Here, the son asks (the mah nishtanah)”, there is another meaning. The previous Toliner Rebbe, zt”l, zy”a, quotes the great Rav Aron Karlin, zt”l, zy”a, who interprets these instructions to mean, “At this point a son can ask his Father in Heaven for whatever he needs.” Yet other Chassidishe Admorim interpret kan haben sho’el slightly differently: Here is where you can ask for a son. What better place is there to ask Hashem for a child than this, to be able answer his mah nishtanah. The Rebbe adds that this is not just a good place for a childless couple. It is also a place where an older single can ask for assistance to get married for, after all, that is the only way to have children.
The previous Gerrer Rebbe, the Leiv Simcha, zt”l, zy”a, had three older boys from one family in his yeshiva who were not yet married. Before they went home for Pesach, he told them that on the night of the Seder, they should ask their father why they aren’t married yet. They understood that he meant that they should ask their Father in Heaven, but since the Rebbe couched his words to ask their father instead of saying to ask Hashem, they decided to take the Rebbe’s words literally and so, before they asked the requisite four questions, they asked their father also, “Tatty, are we doing something wrong that we are all not yet married?” This caused the father to burst out into tears and to cry to Hashem since he too was mystified as to why his wonderful sons were not married yet. By the summer of that year, all three of them had found their basherte.
It is my custom to pour the second cup of wine before the mah nishtanah. Most people do this. It begs the question though. Since the second cup is for maggid, and maggid starts by ha lachma anya, why don’t we pour it before this paragraph (which is indeed the minhag of the Shiboleh Leket and the Orchos Chaim). There are many answers to this question. But, in light of what we have just established, that there is great power in asking Hashem for help before mah nishtanah, it is perfect why we pour the second cup at this spot. For, the four cups represent the four languages of geulah, of redemption. Thus, the second cup symbolizes v’hitzalti, and He saved me – perfectly positioned at this location for Hashem’s salvation.
In the merit of our Seder preparations, may Hashem answer all of our prayers and bless us with a kosher and joyous Pesach and grant us long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Transcribed and edited by Shelley Zeitlin.