For The Sake of Matza
Passover had almost arrived and in New Haven, Connecticut, a seder was being planned for Russian immigrants. Arrangements were made for a young couple, who had recently come to New York from Russia, to travel to New Haven and conduct the seder in Russian.
On the afternoon of the eve of Passover, the Rebbe began to distribute the hand-baked shmura matza in which he had participated in baking. Thousands of Chasidim waited in line to receive the matza -- a piece for each family, or several for a community.
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Stock, a shliach (emissary) of the Rebbe in Bridgeport/Fairfield County, Connecticut, was waiting in line to get the matza for his community. He was approached by a friend who explained that the ride for the Russian couple had fallen through. "Can the young Russian rabbi wait in line with you to get matza from the Rebbe for New Haven and then, with his wife, travel to Bridgeport with you?" the friend asked Rabbi Stock. From there, a ride would be arranged to New Haven. Rabbi Stock readily agreed.
Rabbi Stock recounts the unusual developments that followed:
"The Russian rabbi was in line directly ahead of me. He spoke in Russian, and told the Rebbe that he was going to New Haven to make a communal seder there for Russian Jews. The Rebbe shrugged his shoulders, and turned to me, saying in Yiddish, 'I don't understand what he is saying. Do you understand what he is saying?'
"I was taken aback. The Rebbe understands Russian fluently. I don't know a word of Russian. The Russian rabbi started all over again in Russian (he later told me that he always communicates with the Rebbe in Russian!), telling the Rebbe that he is going to New Haven to make a seder for Russian Jews there. The Rebbe looked at him and then at me and then back at him. 'Aha, you're traveling with him.' the Rebbe said to the Russian rabbi. 'You're traveling to Bridgeport to make a seder for Russian Jews.' The Rebbe finally gave him the matza, saying, 'This is for a seder in Bridgeport.' "
The Russian rabbi took the matza for Bridgeport and proceeded to ask for matza for New Haven. The Rebbe reluctantly gave him the matza for New Haven. Rabbi Stock's turn was next and the Rebbe gave him the matza together with a blessing for a "kosher and happy Passover."
Traffic was very heavy on the way to Connecticut and Rabbi Stock and the young Russian couple arrived only 40 minutes before sundown. If the couple would set out for New Haven now, there was little chance that they would arrive before the holiday began. They had no choice but to stay in Bridgeport.
For the Jews of Bridgeport it was a windfall. The large number of Russian families that were coming to the communal seder in Bridgeport would now be able to hear explanations and insights on the Passover Hagada in their native tongue. The Rebbe's words were fulfilled to the letter.
New Haven, however, in addition to being without the young couple, was also left without the very special and much desired matza from the Rebbe. So, Rabbi Sholom Ber Levitan, a shliach in New Haven, decided that he would walk to Bridgeport and bring the matza back to New Haven, so that at least at the second seder they would be able to partake of the Rebbe's matza.
It was the morning of the first day of Passover when Rabbi Levitan started walking. He brought matza with him and set out on the 30 mile hike. He knew which road led directly to Bridgeport, but somehow, when he passed the town of Milford, he realized that he was briskly walking down an unknown road, leading, he wasn't sure where. He calculated the time so far spent walking -- four hours, the time remaining until sunset -- not very long, and deduced that he couldn't possibly make it to Bridgeport and back to New Haven before the second day of Yom Tov began.
Up ahead, he spotted a large building which turned out to be a hospital. Having personally experienced numerous times that "G-d directs the footsteps of man," Rabbi Levitan knew that though this was not a Jewish area, there might be some Jewish patients in the hospital who needed matza.
Rabbi Levitan went into the hospital and inquired at patient information if there were any Jewish patients. He received an affirmative answer -- there was one Jewish patient, a woman. Rabbi Levitan headed straight to her room, matza in hand. "Hello," he said, standing in the doorway. "My name is Rabbi Levitan. I wonder if you need matza?" To the woman lying in the bed, Rabbi Levitan's appearance was far more than a pleasant, unexpected visit, for when she got over her surprise at seeing the black-hatted, bearded Jew, she told him how she had spent the entire previous night.
"Rabbi, I can't believe you are here! Here I was in the hospital for Passover, and I wanted matza for the holiday so much. I had no one to bring it to me so I asked the hospital to get me some. I was very disappointed that they hadn't gotten me any. All last night I was thinking, 'Tonight is the first seder and I don't even have matza!" I started praying to G-d that He would somehow send me some matza, so I could celebrate Passover, too. And here you are standing with matza in your hand! "
Rabbi Levitan gave the woman the matza, wished her a "good Yom Tov." He turned around for the four hour walk back to New Haven, all the way thinking about his surprising mission. It was just time to begin the second seder when he arrived home in New Haven, with no matza from the Rebbe to show for his full-day walk, but with a fascinating tale of Divine Providence reaching out to a Jewish woman in a hospital somewhere in Connecticut.