One Passover, after the conclusion of the Seder, the holy Rebbe of Berditchev felt very satisfied. He had fulfilled all the Passover mitzvos carefully and carried out all the mystic intentions associated with them. As he reviewed his behavior, his thoughts were interrupted by a heavenly voice:
“Don’t be so proud of your Seder. In your city, there is a poor Jewish water carrier whose Seder far surpassed yours.”
Disturbed and curious, the Rebbe dispatched some of his students to bring the water carrier to him. Despite the lateness of the hour, the students set out to fulfill their teacher’s request. Unfortunately, the water carrier was not a known person in the village and none of the students were sure where he lived.
After a considerable search, the students located the water carrier’s home and knocked at the door. Somewhat astonished to see the Rebbe’s attendants arrive at her home so late at night, the water carrier’s wife opened the door.
When the students asked to see her husband, she shyly answered “He can’t speak to you now.”
“But the Rebbe wants to see him,” they insisted.
Realizing that they would not take no for an answer, she pointed to their bedroom. “There he is, lying on the bed. He’s stone drunk. What could the Rebbe want from him?”
Without pausing to answer, the students approached the sleeping water carrier and tried to wake him. Unable to rouse him, they were forced to carry him to the Rebbe. In the holy rabbi’s presence, the water carrier began to come to his senses. When the Rebbe looked him in the eye, he began to cry continuously.
With soothing words, the Rebbe gently calmed his guest. When he regained his composure, the holy rabbi asked him: “Tell me about your Seder.”
Again the water carrier burst into tears. After calming him once more, the Rebbe assured him there was no need to worry. His Seder had found favor in G-d’s eyes and he, the holy rabbi, wanted to learn from it.
Stuttering, his words interrupted by occasional sobs, the water carrier began to tell his story:
“There’s one custom which I have adopted that I follow loyally. Each morning after prayers, I take a little vodka and say l’chayim to to the Holy One, blessed be He.
“This morning, after following my daily custom, it occurred to me that since I wouldn’t be able to drink alcohol for the next eight days, I should say I’chayim for the entire holiday. Without thinking much longer, I downed eight more l’chayims. My head became groggy and I went to sleep.
“I slept very soundly without realizing how the hours passed by. At nightfall, my wife tried to wake me to go to shul, but I couldn’t get out of bed. When everybody was coming home, she tried to wake me again, but I just turned to the other side.
“She waited a little longer, then, came to wake me a third time. Shaking me with all her strength, she cried: “Husband! It’s Pesach! What about the seder? All the Jewish people are celebrating the holiday. What about us?’”
“I felt terrible. She was almost crying. Summoning whatever strength I could, I stumbled to the table and began to speak: “I am a simple person and my father was a simple person. I can’t read Hebrew and don’t know what we’re supposed to say now, but I know one thing about Passover. Our ancestors were slaves to the Egyptians and God took them out of exile. We’re in exile again now. May G-d redeem us very soon.”
“Afterwards, I noticed that my wife had prepared matzos, wine, eggs, and some vegetables on the table. I drank the wine, ate the food, and went back to bed. That was my Seder.”
The holy Rebbe of Berditchev again assured the water carrier that his Seder had been accepted by G-d and asked his students to take him home. When they returned, he told them: “The few words he said, he said with all his heart, and therefore. G-d appreciated his Seder.”