Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
THE BITTER HERB
Once a Jew and a German banded together to go around begging. The Jew taught the German how to pretend to be a Jew (since German and Yiddish are quite similar). This way the Jews, who are kind by nature, would help him.
Pesach was coming, so the Jew taught the German how to behave when invited to someone's home for the Pesach Seder. He explained to him that first they would make the Kiddush and then wash their hands. The one thing that the Jew forgot to mention was the eating of the bitter herbs.
When the German came to the Seder he was ravenous, not having eaten for the whole day. He was gleefully anticipating eating all the good things the Jew had told him about. But at first, all they gave him was a tiny piece of vegetable dipped in saltwater for Karpas, and they carried on reading the Haggadah.
The German was desperately longing for the meal. He was delighted when they started eating the Matzah. But all of a sudden they gave him the Maror, which was terribly bitter in his mouth.
The German thought this was the entire meal, and all they were going to eat was the Maror. He immediately ran out, bitter and hungry, thinking to himself that the Jews were truly cursed. "After all that ceremony, this is what they give to eat?!?" He returned to the synagogue and went to sleep.
Later on the Jew arrived, his face beaming, fully satisfied from eating and drinking. "How was your Seder?" he asked. The German angrily told him what happened.
"Oh you stupid German," said the Jew. "If you had only waited just a little longer you would have enjoyed the best meal, exactly like me."
So it is in serving God. After all a person's efforts and exertions to draw closer to God, he is subjected to a little bitterness - because the purification of the body comes through bitterness. The person thinks there will never be anything except bitterness, and immediately runs away.
If he would just be willing to wait a while and endure this little bitterness in order to purify the body, he would later experience every kind of vitality and delight. In serving God, first one experiences the bitterness of the purification of the body, but afterwards one enjoys the vitality.
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By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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