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Six Seder Nights

Aryeh Deutsch

A diary that has survived for nearly a century leaves a grandfather’s legacy of Pesachs past – through times of peace, a world war, and brutal prison camps.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Reb Nosson Binyamin Eckstein was not a famous rabbi or author. Like the millions of good Jews whose lives were erased with the first and second world wars, Reb Nosson’s life, too, would have been relegated to the fuzzy cobwebs of memory, had he not committed it to paper. Reb Nosson, born in Hungary in 1889, was a Torah scholar conscripted into the army at the beginning of World War I. He was captured by the Russians on the first night of Pesach in 1914, spending the next four years in captivity. The diary he kept throughout the war and beyond, which has become an invaluable source of inspiration to his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, focuses on six Seder nights, some in freedom, some in captivity.

“I am writing about the six Seder nights,” writes Reb Nosson, “for you to see that for one who believes in Hashem with all his heart, Hashem will not forsake him in any circumstance.”

Reb Nosson opens his riveting account with a description of Pesach before Europe was torn apart by war.

My father was a poor man. At first, he served as a rav in various small towns until, eventually, he started his own shul, but even then, he barely eked out a living. Our living quarters consisted of one room and a kitchen. And if my father was learning, we children had to go quietly to the kitchen and stay there quietly, so as not to disturb him. Bochurim were always learning with him in the room.

Despite the great poverty, all us children and even our parents got new clothes for the upcoming Yom Tov. Cramped as our home was, there were always two or three poor people joining us at the Yom Tov table. The Seder continued until around 2:00 a.m., and our father delighted us with the most beautiful concepts and commentaries.

Today, I can say that I never saw anything as beautiful as those Sedarim, though after the war, in my father-in-law’s home, I also participated in special Seder nights. But then we had no Yom Tov finery, and the joy of those peaceful days was gone.


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