Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740–1809) spent his life acting as the self-appointed character witness for the Jewish people, engaging in a constant dialogue with G‑d, pointing out the unique qualities of every Jew he met. The following is one of the best-known “Berditchever” stories:

It was the afternoon before Passover, and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was wandering through the streets of the Jewish quarter seeking out local smugglers. From one he quietly asked for a quote on contraband tobacco, from another he inquired about the availability of smuggled brocades and embroideries. No matter the merchandise he sought, everything was available for the right price.

However, when he started asking his newfound acquaintances to supply him with some bread or whiskey, those very same businessmen who had previously proved so accommodating balked. “Rabbi,” said one, “are you trying to insult me? The Seder will be starting in just a few hours, and no Jew would have even a speck of chametz left in his home or business.”

No Not one merchant was able to come up with even a crumb of bread or a dram of alcoholmatter the price offered, not one merchant was willing or able to come up with even a crumb of bread or a dram of alcohol. The town had converted into a chametz-free zone.

Thrilled with the results of his failed quest, the rabbi looked up to heaven and declared: “ G‑d Almighty, look down with pride at Your people! The czar has border guards and tax commissioners dedicated to his commands. The police and the courts are devoted to tracking down and punishing smugglers and black marketeers, and yet anything one could possibly want is available. Contrast this with the faith and fidelity of Your Jews. It has been over 3,000 years since you commanded us to observe Passover. No police, no guards, no courts and jails enforce this edict—and yet every Jew keeps Your laws to the utmost!

Mi k’amcha Yisrael—Who is like Your nation, Israel?!”