One of the most fascinating parts of the Seder is the topic of "The Four Sons;" the wise, the wicked, the simple, and the one who is completely apathetic.
Several days before Passover in 1957, the Rebbe wrote a letter that in many ways reframed the core purpose of the Seder ever since: To find and invite “The Fifth Son” to the Seder: any Jew who “is conspicuous by his or her absence from the Seder service.”
The Rebbe explained that while each of the “four sons” differ from each other in their reactions to the Seder, they all have one thing in common: they are all present at the Seder. In the Rebbe’s words “even the so-called ‘wicked’ son is there, taking an active, though rebellious, interest in what is going on in Jewish life around him.”
But unfortunately, the Rebbe added, there is also another kind of child: “the one who isn’t at the Seder.” This is our Jewish sister or brother who has no interest in Torah and mitzvahs, or who may not even be aware of the Seder altogether.
“This presents a grave challenge, which should command our attention long before Passover and the Seder night. For no Jewish child should be forgotten and given up. We must make every effort to save also that 'lost' child, and bring the absentee to the Seder table. Determined to do so, and driven by a deep sense of compassion and responsibility, we need have no fear of failure.”
Putting these words in context, written only a few years after the Holocaust, we learn something not only about our responsibility to each other, but we are also empowered with the best tools available to ensure a vibrant, active and enthusiastic Jewish continuity. Not through crying about the past, but by living the present and actively forming the future.
Today we have the moral responsibility to our people, to see to it that every Jew should celebrate Passover and attend a Seder in a meaningful, kosher, and dignified way. Every individual deserves to experience the freedoms, traditions and rituals that have been part of our story for millennia.
Several months ago, during Sukkot holiday, I traveled to Rapid City to bring the seasonal observances to my brothers and sisters and spent the day visiting Jews at their homes or places of work with a Lulav & Etrog and our portable Sukkah.
The Chabad tradition is to eat and drink exclusively in the Sukkah during the seven days of the holiday. Not even a drink of water outside of it. That meant no snacking in the car for the long drive back to Sioux Falls. Setting up my portable Sukkah and taking it down every time I wanted to snack would lengthen the trip, valuable time that I could be spending bringing the holiday mitzvahs to others, but sometimes you just need to stop and eat.
It must have been about 1AM when I exited the I90. The streets were dark, and naturally I was a bit nervous. I felt even more uncomfortable as I pulled into a gas station parking lot and only saw a run down looking car.
As I walked into the gas station I was mortified to see only one other person in the entire store, staring at me intently, pointing in my direction while mumbling words. A part of me wanted to run. But that is not the Jewish approach to life. So I decided to pay attention to what he was saying.
”Numbers?” “Numbers 15!” “ Deuteronomy 22!” he kept saying while pointing at me excitedly.
I finally understood why he was so excited. “Yes” I called back, as I began waving my tzitzis (fringes worn by Jewish men on the corners of their garments). This fellow had read the Torah and knew of the commandments written in those verses to wear tzitzis but he had never seen anyone actually doing it. When he saw me walk into the store that night he was so excited because “the Torah had become alive,” he told me.
I learned several things that night. We are told to never be afraid, because G-d is always watching over us. Indeed, I had no reason to fear. Also, I should not have assumed this person had any ill intentions towards me as a Jew. In fact, as I quickly learned, he loved Jews and was familiar with Jewish teachings.
Most importantly, I experienced first hand how wearing my Jewish attire proudly and in the open brings more education, goodness, kindness, and light into the world, and gave me another opportunity to fulfill the words of Isaiah to be a “Light unto the nations.”
Matza for Passover
Pesach is just around the corner and we are delighted to once again be able to share a gift of matzah with every Jewish home across South Dakota.
Like those our ancestors ate during their Exodus from Egypt, these are handmade, baked with only flour and water, all within eighteen minutes, ensuring that the dough has no time to rise.
The Zohar teaches that matzah is “bread of faith and healing.” The spiritual benefits of having matzah on Passover are immeasurable. As you connect with our heritage this holiday, know that you are an integral part of the Jewish story. Your Passover and your mitzvah is so meaningful and important for the past, present, and future of Judaism and our holy traditions.
Each year as I bring matzah to friends around the state, I am encouraged and inspired by the stories you share with me. It is an absolute honor and privilege that Mussie and I have, to be part of such a wonderful community and to be able to share this gift with you.
Chabad is here because of you, and for you. For every Jew in South Dakota, equally. Chabad is not here “for the Orthodox” alone. In fact, as the Rebbe taught, at Chabad we do not use terms like “Reform,” “Conservative,” “Orthodox” or “Unaffiliated.” To us, these are artificial and imagined terms with no bearing on who you are and how Chabad sees you as a Jew.
From our perspective it is very simple; You are a Jew. So you belong!
At Chabad you will always be welcomed unconditionally, and embraced with open arms. There will always be a seat for you at the table - including the Seder table!
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.