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.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.