In the Passover Seder, one of the Jewish traditions is to speak about four different types of children attending the festive holiday meal. However, the Rebbe Lubavich noted that in our day and age, there is a fifth child who is not doing Passover at all.
19th century painting of Jews celebrating Passover Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons
Jews around the world are preparing to celebrate Passover. On Passover, we commemorate our miraculous exodus out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage to the Promised Land. The most prominent feature of the Passover holiday is the festive Seder meal, where Jewish families gather together to retell the story of the exodus out of Egypt. In this special meal, one of the Jewish customs is to discuss four different types of Jewish children at the Seder.
The first child is wise and seeks to learn about all of the details of the Passover holiday. The second child is wicked and he mocks the entire holiday, excluding himself from the festivities. The third child is naïve. He or she doesn’t grasp what is going on around him or her, resulting in this child asking very simple rather than complicated questions. The fourth child doesn’t know how to even ask what the Seder is all about. This child merely watches and is taken away by his or her surroundings.
Yet, the Rebbe Lubavich has noted that in our day and age, there is a fifth child, who is not even sitting at the Passover Seder at all. This person doesn’t see the importance of celebrating Passover, due to either growing up in a heavily assimilated family in the Jewish Diaspora or hailing from a secular Israeli Zionist family that values having the Jewish people become just another nation on earth rather than the unique special chosen people of G-d.
Some of these secular or assimilationist Jews are so lost in the modern world that they not only don’t partake in the Seder, but don’t even know why there is a Seder. There is a girl whose mother is Jewish, yet has a Christian father. She was not raised to know any thing about any of the Jewish holidays, including Passover. Her family was very secular and her lack of knowledge on the subject is the result of her upbringing. She is not like the evil son. The evil son is still sitting at the Seder and chose to exclude himself from the Jewish people. Yet this young lady never rejected Passover. She merely doesn’t know of Passover’s existence.
Many Jews may be shocked to know that there are Jews who not only don’t commemorate the Seder, but they don’t even know about the holiday’s existence. To our great sorrow, this young girl is not alone. In fact, she represents many children who grew up in families where one parent was not Jewish. However, in Judaism, when the mother is Jewish, she is no less Jewish than the rest of us.
But the fifth child doesn’t only represent the ignorant. It also includes many Reform Jews, who were raised to believe that they can pick and choose which Jewish laws to follow as they please. As a result, they do not keep the Passover holiday properly. They eat Hametz throughout Passover and don’t kosher their homes for the holiday. They read revised versions of the Hagaddah promoting women’s rights and animal rights that mention the exodus story as a side note. If they live in the Diaspora, they don’t usually attend the Seder for a second night and they don’t partake in the second holiday of Passover. For them, the whole meaning of Passover is lost, yet they don’t realize it. This is the only reality that they know. They didn’t intentionally reject Passover, as the evil child did.
The fifth child also represents numerous secular Israelis. Unlike the Reform Jews, they truly believe that there is only one authentic Orthodox Judaism, but they don’t partake in it. They will still have a traditional Orthodox Passover Seder, yet their homes won’t be kosher for Passover and they complain throughout the week that they have to go to Arab villages just to buy bread.
For these Jews, it is not a formal rejection of Passover but rather their secular Zionist lifestyle that they were ingrained with from birth that pushed them to miss the main point of Passover. Let’s just be another nation like all of the other nations. There should be no difference between Israelis and Frenchmen, Englishmen and Americans. Yes, it is important to remember the bondage in the land of Egypt, as well as all previous times where the Jews were persecuted. It is critical to note that Zionism liberated us from it.
However, these secular Israelis don’t grasp that Passover is a spiritual holiday first and foremost. It is not merely a holiday celebrating the national liberation of the Jewish people. By only focusing on the national liberation part of Passover while neglecting the spiritual components of the holiday, these Jews are also like the fifth child.
Passover also commemorates the Jewish people’s spiritual redemption from the personal ego (chametz), the Rebbe Lubavich teaches. All year long, Jews focus on themselves and try to earn as much money as possible. But on Passover, Jews must not be focused on their material wellbeing.
Instead, all Jews must rid themselves of the chametz in their life and focus on the unity of the Jewish people. This is why we must kosher our homes for Passover, burn all of the chametz and check our homes for crumbs of chametz. We were all slaves in the land of Egypt. At this time, our concentration should be on uniting as one people to do mitzvoth and truly being a light unto the nations that connects G-d’s message to this physical world.