Photo Credit: Jewish Press

On Friday, the 11th day of Nissan (April 19) we will celebrate the Rebbe’s 122nd birthday. In this space last week, we published a letter of the Rebbe concerning “the Fifth Son.” This is a signature letter of the Rebbe because it denotes the Rebbe’s approach underscoring outreach to every single person.

The Rebbe assumed the leadership of Chabad in 5710 (1950), a few short years after the Holocaust, when the Jewish community was left broken, devastated, and without leadership.


The Jews at that time were generally divided into two camps: those that were already observant and those that weren’t (yet) observant. The distance between the two was vast. It was the Rebbe’s mission to reach out to everyone.

The Rebbe wanted to bring these Jews closer, and set out to do so by sending emissaries throughout the world. These shluchim would reach out to the Jew who was at the moment not yet Shabbos observant, to the Jew who did not yet put on tefillin every day. The Rebbe encouraged Chabad chassidim to open their homes to everyone, without exception.

What about the “Fifth Son” who does not come to the Seder? What about the one who is not interested? He’s not interested in any religion. He’s not interested in anything that has to do with Yiddishkeit. This is exactly the person whom the Rebbe targeted. This is the person the Rebbe wanted to bring back. And the only way to do that is by reaching out to him.

We can’t wait for him to knock on our door and say he wants to be at the Seder. What if he’s not going to knock? And if we are going to wait for him to knock, it may take a very long time.

The Rebbe’s mission is to reach every single Jew, including the “Fifth Son,” the one who is not interested in coming to a Seder. This is how the Rebbe started his work of outreach, branching out today, Baruch Hashem, to over 5,000 shluchim all over the world. The Rebbe established an army of outreach.

This idea of the “Fifth Son” that the Rebbe speaks about in this letter was copied by many, and not everybody took the trouble to mention and speak about the origin of this thought. Nevertheless, this is the signature approach of the Rebbe, of reaching out to every single person throughout the world.

The Rebbe is the one who cared not only for those who are Lubavitcher chassidim, and not only for those who are affiliated. The Rebbe cared and cares for every single Jew independent of his/her origin, affiliation or practice.

Moreover, the Rebbe reached out also to gentiles and spoke to them about their obligations regarding the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach, the seven Noahide laws, which are the cornerstones of every decent society.

Now, as we are right before the coming of Moshiach, we need every Jew to be with us in our march out of Golus. It is so important to reach out to everyone, including the “Fifth Son.” If he is not interested yet, we are going to make the step towards him, as the Rebbe so many times encouraged us to do.

May all our brethren have a kosher and freilichen Pesach, gezunterheit un freilicherheit, and may all witness the speedy coming of Moshiach NOW.


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Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman is director of the Lubavitch Youth Organization. He can be reached at [email protected].