Photo Credit: Jewish Press

As we approach the Yom Tov Pesach, here is a letter written by the Rebbe concerning “The Fifth Son.”



By the Grace of G-d
11th of Nissan, 5717 [April 12, 1957]
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greeting and Blessing:

The Festival of Pesach is inaugurated by the central theme: “When thy son will ask thee,” and the Haggadah is based on the commandment of the Torah: “Then shalt thou tell thy son.”

There are various ways of asking questions and formulating the answers, depending upon whether the son belongs to the category of the “Wise,” the “Wicked,” the “Simple,” or “The One Who Knows Not How to Ask.”

While the “Four Sons” differ from one another in their reaction to the Seder service, they have one thing in common: they are all present at the Seder service. Even the so-called “Wicked” son is there, taking an active, though rebellious, interest in what is going on in Jewish life around him. This, at least, justifies the hope that someday also the “Wicked” one will become wise, and all Jewish children attending the Seder will become conscientious, Torah-and-Mitzvos-observing Jews.

Unfortunately, there is, in our time of confusion and obscurity, another kind of a Jewish child: the child who is conspicuous by his absence from the Seder service; the one who has no interest whatsoever in Torah and Mitzvos, laws and customs; who is not even aware of the Seder-Shel-Pesach, of the Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent Revelation at Sinai.

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.

In order to remedy an undesirable situation of any kind, it is necessary to attack the roots of the evil. The same is true in this case.

The regrettable truth is that the blame for the above-mentioned “lost generation” lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents….

The event of the Exodus from Egypt and the Festival of Passover are timely reminders, among other things, that not in an attempt to imitate the environment lies the hope for survival, deliverance and freedom, but rather in the unswerving loyalty to our traditions and true Jewish way of life.

Our ancestors in Egypt were a small minority and lived in the most difficult circumstances. Yet, as our Sages relate, they preserved their identity and, with pride and dignity, tenaciously clung to their way of life, traditions and distinct uniqueness; precisely in this way was their existence assured, as also their true deliverance from slavery, physical and spiritual.

It is one of the vital tasks of our time to exert all possible effort to awaken in the young generation, as also in those who are advanced in years but still immature in deeper understanding, a fuller appreciation of the true Jewish values, of Torah-true Yiddishkeit, a full and genuine Yiddishkeit; not of that which goes under a false label of misrepresented, compromised, or watered-down “Judaism,” whatever the trademark. Together with this appreciation will come the realization that only true Yiddishkeit can guarantee the existence of the individual, of each and every Jew, at any time, in any place, and under any circumstances.

There is no room for hopelessness in Jewish life, and no Jew should ever be given up as a lost cause. Through the proper compassionate approach of Ahavas Yisroel, even those of the “lost” generation can be brought back to the love of G-d (Ahavas HaShem) and love of the Torah (Ahavas HaTorah), and not only be included in the community of the “Four Sons,” but in due course be elevated to the rank of the “Wise” son.

May G-d grant that all sons and daughters of Israel be gathered together at the same table of the Seder service, to celebrate the Festival of Passover in its true spirit and manner, in accordance with “the testimonies, statutes, and laws which G‑d our G‑d commanded us.”

May the gathering also of those “lost tribes of Israel,” and their assembly at the Seder table, hasten the beginning of the true and complete Redemption of our people, through our righteous Moshiach, speedily in our time.

With the blessing of a Kosher and Happy Pesach.


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