Photo Credit: Jewish Press

To our Pesach Seder comes the ben chochom (“wise son”), but together with him, also comes the son who is called the rosha (the opposite of righteous). The question is: how are we supposed to treat the son who is called a rosha, and more so, sometimes even acts close to one?

There’s a story that happened many years ago. It was in the 1950s, and a chossid was sitting at a Shabbos farbrengen of the Rebbe. In the middle, a Jew came into 770 and sat down next to him. From the mouth of this individual there was a strong smell that indicated how he just had a fresh cigarette.

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This chossid was a very sensitive individual. He thought to himself, “You just finished smoking a cigarette on Shabbos and now you’re coming to the Rebbe’s farbrengen?!” He didn’t say anything to the man, but as this chossid was a little heavy in bodily proportions, he kind of indicated his dissatisfaction with his body language.

On Sunday, this chossid wrote to the Rebbe and described how disturbed he was that the Jew came to the farbrengen after smoking a cigarette. This disturbed him the entire farbrengen, and it continues to disturb him even a day later, and he wrote to the Rebbe what his reaction was.

The Rebbe responded that next time this Jew comes to a farbrengen, you should give him a hug and act friendly towards him. You should have a conversation with him and make him feel welcome.

Well, now he had a shlichus, a mission dictated by the Rebbe. Sure enough, it happened again. The same man came to another Shabbos farbrengen and it was obvious that he just smoked a cigarette. But this chossid had a shlichus from the Rebbe. So this time he hugged the man, chatted with him, and was very friendly towards him.

A few years later a man approached this chossid and asked him if he remembered him. The chossid said that he did not.

The man then told him that he was the one who sat next to him at the farbrengen. He was not shomer Shabbos at the time. If he had been pushed away in the slightest, he would have gone in the opposite direction. By giving him a hug and being friendly to him, he brought the man closer to Torah and mitzvos. Today he has five children who follow the path of Torah.

Yes, this man smoked a cigarette on Shabbos, but after that, he could have gone to a bar or done who knows what. But instead, he came to a farbrengen. Obviously, this man was torn between the cigarette and the farbrengen. Nevertheless, after the cigarette, he chose to come to the farbrengen.

We have a choice in how to react. When we see this happening, we can either scold the person for the cigarette (or something else) and let him have it. We may then push them to the other direction. Or, we can do what the Rebbe wants, and focus on the fact that after the cigarette, he still came to the farbrengen.

If we choose to push the person away, G-d forbid, then we may push them away forever. But by choosing to give him a hug and keep him close, he remains close.

We have these same choices on the night of the Seder. There’s a “rosha” who comes to our table. He doesn’t ask the questions the way we want him to ask. And he doesn’t behave the way we want him to behave. So we can push him away. But what can happen if we push him away? He may leave and never come back.

If, however, we give him a hug, make him feel welcome and show him love and affection, we have every chance that he will ultimately return to his roots.

This is the Rebbe’s approach for how we should deal with Jews at all times, and how we should deal with the children who come to our Pesach seder.

Almighty G-d, help us to have a lot of nachas from all the children together. Wishing everyone, a koshern un a freilichn Pesach – 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 Lubavitchyouth@gmail.com.