Vail Valley Voices: Looking for the 5th son
Vail, CO, Colorado
For different people Passover will always bring to mind different things.
For many people, Passover will always mean the frenetic cleaning of the house for any trace of chametz — leavened food that is prohibited on Passover.
For others it will bring to mind the matzah price wars between the supermarkets and local grocery stores.
And for some, the friendly atmosphere of the family meals springs to mind.
However, for me, Passover, and especially the Seder meal, has always been about the fifth son.
Allow me to explain. Passover is the festival which commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and birth of the Jewish nation 3,324 years ago.
In commanding us to teach our children about the Exodus, the Bible uses four distinct expressions, which the authors of the Haggadah (the liturgical text used at the Pesach Seder) explained to refer to four types of children — the wise son, the wicked son, the simpleton and the clueless son — and gives the appropriate approach to each son.
However there is a fifth son, the lost son — the son that does not even reach the Passover Seder. The son who does not even know that there is a Passover Seder. It is this son that talks to me the most.
Having grown up in a family of educators, my father being a rabbi and several of my brothers and sisters community rabbis and educational directors, education has always been at the forefront of my life.
Passover would exemplify this, with a cross-section of the Jewish community always present at my parents’ Seder table. As I grew up, I too yearned to reach out to the fifth son and help unaffiliated Jews experience the beauty that is Passover.
I remember my first communal Seder, where the rabbi in Moscow asked me to lead a Passover Seder in Siberia, in the city of Ulan Ude. It was an incredible feeling to celebrate Passover in the former Communist Soviet Union. We expected 100 people, catered for 150, and hosted 200. From two hours before our published starting time, lines were beginning to form outside the doors, and for three hours the hall was full of 200 fifth sons, relearning Jewish traditions.
It was heart-warming to hear tens of families, young and old, proclaim “Next year in Jerusalem,” the same declaration that Jews everywhere had been proclaiming for 2,000 years, yet that a few short years earlier would have earned them a night-time visit for counter-revolutionary activity.
Memories like these do not fade quickly. I keep them with me and they give me the impetus to carry the Passover message into the entire year, looking for the fifth son wherever divine providence takes me.
I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and healthy Passover.
For more information on the holiday of Passover, visit JewishVail.com. There you will find more information regarding the historical background of the holiday, how-to Passover, and many delicious Passover recipes. You will also find thought provoking articles on the present day applications of the ancient story.
Rabbi Dovid Mintz is co-director of the Chabad Jewish Center of Vail, a branch of the 4,500 strong, Chabad House network worldwide.
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