I was standing at the entrance of my friend’s office, holding a beautifully wrapped package of handmade shmura matzah as a gift for Passover.
The secretary seemed curious about the package and couldn’t figure out what it was. To her, it resembled a puzzle.
As I looked at the package in my hand, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. The cover picture featured flat crackers (i.e., matzah), a large piece of lettuce, an egg, horseradish, and other Passover items, all arranged in a precise way that did indeed resemble a puzzle.
“No,” I said, still chuckling. “This is a matzah for Passover.”
Upon departing the office, I realized that the secretary was right. The Passover seder is, in fact, one big puzzle. It encompasses so many pieces, each looking different, but all necessary to create the beautiful experience of the Passover seder.
This idea of a puzzle is not limited to the Passover foods but extends to the individuals sitting at the seder table.
Throughout the seder night, we witness this concept in action.
We start the Haggadah with a statement that serves as an open invitation to all: “All those who are hungry, come eat!” We acknowledge that some individuals might not have what they need to celebrate, and we welcome them with open arms.
Next, we read about the four children present: the wise, the wicked, the simpleton, and the one who doesn’t know how to ask. Each one receives personalized attention, and we listen to their questions and provide answers that cater to their understanding.
And then there are those who don’t show up at all; they require us to seek them out and invite them to the seder too.
In a monumental letter 66 years ago, the Lubavitcher rebbe called on us to pay attention to the fifth child.
The rebbe wrote:
“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…
“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 Mitzvot, 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.”
More than six decades have passed since the rebbe penned this letter, yet its message remains as crucial today as it did back then. Unfortunately, many individuals remain unaware of their Jewish heritage and continue to be considered “fifth children.”
However, my personal experience and encounters with such individuals have shown me they hold their Jewish identity dear to their hearts. Despite their limited knowledge of Passover, they readily accept any invitation to join the seder and reconnect with their roots.
By embracing the rebbe’s mindset that no Jew should ever be left behind, our future looks bright.
Wishing you a happy and kosher Passover.
Mendy Kaminker is the rabbi of Chabad of Hackenack. He welcomes your comments at rabbi@ChabadHackensack.com