The Fifth Son
A central theme of Passover is the asking of questions by the children and the answering of them by the adults.
There are ways of asking questions and ways of answering questions, depending on whether the child belongs to the category of the "wise," the "wicked," the "simple," or "the one who doesn't know how to ask."
While the famous four children of the Passover Hagada differ from one another in their questions, intellect, Jewish involvement, affiliation and reaction to the Seder, they all have one thing in common: They are all present at the Seder.
Even the so-called "wicked" child 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 will become more conscientious about Judaism.
Unfortunately, today, there is another kind of Jewish child: the child who is conspicuous by his absence from the Seder; the one who has no interest whatsoever in Torah and mitzvot, laws and customs; the one who might not even be aware that there is a Seder, or an Exodus from Egypt or the subsequent giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
This fifth child is not always a child in chronological years, but often a child in Jewish knowledge and awareness.
In the 1980's, certain groups suggested leaving an empty chair at the Seder table as a reminder of the Jews in Russia or other countries where Jews wanted to celebrate Passover but were unable to do so.
At that time, the Rebbe encouraged everyone to fill that chair with a fifth child, a Jew -- young or old, rich or poor, wise or simple -- who would otherwise not be at the Seder.
This year, let no chair be empty at any Seder. Whether at a public Chabad Seder of nearly 1,000 participants in Bangkok or a private Seder in a studio apartment in Manhattan, let us not only accommodate every Jew who wants to be at a Seder, let us all have the goal of reaching out to and bringing to our table one Jew who would not otherwise be at a Passover Seder.
And in the Rebbe's words, "May G-d grant that all Jews be gathered together at the same table of the Passover seder, to celebrate Passover in its true spirit and manner... and 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."