Before Pesach arrives in many Jewish homes around the world, children are excited and eager for the holiday to arrive. “We can’t wait until the Seder, ” many children say.
But the Seder is much more than just a holiday meal. On Pesach night, HaShem wants us to feel as if we ourselves are going out of Mitzrayim. To help us capture this feeling, our Sages gave us instructions for what to say and what to do. We follow them step by step. That’s why we call this the Seder, which means “order.”
But at one point during the Seder, when we read about the four sons from the Haggadah, things don’t seem to be in order. We mention the wise son (the chacham) first, then the wicked son (the rasha), then the simple son, and finally, the son who does not even know how to ask questions.
Shouldn’t the rasha come last? After all, he is not interested in HaShem’s mitzvos. The simple son and the one who does not know how to ask may not be as wise, but they want to do what HaShem wants, and that is most important. Why does the rasha deserve to be second in line, next to the chacham ?
No son is really wicked. His actions may be wrong or his deeds may be lacking, but his neshamah is still a part of HaShem. The rasha is next to the chacham because he has the power to become just as learned, and his behavior can be just as good. He is just one step away from him; all he needs to do is to correct his behavior.
But what about the chacham ? What can he learn from being next to the rasha ?
The chacham is reminded how easily he could slip into the place next to him. He shouldn’t be too confident and sure of himself. He must always be on the alert and check his deeds. The rasha next to him is a constant reminder that he must always continue to improve himself.
But the rasha was put next to the chacham to be more than just a reminder. The chacham is responsible for looking sideways and seeing who is placed next to him. He should do everything possible to help the rasha mend his ways. He should also be a shining example for him and show him how a Jew should behave. The rasha should also look sideways. This will remind him that he can change.
Though the rasha has his lessons to learn at least he shows up at the Seder ! There is a fifth son who hasn’t even made it to the Pesach Seder. We mustn’t forget about him. We must do our best to reach out to all the fifth sons, wherever they may be, and bring them to the Seder table.
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, Chag HaPesach, p. 247ff)