And it shall come to pass that your child will ask you, tomorrow, "What is this?" And you shall tell him: "With a mighty hand, G‑d took us out of Egypt..."


"Your child shall ask you, tomorrow" - there is a "tomorrow" that is immediate, and there is a "tomorrow" that is a long way off. Rashi.

There are children who are of an immediate tomorrow. You both inhabit the same world, and your discourse is predicated on the same axioms.

But there are also children who are of a far-off tomorrow. Children who inhabit a distant world, who speak a distant language and relate to distant values. Children, who a vast gulf separates their tomorrow from your today. Children whose questions are of a different nature entirely: challenging, alien, hostile. What is one to do with such a child, with such a questioner?

Answer him, says the Torah, speak to him, for he is your child. He is a child of your people, and a child of your making - for perhaps, just perhaps, you share in the responsibility for the fact that this child is wandering in the time-warp of a disconnected tomorrow?

When, more than in our day, has this "far off tomorrow" been so painful a reality? How many Jewish children inhabit such alien tomorrows! How many Jewish children are mired in bizarre "Egypts," receding, with horrifying speed, to tomorrows of increasing distance and disconnection!

When such a Jewish child comes with his questions - the apathetic-bitter questions of a rootless generation - remember, he is your child.

Devote your heart, soul and life to him, and illuminate his way back to his holy source.

See the articles below for more spiritual insights on this stage of the Seder.

The Message to the Wicked Son

"Had you been there during the Exodus, you would have been left behind."

Is this the proper response? Do we want to further alienate an already alienated child?

In truth, however, our response to the wicked son is not a message of banishment and rejection, but one of acceptance and promise. Had he been there, we tell him, he would not have been redeemed. The Exodus from Egypt was before the revelation at Sinai, before G‑d chose each and every Jewish child as His own. There, in Egypt, redemption was a matter of individual choice. Had he been there, he would still be there. But he was not there - he is here.

"Here" is after Sinai. Here, free is what we are, rather than something that we might elect or decline to be. True, we are currently in exile, but "on that day," prophesies Isaiah, "you will be gathered up one by one." When G‑d will again come to redeem us, not a single Jew will be left behind.

The Fifth Child

As different as they may be, the "four sons" of the haggadah have one thing in common: whether involved, challenging, inept or indifferent, they are all present at the seder table. They are all relating, albeit in vastly differing ways, to our annual reliving of the Exodus and our birth as a nation. The line of communication is open; the potential "wise son" that resides within every Jewish child is approachable.

Today, however, in our era of spiritual displacement, there exists a fifth child: the Jew who is absent from the seder table. He asks no questions, poses no challenges, displays no interest. For he knows nothing of the seder, nothing of the significance of the Exodus, nothing of the revelation at Sinai at which we assumed our mission and role as Jews.

To these children of G‑d we must devote ourselves long before the first night of Passover. We must not forget a single Jewish child; we must invest all our energies and resources to bringing every last "fifth son" to the seder-table of Jewish life.

Life in the River

...Every son that is born you shall throw into the river, and every daughter you shall make live...

Pharaoh did not say to let the jewish girls live; he commanded to make them live (techayun, in the hebrew).

Pharaoh’s decree of annihilation against the Jewish people consisted of two parts: to throw every Jewish newborn male into the Nile, and to "make live" every female. The boys were to be physically murdered. The girls were to be murdered spiritually by making them live the Egyptian life, by indoctrinating them into the perverse lifestyle of Egypt.

The boys were to be drowned in the Nile. The girls, too, were to be drowned in the Nile - conceptually, if not actually.

The Nile, which irrigated the fields of rain-parched Egypt, was the mainstay of its economy and its most venerated god. The girls were to be raised in this cult of the river, their souls drowned in a life that deifies the earthly vehicle of material sustenance.

Today, thirty-four centuries after Pharaoh’s decree, the practice of drowning children in the Nile is still with us: there are still parents whose highest consideration in choosing a school for their children is how it will further their child’s economic prospects when the time will come for him to enter the job market.

The people of Israel survived the Egyptian exile because there were Jewish mothers who refused to comply with Pharaoh’s decree to submerge their children in his river. If we are to survive the present exile, we, too, must resist the dictates of the current "Pharaohs." We must set the spiritual development of our children - rather than their future "earning power" and "careers" - as the aim of their education.

Frogs

The talmud relates that when chananiah, mishael and azariah (three Jewish officers in the court of Nebuchadnazer, emperor of Babylonia) faced the choice to either bow before an idolatrous image or be thrown into a fiery furnace, they took their lesson from the frogs which plagued Egypt in Moses’ time.

If the frogs entered the ovens of the Egypt to carry out the will of G‑d, they reasoned, we certainly should be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our Creator.

To the Jew, "self-sacrifice" is not only the willingness to die for his beliefs—it is the way in which he lives for them. It is the willingness to give up his "self" - his desires, his preconceptions, his most basic inclinations.

Thus, the lesson of self-sacrifice is learned from a frog, a cold-blooded creature, who enters a burning oven. The ultimate test of faith goes beyond the issue of life and death; it is the willingness to sacrifice your very nature and identity for the sake of a higher truth.