The Seder service, and the reciting of the Haggadah, have always been considered to be directed particularly towards the children: “And you shall relate to your son on that day” (Shemot 13:8). Many of our customs at the Seder table were intended specifically to capture the attention of the child. And the different kinds of education which are needed by different personalities are illustrated in the passage in the Haggadah which tells of the four kinds of son, the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who does not know how to ask. But there is a fifth, and far more problematic, son. There is a good reason why he is not mentioned explicitly in the Haggadah. For he is the absent son.

…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. Even the so-called “wicked” son is there, taking an active, if dissenting, interest in what is going on in Jewish life around him. This, at least, justifies the hope that one day he will become “wise,” and that all Jewish children attending the Seder will become conscientious and committed Jews.

Unfortunately there is, in our time, another kind of Jewish child: The child who is conspicuous by his absence, who has no interest whatever in Torah and Mitzvot, who is not even aware of the Seder and the miracles it recalls.

This is a grave challenge, which should command our attention long before Pesach and the Seder-night. For no Jewish child should be forgotten and given up. We must make every effort to save the lost child, and bring him to the Seder table. Determined to do so, and driven by a deep sense of compassion and responsibility, we need have no fear of failure.

To remedy any situation, we must discover its origins.

In this case, they lie in a mistaken analysis of their situation on the part of some immigrants arriving in a new and strange environment. Finding themselves a small minority, and encountering the inevitable difficulties of resettlement, some parents had the idea, which they communicated to their children, that assimilation was the solution. But in their efforts to abandon the Jewish way of life, they created a spiritual conflict within themselves. They were determined that their children should be spared the tension of divided loyalties; and to rationalize their desertion of their Jewish heritage they convinced themselves and their children that the life of Torah and Mitzvot did not fit their new surroundings. They looked for, and therefore “found,” faults with the Jewish way of life, while everything in the non-Jewish environment seemed attractive and good.

By this attitude, the parents hoped to ensure their children’s survival in the new environment. But what kind of survival was it to be, if the soul was sacrificed for the material benefits of the world?

And what they thought was an “escape into freedom” turned out, in the final analysis, to be an escape into slavish imitation, which tended to be so marked by caricature and a sense of insecurity as to command little respect from that younger generation that it was intended for….

The festival of Pesach and the deliverance that it commemorates, are timely reminders that Jewish survival does not rest in imitation of the non-Jewish environment, but in fidelity to our traditions and our religious vocation.

Our ancestors in Egypt were a small minority, and they lived in the most difficult circumstances. But, as the Rabbis tell us, they retained their identity as Jews, preserved their uniqueness, and kept up their traditions without anxiety or shame. It was this that made their survival certain, and assured their liberation from all forms of tyranny, physical and spiritual….

There is no room for hopelessness in Jewish life, and no Jew should ever be given up as a lost cause. Through compassion and fellow-love (Ahavat Yisroel) even a “lost” generation can be brought back to the love of G‑d (Ahavat HaShem) and love of the Torah (Ahavat HaTorah); not only to be included in the community of the “four sons” but to belong in time to the rank of the “wise” son….

May the gathering of these “lost tribes of Israel” to the Seder table hasten the true and complete redemption of our people, through the coming of the Messiah speedily in our time.

(Source: Letter, 11th Nissan, 5717; Vol. 15 pp. 33-37)