The Fifth Child at the Passover Seder

We all know about the “four children” at the Seder, the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one who doesn’t know how to ask. But who is the fifth child?


Just as we have four cups of wine with a fifth cup set aside for Eliyahu HaNavi, so too there is a “fifth child” who should have a place at the Seder, yet unfortunately that child may not be joining us this year.


The fifth child could be the person who is so far removed from Judaism that he has no interest in coming to the Seder at all.


I spoke about this “fifth child” at our Seder at our home in Jerusalem a few years ago. Among our guests were new immigrants from the local absorption center. One of the women in attendance who had just made aliya from Russia surprised me by saying: “That fifth son that you are talking about is my son- he is back at the absorption center reading a book and watching TV. He wasn’t interested in coming tonight”. I had no idea and I felt terrible, but her statement definitely proves my point.


The fifth child could be someone who would like to attend a Seder but may not be able to afford it or wouldn’t even have an idea of where to go or who could be too embarrassed to ask for an invitation. At the beginning of the Seder we say: “Ha Lachma Anya…”, “This is the bread of poverty…Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and share the Pesach meal...,” Just as we open the door for Eliyahu later in the Seder, we are actually supposed to open the door at this point to see if there is anyone who needs a place at the Seder. Unfortunately, by that time it may be too late. Whoever has not yet been invited to a Seder is most probably not looking for one at that time. We must take the initiative to find out where those people are and invite them before the holiday.


Unfortunately, the fifth child could be someone who would like to come to the Seder but doesn’t have the freedom to do so. Gilad Shalit’s mother is asking everyone to leave an empty chair for Gilad at their Seder as we are unfortunately coming up on Gilad’s fourth Seder in captivity.


As Peasch approaches, lets do what we can to fill those empty places with all of the “fifth children”, those who are far removed from Judaism, those who can’t afford or wouldn’t know how to make their own Seder and may those in captivity be brought home.