Seder Reflections

Friday, 26 April, 2024 - 3:01 am

I looked around the beautifully crowded Seder tables which represented the entire gamut of the Jewish community. The proverbial ‘four sons’ (and daughters) were all there.

But there were some missing.

Quoting the Rebbe, I acknowledged the ‘fifth son’.

The son who was not at the Seder because of ignorance. Either ignorance about Pesach, or ignorance about the fact that there is a place that is awaiting him or her at the Seder. Or perhaps a ‘son’ who would attend a Seder if it was ‘available’ without him or her having to make a huge effort.

The Rebbe constantly urged us to reach out to the fifth son and invite him to the Seder so that by next year he would be at the table as one of ‘the four sons’.

Nechama and I have merited to lead the community Passover seders since 1994 when the guest count hovered just under one hundred guests.

This year our community Seder hosted more than five hundred. Divided into two adjacent banquet halls. An English led Seder, and a Hebrew language led Seder.

Additionally, another six plus thousand guests, from Israel and many other countries, sat around the Chabad Seders throughout Thailand.

Besides for the Sedarim in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pai, Ko Samui, Ko Pangan, Phuket and Luan Prabang, our children, Efraim, Leibel, Miriam and her husband Yosef went to Krabi to run a ‘pop-up’ Seder. (It was announced at the last minute and catered to those who had not made plans to be at a Seder – proverbial ‘fifth sons’).

With Hashems help all the Pesach Seders, with all the myriad details involved in the logistics of putting on such Seder, went smoothly. And a meaningful and inspiring experience was had by all. See pictures below of the moments before the Chag of Pesach began.

This year, I acknowledged with deep pain that there were some other ‘sons’ absent.

The hostages who have been cruelly kidnapped and being held in impossible conditions since October 7th.

The soldiers of the IDF who are on the front lines of defending our people. They ate Matzah and did Seders out in the field, but they were absent from their families Pesach Seder.

And then my mind turned to those who are unable to attend Seders because of the hostile environment fomented by the demonstrations and riots against Israel and the Jewish people.

While it is shocking for me to see the ugly head of antisemitism rear its head in my hometown of New York, I cannot say that it is an absolute shock.

History repeats itself with different variations on the same theme.

In preparation for Pesach, I reviewed the laws of the Seder in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Concise Code of Jewish Law) .

You should do your best to obtain choice wine to perform the  mitzvah  of drinking the Four Cups. If red wine is available, that is, of the same quality as white wine, and its  kashrus  is as reliable as white wine, the red wine is preferred for the Four Cups, for it is said, "Look not after wine when it is red," ( Proverbs 23:31)  indicating that wine is most desirable, when it is red. In addition, because it reminds us of the blood, which flowed, when Pharaoh slaughtered innocent Jewish children. In backward and ignorant countries, where people, make slanderous accusations, Jews refrain from using red wine on  Pesach .

Do you get the twisted irony?

Upon the advice of his advisors, Pharaoh bathed in the blood of slaughtered Jewish children in an attempt to heal his leprosy.

Generations later, the Jewish people were murdered upon allegations that the Pesach ritual involved the blood of gentile children.

To the extent that it became dangerous in certain locales to drink red wine at the Seder.

Such a preposterous and outrageous claim.

The Torah forbids eating blood period.

These unfounded blood libels have hounded our people from 1144 till the last blood libel in Russia one hundred years ago, the famous Beilis trial. (Click here for an interesting lecture regarding the history of blood libels).

Before that, we were blamed only for ‘deicide’ killing the god of the Christians.

The blood libel was another twist which took off and became popular.

Anti Semitism has always relied on misinformation.

Today, twisting history and factual events becomes even more achievable.

The saying goes ‘seeing is believing’.

Another saying says ‘a picture is worth more a thousand words.’

We must seriously rethink that in our current Photoshop and AI world.

Today, photos and videos can be doctored and engineered to present a reality that is non-factual and totally false.

The anti-Semitic tropes have evolved from deicide and blood libels to their current mutation.

It is important for us Jews to know that a blood libel is simply that. A libelous twisted claim by our enemies intended to harm us physically and demoralize us so that we feel we have no choice but to cower and hide.

Let us not fall prey to this hideous plan.

We must stand firm and proud and committed to G-d, His Torah and stand ironclad as AM YISRAEL – one people with one common destiny.

My colleague R’ Yuda Drizin in Columbia University made the following statement in light of the unconscionable riots on that campus:

“We refuse to yield to the forces of hate. Instead, we’ll raise our voices in song and dance throughout the nights of Passover 2024,” the rabbi said of the resolve to continue celebrating as Jews and not letting evil win. “They want us to back down, to cower and hide. Instead, we will continue as proud Jews.”

They hosted Seders on campus and pragmatically – without misplaced bravado - hired security guards to escort the student’s home in safety.

Millions of Jews around the world proclaimed at their Seders on Monday and Tuesday evenings the ‘Vehi She’amda’ prayer:

And this ( Hashem ’s blessings and the  Torah ) is what kept our fathers and what keeps us surviving. For, not only one arose and tried to destroy us, rather in every generation they try to destroy us, and  Hashem  saves us from their hands

(click here for a Chasidic melody on this passage)

Click here to hear the ‘golden oldie’ tune for ‘Vehi Sheamda’ .

It is quite ironic that we sing the Vehi She’amda quite heartily, (granted it’s after the first full cup of wine). It doesn’t seem to be a singing matter ‘that in every generation they want to finish us…’ yet we recite this prayer in a loud and joyous voice.

I recently heard this parable that gives a wonderful context to this prayer.

There was a young newlywed couple, living with the bride's parents, because of their limited finances. Their elderly grandmother, who lived independently, passed away and bestowed upon the newlywed couple her modest dwelling tucked away in a lesser-known neighborhood.

They loved their new home. Save for one problem. Their home was soon disturbed by a series of burglaries. Upon hearing a peculiar noise, the vigilant groom armed himself and successfully scared off the intruder. However, these break-ins persisted, puzzling the couple, who possessed no valuables or wealth to speak of.

Despite their meager possessions, their home remained a target for thieves. Intrigued by the repeated attempts, the young man resolved not to chase away the next attempted burglar, but to apprehend him and discover his motives.

The truth behind the burglaries was unveiled. It had become common knowledge among criminal circles that a great treasure lay hidden beneath the couple's residence. Thus, the impoverished young man began to dig, eventually unearthing a substantial chest brimming with gold and silver. Suddenly, the once struggling newlyweds found themselves abundantly wealthy!

We, the Jewish people, are likewise in possession of a vast fortune.

Hashem has chosen us as his treasured nation.

Though at times unbeknownst to us, our wealth lies far beyond our immediate perception.

Yet, our adversaries, it seems, are well aware of this treasure and seek to dismantle us in order to seize it.

This treasure that we are now even more aware of, is something to sing loudly, heartily and joyously about!

We must always remember that we are custodians of a priceless inheritance – the Torah and traditions that safeguard our existence, a wealth of immeasurable value.

There is something else that should be said.

And that is, that there is a win/win scenario that should be implemented.

If the nations of the world will protect us and support us in our mission of being the Divine Ambassadors on earth, they too will be blessed by Hashem.

Hashem has promised ‘I will bless those who bless you’.


The way forward is clear. We, Am Yisrael need to continue and strengthen our embrace of our Divine mission. All of our fellow citizens of the world should treat us with respect and protection.

This is the holistic way our world is meant to function and will lead to a healthy situation for all of humankind.

May we be blessed with the coming of Mashiach NOW.

Shabbat Shalom

Moadim Lesimcha

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Comments on: Seder Reflections
There are no comments.