Wicked? Perhaps. But needed!

Friday, 12 April, 2019 - 3:57 am


By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Which of the ‘four sons’ (or daughters) are you?

Truth be told I kinda always believed my momma who said I was the ‘wise son’.

This year will be different though.

No, my mother hasn’t stopped calling me a good child and I still try not to let her down. But I have recently given a lot of more thought to the ‘wicked son’ character who is mentioned at the Seder night.

Let me explain why.

A recent encounter with Ron, a Jew from the Hollywood in his seventies, opened up new vistas in my empathizing with others.

It wasn’t the first time I had put on Tefilin with a man in his seventies for the very first time in his life. Thank G-d, I have had the inimitable pleasure of introducing many a fellow Jew to this awesomely inspiring mitzvah.  

Roneleh (as I endearingly refer to my new seventy-one-year-old friend) didn’t just put on the Tefilin. He bared his soul. He emotionally told me what had changed his feelings toward his relationship with G-d and his Jewish birth religion.

In anticipation of our meeting he had watched a video on our website in which I shared the teaching that every Jew is comparable to a letter in the Torah. We all know that every letter of the Torah is critical to the validity of the Torah. If one letter is missing the entire scroll is invalid. Similarly, every single Jew is an integral part of the Jewish people. From the greatest saint, down to the most wicked. Every single one of us is an irreplaceable ‘member of the tribe’.

Ron told me emotionally, ‘I never knew how important I, the non-observant Jew, am to the Jewish people. To realize my critical importance to the nation of Israel, to the extent that the entire nation of Israel is incomplete without my contribution, is a game-changer’.

It was a game-changer for him. Ron, aka Reuven, put on Tefilin and gave me an appreciative hug.

I hugged him back. It was no less game-changing for me. Ron gave me a glimpse into the feelings of a Jew who did not at all feel like a ‘wise son’ in terms of his relationship with his Jewishness.

I have not been the same since that meeting.

My world has changed.

It’s like a lightbulb went on in my head!

I’ve attended Pesach Seders for as long as I can remember.

At every Seder we have spoken about the ‘four sons’ who attend the Seder.

The four kinds of children that comprise out Seder tables. Wise, wicked, simple and the ones who do not know how to ask.

I will be unabashedly honest. While I try to be an empathetic person, I now realize that I had never put myself in the shoes of the ‘wicked son’.

What would it feel like to attend a Seder if you viewed yourself as a ‘wicked son’?

Actually, why would you even bother attending the Seder if you felt so wicked?

Wouldn’t you feel really out of place?

This is precisely the point of the Seder declaration highlighting the different kinds of children.

Every single Jew has a place at the Seder table.

The Seder is not only for the wise, good, full of mitzvahs kids. Or for kids who are simple but at least don’t create waves by their rambunctiousness and questioning of their heritage.

The Seder is held for the ‘wicked’ child as much as it is for the other less provocative ones.


We need the wicked son to know that he is NOT merely a tolerated ‘outside guest’ at the family table. He is an integral member of the family. He may need to be tamed, he may be asked to tone down his rhetoric, certainly he is expected to be respectful, but he will not be asked to leave.

For if he leaves, the family is not complete.

Hey, it’s pretty amazing that the kid showed up at the Seder. He couldn’t be all that wicked you say. Well, the Haggada does call him wicked. So I believe that he may indeed be wicked.

But wicked as he may be, he has been blessed that he is not alienated. Obviously, his Jewish self-esteem is intact. He may feel that his actions are aggravating to his family and his G-d but he just can’t control himself.

Not for one moment though does he think he is redundant. Not for a second does he think he is now an outsider. He knows and feels that he is a Jew as much as any other Jew at the Seder table.

This is what we proclaim at the Seder. It doesn’t matter how you view yourself. It may even be the truth that you are quite a wicked Jew. But you are a Jew and therefore you belong. And if you don’t show up, something is missing.

But here is the catch. Only the Jews who actually show up to the Seder get to hear about this.

I shudder when I think of how many Jews may not be showing up at Seders simply because they are feeling a low Jewish self-esteem.

It could be that the reason so many Jews stray so far is because they don’t really think their absence will be noticed?

What I learned from Ron is just how critical it is for a Jew to realize that he is absolutely critical to the community.

It’s a vicious cycle. If they don’t come to the Seder, they don’t get to hear the Seder leader explain how important every single Jew is to the entire people.

This Tuesday, the world celebrates the birth of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory 117 years ago.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe called upon all Jews who are planning to attend Passover Seders to think about those who are not planning to attend.

Four sons come to the Seder. Even the wicked ones.

There is a ‘fifth son’.

The one who wasn’t planning to come.

Get him or her to come to the Seder. Explain to them that the table is not complete without their presence.

Once they get to the Seder they will get the point. That they matter. That the table is not complete without them. Next year they won’t be the fifth son. They will join the other four. And they too need to reach out to those who are not yet planning to be at the Seder table.

The Rebbe constantly taught that it is not at all difficult to connect Jews to their Yiddishkeit.

All it takes is to impresses upon our fellow Jews that they belong.

That they matter.

That G-d loves them and waits for their Mitzvahs longingly.

That the Jewish People NEEDS them to be whole and complete.

Once they know and feel that they are needed, there is no doubt that they will connect more to their Judaism.

So, my dear friend, G-d loves YOU. Am Yisrael needs YOU. And YOU can best express your love to G-d and strengthen our people, by doing another mitzvah.

Shabbat Shalom and happy Passover preparations.

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

PS. Please email me if you need help with a place at a Seder or if you can’t make it to a Seder we will be happy to send Matzah to you!

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