Experiencing Passover Today
The Seder is intended to be a personal experience. It should not, however, be a private one.
Every person should look upon the exodus as an event of the present, not of the past.
He should feel that he is leaving his personal Egypt, i.e., going beyond all the boundaries and limitations that confine his essential G-dly nature.
And yet, the Torah teaches us that this realization should be experienced communally.
The Paschal sacrifice, it commands, should be offered "for your families." For however personal our Passover experience is, we should share and celebrate it together with our families -- immediate and extended. Each person extends a hand to another, helping him or her understand and taste Redemption.
The Haggadah points to this concept in its discussion of the four sons. It is not only the wise who are gathered at the Seder table, but also the simple, those who identify Jewishly and appreciate observance, but have difficulty defining and verbalizing their identification. And they are joined by those who do not know how to ask -- those who know that they are Jewish, but know little more than that, who do not know where to begin looking to find out more about their faith.
And together with them comes the wicked -- Jews who rebel and challenge observance, but at the same time, want to share in the Seder experience. Whatever their personal or ideological peeves with Jewish practice, they feel that on Passover night, they belong at a Seder.
And these sons celebrate the Seder together. They do not make four separate Sedarim; they come together at the same table. For they are all part of the same people, and the experience of redemption that each is seeking is intertwined with that of the other.
The Haggadah points to this concept in its words: echad chacham, echad rasha.... "One is wise, one is wicked,..." The essential oneness that permeates the Jewish people and the mystic oneness of G-d that pervades all existence is reflected in all four sons.
The order in which the four sons are mentioned also teaches us an important lesson:
The wicked son comes right after the wise son. This points to the wicked son's inner potential. The only thing separating him from the wise son is his desire, and that can be changed. And that is another reason why they are sitting together, so that they can share and communicate and allow the fundamental Jewish desire that they possess in their hearts to come to the surface.
When these four sons get together, they can bring a fifth son to the Seder table -- a son or a daughter who is Jewish but for some reason was not planning to come to a Seder table. When the Haggadah was written, this type of son did not exist. Now unfortunately he is a very prevalent type of person within the Jewish community.
However apathetic to his or her Jewish roots this fifth son appears, within his heart, there is also a desire to become part of the Jewish experience. And when all four sons come together on Passover, the dynamic synergy that results will be powerful enough to inspire all the fifth sons to claim their place at the Seder table.