Remember the Fifth Child

by Rabbi Rebecca Yaël Schorr
Originally posted on
Frume Sarah’s World

A family-favorite Passover song, to the tune of “Clementine,” introduces them.

One was wise and one was wicked,
One was simple and a bore.

And the fourth was sweet and winsome,
he was young and he was small.
While his brothers asked the questions
he could scarcely speak at all.

(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

But what about the fifth child?

At our recent model seder, as the rabbi was exploring possiblereasons for the four cups of wine we drink at the seder, a student beganto wave frantically, jumping out of her seat with agitation. Typicalbehaviour for her. For “Z” has Asperger’s Syndrome,a developmental disorder that is on the autistim spectrum. Among othercognitive and social difficulties, “Z” struggles to follow the mostbasic of social rules such as “raise your hand and wait for the teacherto call on you.”

What was bothering “Z” was this: the rabbi kept talking about fourcups of wine. But, as she pointed out, more than four people come to theseder at her cousins’ house. So that makes way more than four cups ofwine.

The rabbi came to a complete stop, thought a moment, and thanked “Z” for always looking at things through fresh eyes.

“Z” was right. We talk about the four cups of wine without stoppingto think that the words we choose are unclear. The table is notrestricted to four cups. Nor is each seder participant given fourseparate cups. We would remove the confusion by referring to the firstdrink of wine, second drink, etc.

The wise child.
The wicked child.
The simple child.
The child who is too young to ask.


The child who experiences the world differently than his (or her) peers and asks questions based on this unique perspective.

He is the fifth child.

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4 Responses to “Remember the Fifth Child”

  1. avatar
    Shelly Christensen Reply April 15, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Thus reminding us that when others take a moment to walk in the world of someone who sees things from a different perspective, we liberate ourselves from biases and begin to celebrate the release from the binding of being “The Other.” In this regard, we are all free from bondage. Chag Sameach!

  2. avatar

    As an adult with Asperger’s I’d like to thank you for your depiction and understanding towards those children who experience the world differently than others. Thank you!

  3. avatar

    I was “the fifth child” once–I remember the uncomprehending stares and the pain they inflicted. Thank you so much for approaching people who are “on the spectrum” in such an understanding way. Broader society has yet to catch up…

  4. avatar
    Rabbi Rebecca Schorr Reply April 21, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Full disclosure: Our 10 year old son is on the spectrum. It is from him that I have learned so much about understanding those who experience our world in unique ways. I am a better rabbi because of him.
    Chag Pesach Sameyach!!

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