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.