Gilad Shalit will be getting a visitor next Monday night — Eliyahu HaNavi (Elijah). In the comfort of our own homes, the rest of us can and should remember this Fifth Son — wise and able to ask but unable to be heard. At the seder on this night of memory, with its promises of Redemption, it would be appropriate to remember Shalit, a slave awaiting a miracle all his own.
Thanks to the energetic advocacy efforts of StudentsUnite4Israel.org, a coalition of high school students dedicated to promoting Israel awareness in schools around the country, prayers will be offered for the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and they will be remembered at seders around the world.
If there’s one thing that differentiates the Wise Child from the Wicked Child, it is that the Wicked Child speaks of the Jewish moment as something that happens to “you, not to me,” something that happens “over there.” The Wise Child, though, is self-inclusive. He feels that Jewish fate and promise not only belong to him, but are his — our — responsibility.
Shalit belongs to us, as we’re reminded by the high school student effort, created by Ezra Gontownik and Eric Tepper, sophomores at The Frisch School in northern New Jersey, joined by students around the country campaigning to have Shalit be recognized as the Fifth Son at our seders.
In fact, in these troubled times, there will be too many of Israel’s sons and daughters who won’t be at their parent’s seders; Israeli children, victims of rockets and bombs, in hospitals; Israeli men and women (boys and girls, actually) on IDF patrol; kibbutzim and villages that must continuously have someone listening for sounds in the night.
As in the Passover story itself, too many lives were lost in the Nile or in the fields, before Redemption came. This year, once again, there are too many families who will have absent voices for the seder songs.
And yet, there is hope for Shalit — for Israel, for all of us — as real as the seder itself. This is a holiday of celebration and a promise, a time for Hallel and hope, for remembering that few situations could have seemed more hopeless than 200 years of slavery and yet optimism prevailed. It’s a holiday for staying up – until the time of the sunrise Shema — telling the old stories with happy endings.
The roster of guests and family at our seder tables change with the years, and let Gilad Shalit be with us, this year, before returning to his family next year in Jerusalem. When we open the door for Eliyahu, let’s send him on his way with a blessing, for our son, Gilad, and for all those who feel lonely and stranded.
As the Wise Child knows, we’re all in this together.
Chag sameach, Happy Passover.