(Torah Portion Acharai Mos) Fake ID
The City of Vilna was shocked! The husband of a young bride had vanished leaving no indication of his whereabouts. Thus, his wife became an Agunah, unable to remarry until credible information about his death was received, or until he appeared to give his wife a Get – Jewish divorce or he rejoined her in marriage.
Unfortunately, he was absent for many years.
One day a man came to town claiming to be the long lost husband. It was in the mid 1700’s and photographs were nonexistent making it difficult to identify him by his facial and body features.
The Rabbis began querying him about his purported life as it was years before when he lived in town. He answered every question properly. However, something caused the Rabbis to suspect that he was an imposter.
They decided to seek advice from the great sage and genius of Vilna, the Vilna Goan. The Goan advised them to ask the person to join them for services at the local Synagogue on Shabbos and then notice if he takes the husband’s designated seat in Shul where he sat many years ago.
Upon entering the Shul, the man was caught unaware of his surroundings and sat in a different seat, thus exposing himself as a fraud.
The Rabbis went back to the Vilna Goan and asked him how he thought of this ploy to catch the pretender. The Goan answered, “I figured, if he was indeed in cahoots with the real husband who fed him all the information, the last thing on their mind was to share things having to do with spirituality. Therefore, I was certain they would not share the place where he had sat in Shul!
You may be wondering, how this fits into a D’var Torah for Pesach!
Regarding our ancestors’ experience in Egypt, the Torah writes four times, “your son will ask.” Each question posed reflects on a particular type of son. He is either the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, or the son who has difficulty asking questions.
A question is raised. What is the wicked son doing at the Seder? What motivated or inspired him to come to the Seder?
I think the answer is that each Jew has deep within himself a spiritual spark that draws him to join us at the Seder. The Pesach Seder with its traditional foods, laws and traditions, links us to our ancestors and reminds us of all the miracles. In spite of all the different ideologies and isms that one may pick up from outside sources, the Seder touches an internal chord within each Jew.
Although the wicked son expresses disconnection to G-d and to our people, the internal flame of a Jew is warmed on Pesach, and he physically joins us knowing exactly what to do and ‘where to sit,’ because deep down he knows he truly belongs!
So how do we deal with the wicked son? The Hagadah tells us, “Blunt his teeth and tell him…” What does this mean? After all, the Torah prohibits abuse and inflicting pain; and besides, physical punishment is certainly not the way to convince a wayward child to appreciate our traditions.
“Blunt his teeth,” means telling the wicked child not to immediately deflect the message of the Seder and flippantly reject our traditions. We tell him to be patient and temporarily keep quiet in order to absorb the message of the Seder so that it seeps in.
By not immediately responding he may bring to his consciousness the vital role and significance that he plays in the family of the Jewish people.
Wishing you a most restful, uplifting, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks