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Remember the Fifth Child

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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.

But what about the fifth child?

At our recent model seder, as the rabbi was exploring possible reasons for the four cups of wine we drink at the seder, a student began to wave frantically, jumping out of her seat with agitation. Typical behaviour for her. For “Z” has Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disorder that is on the autistim spectrum. Among other cognitive and social difficulties, “Z” struggles to follow the most basic of social rules such as “raise your hand and wait for the teacher to call on you.”

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

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 stopping to think that the words we choose are unclear. The table is not restricted to four cups. Nor is each seder participant given four separate cups. We would remove the confusion by referring to the first drink 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.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, 14 April 2011 5:06 am

    Beautiful and refreshing. Thank you.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 14 April 2011 11:58 pm

      I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by Frume Sarah’s World.

  2. Thursday, 14 April 2011 8:44 am

    What a great reminder to make an extra effort for those of our children who need it.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Thursday, 14 April 2011 11:59 pm

      It is so good to see you here, Raizy. Hope all is well with you and the fam. And thanks 😉

  3. Thursday, 14 April 2011 8:46 am

    your words, as always, are inspiring. We should all remember to look at each child for the amazing gifts they share with us….

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 12:00 am

      I just report it like I see it. “Z” was the inspiration here.

  4. ZaydeGiraffe permalink
    Thursday, 14 April 2011 6:45 pm

    As MamaBear (z”l) used to say, “Each child brings a blessing to this world.”

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Friday, 15 April 2011 12:01 am

      MamaBear, z”l, was right.

  5. Sunday, 17 April 2011 11:43 am

    and we are all the fifth and sixth child – or even more, depending on how you count:

    1-4 we know from tradition
    5 typically the one who does not know even how to ask or why (Lubavitcher Rebbe)
    6) The cild who is lost or absent, exiled
    7) The one who was driven away the blind tradition (the bad part of orthodoxy)
    8) the one who just returned after several attempts to reconcile with Father (I know many of these, I am a returned child, not a balle Teshuva, I was frum as a glatt kosher roast, and I drove myself away or was driven away, and came back with terms.)
    9) The child who was lost, absorbed in the world, became an empire, and returned to build a community.
    10) The child who leeft the tradition for another honored path, and came back to build bridges.


  1. Remember the Fifth Child | RJ Blog

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