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The Wicked Child. There are no wicked sons
In 1945, Rabbi Mayer Abramowitz served as the Jewish chaplain of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, in an area that included the German cities of Kassel, Fulda and Marburg. Before Passover, he was called to a General Staff meeting and shown orders from HQ (European Theater of Operations, headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower) alerting all commanders to enable Jewish personnel to celebrate Passover. This involved granting leaves, providing special food, housing and facilities. R' Abramowitz was asked to implement those orders for the entire U.S. 3rd Infantry Division.

The Seder would be held in Kassel. The city was all bombed out. Only one underground bunker, a huge area that could seat hundreds of people, was still operational. Abramowitz began listing the special foods, wine and Haggadot that would be needed. He was told that those were already stipulated in an order from Headquarters. Before the staff meeting ended, R' Abramowitz asked permission to invite Jewish survivors to take part in the Seder as well. The non-Jewish general said: "Absolutely, and that's an order."

Within a week of that meeting, Passover supplies began to arrive in two-and-a-half ton trucks. The drivers fondly called the operation "The Matzah Ball Express." They brought in Matzah by the ton, wine by the gallon, gefilte fish by the truckload, and haggadot by the case. Transportation and housing were arranged for 300 Jewish personnel. R' Abramowitz invited about a hundred survivors to join the Seder. He asked if they wanted to sit separately or together with the military men; since language was an obstacle, they opted to sit by themselves.

All day on April 15, 1945 (erev Pesach that year) trucks rolled in bringing Jewish personnel from far-flung German cities. The Kassel bunker with its special lighting and decorations looked like an elegant hotel banquet hall. The brass, led by the general, sat at the head table with several survivors. Things went smoothly as Kiddush began with the traditional tune, but then as they reached "Shehecheyanu" - "Blessed are you, G-d.who kept us alive to reach this season," everyone broke down in tears. After some time, the room quieted down, and the general addressed the gathering, welcoming the military men and survivors, who were the civilian guests. He then asked one of the survivors to lead the next section of the Haggadah, which was "Hay Lachma Anya," This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt." The survivor began recounting the afflictions he and his fellow survivors suffered under the Nazis. He concluded by expressing his gratitude at being able to celebrate this first Seder after five indescribable years. Finishing his remarks, he toasted the American general and embraced him.

The response was spontaneous. GIs and officers walked over to the survivors' tables, embracing and kissing them.Rabbi Mayer Abramowitz said it was at that point that he lost control of his orderly Seder. He couldn't get the guests to quiet down and continue with the Seder. They had reached the song, "Avadim hayeenu l'epharaoh be'mitsrayim - "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt." But they did not want to sing about being slaves; they did not want to sing about a Pharaoh. They had endured enough of Pharaoh. (People actually whispered that section to themselves).

Then Rabbi Abramowitz tried to describe the Four Sons, but one of the survivors stood up and said: "There's no evil son here tonight! Anyone who identifies as a Jew after what the Jewish people have been through is righteous. Today there are only righteous Jews!" Everyone started clapping and singing. Overcoming the language and cultural barriers, the participants sang, talked and enjoyed one another like long lost relatives. They continued toasting, talking, and enjoying each other, following the Haggadah at their own pace for the rest of the Seder. The discerning non-Jewish general realized Rabbi Abramowitz was dejected at not being able to conduct a "proper," orderly Seder with the coordinated Haggadah readings.

The General approached Rabbi Abramowitz, put one arm over his shoulder and the other arm over the rabbi's chest. Then he said: "Son, I don't know much about the Jewish faith or Passover, but one thing I do know. You never conducted a better Seder before, and you'll never conduct a better Seder in the future." The general was right. And the survivor was right. There are no wicked sons.

Today any Jew who identifies as a Jew after all the Jewish people have been through for 2000 years is a great Jew.
 

 


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