Haggadah: The Wicked Son
by: Sloane and BenZion Taube
There are four places where the Torah mentions that we should tell our children about the redemption from Egypt. Certainly, the Torah need not repeat itself. There are details of Mitzvot in the Torah that are only hinted at, so why, then, repeat this Mitzvah four times?
The rabbis derive that this re-telling refers to four different types of "sons" (characters): the wise son, the wicked son, the simple son, and the one who does not know even to ask.
In Shemot, 23:26-27, we find the "wicked son."
"And it shall be when your children say to you, 'What is this service to you?'"
"And you shall say, 'It is a Pesach feast-offering to HaShem, Who passed over the houses of the Children of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but he saved our households…'"
It seems from the above verses that, indeed, there is a dialogue here. However, when we look in the Haggadah, we notice that there should be no dialogue with the wicked son. The Haggadah gives a, answer to the wicked son, which is completely different from the one found in the Torah:
"Since he has excluded himself from the community, he has denied the foundation of our faith. Consequently, you must blunt his teeth and say to him, 'It is because of this that HaShem did for me when I went out from Egypt.' For me, not for him - had he been there, he would not have been redeemed."
Why does the Haggadah give a different answer? What is there in this verse that hints to a wicked son? Does the Torah promote a dialogue?
Upon closer inspection of the verses in the Torah, we find a difference between the wicked son and the others. When the Torah speaks of the wise and simple sons, it uses the verb "Sha'al," to ask - they ask you. When the Torah speaks of the wicked son, it uses the verb "Amar," to tell - he tells you.
The wicked son is not interested in an answer; he already has his answers. He tells you, in a mocking manner, "What are you doing." He rebels against authority, and against tradition. He does not mention Gd, nor does he use the word "us" in his "question."
The Torah says that one should not address him directly. In addressing all of the other sons, the Torah uses the word, "Lo," meaning that we speak to him directly. With the wicked son, the Torah just tells us, "You shall say," not "Lo," "say to him."
What about the Torah's response to the wicked son? It is not truly a response to him. After the statement of the wicked son, we make a statement of our own. We reaffirm, not to him but for ourselves, our belief and our actions. Our practice of the re-enactment of the exodus is what instills our faith deeper into our hearts and our souls. There is no contradiction between the Haggadah's view and the Torah's view of the attitude to the wicked son. The Haggadah teaches us how to read and understand the verses of the Torah.
There is a portion of all of the sons, in each of us. We must know how to deal with out curiosity, doubt, amazement and awe, and with the totally uncomprehendable.
Chag Sameach, from the Taubes!
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