Chacham… Rasha, Tam…

Pesach 5783 / 2023

We will read in the Haggadah : 

Blessed is the Omnipresent One (Hashem), blessed be He! Blessed is He who gave the Torah to His people Israel, blessed be He! 

The Torah speaks of four children: One is wise, one is wicked, one is simple and one does not know how to ask.The most famous part of the Haggadah (after ma Nishtana) is the description of the “four Sons”….

The wise one, what does he say? “What are the testimonies, the statutes and the laws which the Lord, our Gd, has commanded you?” You, in turn, shall instruct him in the laws of Passover, [up to] `one is not to eat any dessert after the Passover-lamb.’

The wicked one, what does he say? “What is this service to you?!” He says `to you,’ but not to him! By thus excluding himself from the community he has denied that which is fundamental. You, therefore, blunt his teeth and say to him: “It is because of this that the Lord did for me when I left Egypt”; `for me’ – but not for him! If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed!”

The simpleton, what does he say? “What is this?” Thus you shall say to him: “With a strong hand G’d took us out of Egypt, from the house of slaves.”

As for the one who does not know how to ask, you must initiate him, as it is said: “You shall tell your child on that day, `It is because of this that G’d did for me when I left Egypt.'”

I wonder:

1. Why (at the beginning, above) are we expressing gratitude to G’d for having a wicked son. Obviously we thank G’d for the wise son, and perhaps we can understand blessing G’d for the other ones, but how come we “bless” for having a “wicked son”? 

2. Why is the “wicked” one listed second on the list? After all, he must be the worst of the “four sons” – so his place should have been last, after the simpleton and the one who does not know what to ask?

In order to answer, we firstly have to try and assess – “how bad is this wicked boy?  

The Lubavitchers say.  “The wicked one is not as a Rasha as we first might think. After all, he still came to join us at the Seder night…..  Perhaps he is more of a “Potential wicked” guy, but not as bad as the word Rasha indicates on first thought.  And perhaps, this might explain why we rush to put him on top of the list, following the Chacham.  Because while he might upset us with his aggressive style, he is here- at the seder, because he is really bothered by the religious issues he has – and we may not let him wait for an answer. The very fact that he attends – proves that he is keen to get satisfactory explanations from us. So yes, we might as well start with a telling off (for the way he presented his case) but we are obliged to give him instant attention and deal with his outstanding matters.

This may be why he is listed immediately following his brother the Chacham, and why we thank G’d for him… 

Warm regards and Chag Pesach Kasher v’Sameach

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld