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Truth or Comfort

by Avraham Chaim Feldman
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer

"Because the wicked son excludes himself from the group, he has denied the essential beliefs of Judaism." - the Passover Haggadah.
What is the trait which stamps this son with his ugly title?

                                                                                                                      

"Because the wicked son excludes himself from the group, he has denied the essential beliefs of Judaism." - the Passover Haggadah

What is the trait which stamps this son with his ugly title? It is his insistence on being separate from others. We would assume that the reason he separates himself from the rest of the nation is that he does not believe in its teachings. However, the author of the Haggadah teaches us otherwise by reversing the process into a seemingly irrational statement: Only once he separates himself does he decide on what basis he has done so. Hence, "Because the wicked son excludes himself from the group, he has denied the essential beliefs of Judaism." What is the Haggadah teaching us through its strange description of the wicked son?

Rabbi Aharon Kotler, one of the leading disseminators of Torah in the last generation, asks another question through which we can find an explanation for the structure of the Haggadah's presentation of the wicked son. By the time the seventh plague of hail rained down upon the Egyptians, it seemed that every possible cause of suffering had already been wrought upon Egypt. Every time that Moses had promised a certain plague, it had occurred exactly as he had predicted. Yet the Torah relates that only those who "feared the word of Hashem" heeded Moses' warning that there would be a terrible storm of hail, and brought their cattle in from the fields so that they wouldn't be destroyed. Does one need to be G-d-fearing in order to believe someone who has been correct six times out of six? Why did only those who "feared the word of Hashem" realize that it was a bad gamble to disregard Moses' word?

The answer, it seems, is that a person who does not want to believe something will go to all costs in order to justify his denial. He will even go so far as to act in a manner which he inwardly knows to be irrational, because he realizes that if he does the rational thing, he will be admitting to a certain belief that he wishes to deny. The Egyptians who did not fear the word of Hashem were willing to have their cattle destroyed rather than admit that there is a G-d who runs the world and watches over it. They understood that by admitting to the existence of an all-powerful G-d, they would be forced to change their way of life and refrain from blindly following their desires.

This explains the structure of the Haggadah's presentation of the wicked son. The wicked son does not divorce himself from the rest of the community because of his different beliefs. Rather, he fabricates his beliefs in order to justify his unwillingness to follow the precepts of the Torah.

Often, when making decisions, we do not pay attention to what is leading us to create our opinions and conclusions on crucial matters. Let us learn from the wicked son's mistakes and be sure to look for truth rather than for comfort.

Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is a senior at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.


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