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    What’s the Wicked Son’s crime? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What terrible crime has the wicked son in the Haggadah committed?

    The wise and wicked sons, as depicted in the Szyk Haggadah

    A. His question is, “What does this service mean to you?”. Lachem v’lo lo, says the Haggadah – “to you, not to himself”. Result? “Since he has excluded himself from the community, he has denied a fundamental principle”. But where is this supposed fundamental principle enunciated?

    True, Hillel says in Pirkei Avot, Al tifrosh min hatzibbur – “Do not separate yourself from the community” (Avot 2:5). But though communal loyalty and solidarity are great virtues, they are not mitzvot established by the Torah to such a degree that breaking away brings down heavenly punishment. So what fundamental principle has the Rasha transgressed?

    The Vilna Gaon suggests that there are two things the Rasha has done, and the letter vav (“and”) should be inserted in the text to make this clear. He has excluded himself from the community, yes; and he has also denied a fundamental principle, the fundamental principle of Judaism – belief in God.

    What has he said? “What does this service mean to you?” Not, as is the wise son’s question, “What are the laws which the Lord our God has commanded you?” The wise son acknowledges that all comes from God, and he wants to understand the details. The wicked son leaves God out of the reckoning. He excludes the Divine from the scene of history. That’s what his sin really is, and that’s why he needs to be rebuked.

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