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The Wicked Son’s Perceptive Question

The Wicked Son’s Perceptive Question

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Art by Zalman Kleinman
Art by Zalman Kleinman

"The wicked one, what does he say? 'What is this service to you?!' ...You, therefore, blunt his teeth..."—From the Haggadah Liturgy.

The four children are sitting around the Passover table: the wise, the wicked, the simpleton and the one who does not know how to question. Though very different from each other, they are doing the same thing. They are eating, drinking and discussing Passover topics: slavery, freedom and how their father kept the bitter herbs so strong.

At one point, three of the four raise their questions to their parents, to the elders sitting around the table piled with all the traditional Passover foods.

"What this is all about?" one asks. Another asks about the difference between the various sorts of commandments. And then there is the wicked son.

His question: "What is this service to you guys?"

I am a wicked person, he's declaring. I enjoy food, I live in order to indulge in the pleasures of the world. It makes perfect sense for me to be a part of this grand feast... but what does it have to do with you guys?

You guys, he explains, should be sitting on the floor meditating in silence. Get rid of the food, get rid of the wine, no need for the herbs! How is all this called serving G‑d?

We are instructed to respond forcefully to this question, "blunt his teeth!" For why would G‑d have created teeth if it was not for a good purpose?

G‑d created teeth so that they too should serve Him. The physical world and its pleasures cannot be divorced from their spiritual purpose. We were created in order to make a dwelling place for G‑d here, in our physical reality. We need to engage the world, not shun it.

And that is precisely why the Jewish nation was redeemed from Egypt, to receive G‑d's commandments on Mount Sinai. Commandments that encompass the entirety of life; not just the mind, but all our material pursuits too.

So this Passover, let's feast. That's what Passover's all about.

Adapted from the written notes of Passover commentary of my grandfather, the venerated scholar and teacher Rabbi Chaim Meir Bukiet, of blessed memory.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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