I have long been bothered by the way the wicked son is treated in the Haggadah. When the wicked son asks a question, we are instructed to blunt his teeth. Is the Haggadah condoning violence?


There are wicked children out there. There are kids that are destructive, obnoxious and bad. But not all bad. Underneath the surface, beneath the layers of rudeness and rebellion, there lies an innocent soul. Even the most delinquent children have goodness at their core. It may be buried beneath layers of hurt and pain, but the soul itself remains pure.

It is up to the parents and teachers to engage the wicked children and try to uncover the hidden goodness within. Seek the cause of the rebellion, find out what set the child on the wrong path. He may have been exposed to a bad crowd of friends or a negative role model; he may have been let down by those he looked up to. Or he may have never been taught how to overcome his own negative tendencies. He may have never learnt how to be good.

Reverse the process that led him astray, and bring him back to his inner goodnessBehind his wickedness there is a story, there is a reason why he allowed his innocent soul to become corrupted by his evil side and his pure mind twisted by lower tendencies. Identify the root cause, and then neutralize it. Reverse the process that led him astray, and bring him back to his inner goodness.

This is what the Haggadah means when it says "You should blunt his teeth." De-fang him. Remove the sharpness and bitterness from his bite. Smooth out his rough edges, heal his wounds and allow the goodness in his soul to surface. Take the wicked child and make him righteous.

In fact, this idea is right there in the words of the Haggadah. In the Hebrew language, every letter has a numerical value, called gematria. Therefore every word has a number, the sum of its letters. We can learn hidden messages by looking at the numbers behind Hebrew words.

A wicked person is called a rasha in Hebrew. The word for a pure person is tzaddik. The numerical value of rasha is 570. The numerical value of tzaddik is 204. The difference between them is 366.

Beneath every rasha is a hidden tzaddik. We just need to remove the layers of evil and we will find his goodness. Numerically, we have to remove 366 to get 204 from 570.

So we must blunt his teeth. "His teeth" in Hebrew is shinav. Its numerical value...366. De-fang the rasha, and you will find his inner tzaddik.