By Rabbi Label Lam
The wicked son, what does he say? “What is this work to you?” “To
you” but not to him, and because he excludes himself from the community,
he denies the essence. So you should blunt his teeth and say to him,
“Because of this HASHEM did for me with my exiting from Egypt.” “For
me”, but not for him, because if he would have been there, he
would not have been redeemed! (Shemos 13:8) (From the Four Sons at the
Why are we so tough on this son at the Pesach Seder? What does it mean that
we should blunt his teeth? Surely the Haggada is not recommending striking
him physically at the Seder! How then are we blunting his teeth? How are we
addressing any of our concerns about his attitude problem by telling him
that this is what HASHEM did for me when I went out of Egypt? Because of
what did HASHEM do for me? What are we specifically that we are referring
to? How is this conversation helpful at all?
All the cleaning and gritty preparation for the Pesach is comparable to
surgeon and his team scrubbing and sanitizing for a serious operation. The
Pesach Seder is a heart surgery and although it is routine, anytime we open
up the heart there is great risk. What are we trying to accomplish with this
Rabbi Avigdor Miller ztl. had said, based on the Mishne in Sanhedrin, that
crowns each chapter of Pirke Avos, “All Israel have a portion in the world
to come…” It should have stated that all Israel have portions, plural in the
world to come. “All Israel have a portion”, he states, “is only if they are
a part of ‘All Israel!’” We want to be a part of “All Israel”, we and our
children, want to be powerfully connected and to identify with the mission
of the entirety of the Jewish People from Avraham Avinu until Moshiach.
We want to bask in the glory of the blessings promised to Avraham that have
carried us thus far. The risks of feeling or being detached are too great.
The wicked son comes with his dismissive attitude deluded by the notion he’s
not a part of it. So we blunt his teeth. How so? We’ve all been there in the
dentist chair wincing and squirming with the sound of the drill. The tooth
has this tough enamel exterior. It looks rugged and invincible until the
drill enters the mouth and it goes a millimeter below the surface. There is
a sensitive nerve not excited to have been discovered. That’s the delicate
point we want to penetrate within the tough exterior of the wicked son.
So we tell’m, “because of this HASHEM did for me when I went out of
Egypt.”Rashi explains, “because of this” that “because I will fulfill His
Mitzvos”. HASHEM took us out of Egypt 3325 years ago now, so I will be
sitting here in Monsey in the 21st century eating Matzos. Like the one who
plants a tree, he has in mind that hundreds of seasons later there will be
new generation of luscious ripe that were all included in his intent and
that single seed. It’s a remarkable perspective and everyone who honors the
Seder by happily doing Mitzvos was part of that original plan. By excluding
himself, the wicked son, therefore, not only opts out of the here and now
but he has scripted himself out of the deep past. He was not one of the ones
that HASHEM had in mind back then- and we tell him so. That’s the shock
treatment, the blunt(ing) talk.
By pushing against the Western Wall one does not move it away. He can only
alienate and distance himself from it. This tough talk is meant to arouse
the wicked son to declare, “Whatya mean, I’m not a part of history!?” Now he
is ready to be a part of “All Israel”.
DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.