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From: Russell Hendel <RHendel@RO.HCFA.GOV>
Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 09:57:46 -0500
Subject: The Truth about the Righteous vs the Wicked son in the Hagaddah

In Vol 23 # 55 (Mon April 15 1996) there were seven discussants about
the righteous vs wicked son in the Hagaddah.

A chidush on this was presented in an article I wrote, PESHAT and
DERASH, printed in TRADITION, WINTER 1980.

A brief summary of the explanation is the following:

The verses connected with the wicked son introduces the question with
the word SAYS..."When your children SAY to you 'what is this work to
you'" On the other hand the wise and simple son ASK their question (The
verb SHAAL is used vs AMAR).  Obviously a person who SAYS a question is
RHETORICALLY (CYNICALLY) ASKING it while a person who ASKS a question is

In that article I further suggest the distinction between SUPPORTIVE and
REAL reasons.  A SUPPORTIVE reason is a reason which DOESN"T PROVE your
point but SUPPORTS it if you have other proof.

There are three traditional reasons associated with the wicked vs righteous
problem...I think it legitimate to call these reasons SUPPORTIVE:
      ***The wicked does not mention GOD ; the righteous does
         ---note it is absurd to say that everyone who doesn't mention
            God is wicked; therefore this reason is only supportive

     **The wicked does not use distinctions; the righteous does
         --note the simple does not use distinctions either

     ** The wicked uses ETCHCHEM; the wise LACHEM

This whole point can be further strengthened with the following study of
the LIST of all QUESTION ANSWERS in the bible to children

      1) When your sons SAY to you  WHAT IS THIS WORK
      2)        ....and you will say with a strong hand God..
      3) When you son ASKS you "What is this"
      4)  When you sons ASK you what are the STATUES, TESTIMONIES...

1) Comes from BOH; 2) and 3) also come from BOH from the TEFILLIN
Parshah; 4) Occurs at the end of VAETHCHANAN in Devarim

Now we can even better understand chazal:
    2) Is the son who can't ask (In fact he is the only son who doesn't ask)
    3) I s the simple son (WHAT IS THIS) while
    4) Is the righteous son (Since he gives distinctions)
    1) Is the wicked son since he is the only son who SAYS his question.

In summary: The wicked is wicked because he cynically SAYS his question.
After finding he is wicked it is legitimate to mention supportive
features such as his not mentioning God.

For those interested the above article gives many other fine points on
the methodology of studying Peshat. The importance of using lists should
also be noted.

Incidentally when I wrote the article someone mentioned that Dr
Leibowitz discovered this chidush.  I would appreciate it if someone
would give me a source.  A person named Abraham Ossey once showed me a
mideval Hagaddah with this chidush (he showed it to me after the article
was published) but alas I have forgotten the name.

I hope the above clarifies the issue.

Russell Jay Hendel Ph.d. ASA
Dept of Math and COmputer Science
Drexel Univ, Phil Pa