Wednesday, April 27, 2005

What made the Rasha(wicked son) a Rasha?

When we read about the 4 sons in the Haggadah, three are somewhat self explanatory: the wise son, the simple, the one who doesn't know how to ask. But labelling one of the sons as wicked begs the question: Why is he wicked? what did he do or say or believe to deserve the title?

One start at the answer is in the response "l'fi sh'hotze et azmo min ha clal kafar ba'ekar" because he removed himself from the community he violated a basic belief. What was that basic belief? one of the Rambam's 13? Go on to the next part "ilu haya sham lo haya nigal" If he had been in Eygpt, he would not have been redeemed. Who didn't get redeemed? The midrash tells us that many Jews perished during the plague of darkness, those that were not worthy of being redeemed. It seems that they were in the catagory of Rasha as well. What was their misdeed? The children of Israel had been commanded to take a lamb in preparation of the korban pesach(pascal sacrifice). My father in law quoting a 10th century midrash says that those who did not do so died during the plague of darkness. Those who were not redeemed did not perform an act which would have symbolized their belief that redemption was around the corner. They didn't actually have to believe that the redemption was near, only do an act. Those that believed, but didn't do an act, also died. As is common, it is the action that is important, belief is good, but not essential. A similar use of the word Rasha is when Moshe sees two Jews fighting and says "Rasha, lama ta'ke rayecha" bad man(rasha), why are you hitting your neighbor. Again, rasha refers to someone who is doing an act, rather than a belief(or lack or belief).

We see that Rasha is someone whose ACTIONS take him away from the community, and who does not join with the community in actions that reflect belief. However, the Rasha does not earn the name simply with beliefs.

(thanks to Irina for asking the question and making me think about it, and thanks to my f and fil who always have answers to such questions)

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