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The Haggada speaks about 4 sons, the second of which is called "wicked". He distances himself from G-d's commandment, and in turn is told that if he had been in Egypt he would not have been redeemed. How can we say that? How do we know? How can we make such calculations (Cheshbonos)?

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3 Answers 3

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Well, we do have the precedent that four-fifths (or even more) of the Jews in fact did not want to leave Egypt and serve Hashem, and died during the Plague of Darkness (Rashi to Exodus 13:18, quoting from Midrashim Mechilta and/or Tanchuma). So based on the attitude that this second son shows towards the mitzvos of Pesach, there is indeed a good likelihood that he would have been in that category, G-d forbid.

That said, the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l explains (here, here and in other places) that in this rebuke there is actually an implied positive statement. "Had you been there, in Egypt, where being part of the Jewish People was a matter of one's choice," we tell him, "then you might well have remained where you were. But you are living now, after the giving of the Torah, when Hashem chose us as His people, and this remains true no matter what choices you make. So it is inevitable that you will do teshuvah and be redeemed, along with all other Jews, from our current exile, with the coming of Moshiach - may it be soon."

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I'd just like to add that "we" are not judging anything. Our Mesorah, via the Ba'alei Haggadah, makes that judgment. –  Seth J Apr 21 '11 at 23:22
    
Maybe, but after all, this is something that we are supposed to tell this son. So necessarily, we have to judge whether he belongs in this category, in order to speak to him appropriately. –  Alex Apr 22 '11 at 0:16
    
That's why it tells us who the son is: וְהָיָה, כִּי-יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם: מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת, לָכֶם I'm going out on a limb here, but I think there's a difference between the generational question/answer and the individual. When the the younger generation asks the question, the older generation's obligation is to respond with the next verse in the Torah, which is much less harsh (not harsh at all, actually). But when an individual asks the question, HaZa"L are telling us that our response is different. An individual who asks the question this way doesn't appreciate his role... –  Seth J Apr 22 '11 at 15:06
    
...in the community, and therefore we respond with the same language as the SheEino Yodea' LiShol, but with a much harsher tone. The SheEino Yodea' needs a very basic response just to get him started. The Rasha', however, needs the basic response with an edge of disciplinary harshness not employed with the SheEino Yodea'. –  Seth J Apr 22 '11 at 15:09
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Alex, Thank you for that classic pearl from the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT"L. –  Yahu Apr 24 '11 at 3:10

Similar to @josh's answer, a thought of my own.

G-d's message to Pharoah was "Let my people go so they may serve me"

The 4/5th of the Jews who died in Egypt were Jews who did not want to leave Egypt.

So the Rasha, who excludes himself from the serving G-d, would not have wanted to leave Egypt, since he had no interest in serving G-d. If he had been there, he would not have been redeemed.

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The Rasha says mah haavodah hazot lachem, "what is this offering to you?" Thus, he has no portion in the korban, as the haggadah interprets it "to you and not to him". Meanwhile, in makkat bechorot, Hashem only skipped over the houses of those who had offered the paschal offering.

He would not have made it to the geulah.

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