Why on the seder are we excluding the evil son. In the Hagada it says "break his teeth,etc", "tell him if you were in Egypt you would not have been redeemed".

Yet on Yom Kipur we say on kol nidrei we invite all Jews, even the bad ones "it is permitted to pray with avaryanim (sinners)"

Furthermore, the talmud says "Any ta'anis tzibbur, that doesn't include the "poshei yisroel" is not a real taanis" (כריותות ו ב) (any fast without sinners is not a real fast)

So it seems that all other times we are inviting the waywards Jews. Why specifically on pesach do we exclude them like this?

  • 2
    "break his teeth"?!?
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 22, 2013 at 10:10
  • @TamirEvan "הקהה את שיניו", which references "ושיני בנים תקהינה" (Yirmiyahu 31:28). Probably a better translation is "blunt his teeth" (see M'tudas Tziyon on Yirmiyahu 31:28).
    – Fred
    Mar 22, 2013 at 17:57
  • 2
    @Fred I know what "הקהה"( or, more to the point, the root ק.ה.ה) means. The root is used, in Modern [Israeli] Hebrew, in describing a dull knife(סכין קהה), or an obtuse angle(זוית קהה). I've never before seen it used to describe the act or result of breaking something.
    – Tamir Evan
    Mar 23, 2013 at 19:34
  • Hakheh et Shinav Blunt his teeth / Set his teeth on edge הַקְהֵה אֶת שִנָּיו What did the Baal Haggadah have in mind? Are we to resort to physical violence, or is something else intended? First, let us recognize that no violence is advocated here. The word hikah/l’hakot (from which we derive the familiar makka/makkot, plagues or blows) and the word hakheh used here do not have the same root. Indeed, they are spelled differently (הַקְהֵה and מַכָּה), and have divergent meanings. Apr 7, 2017 at 18:32
  • Pesachim 116a says (regarding charoset) ‘tzarich l’ka’huyei לְקַהוּיֵיה /to make it tart) using the same root as our word here. Sotah 49a uses the identical root twice (idiomatically, as here, with ‘teeth’) and there it appears to mean ‘to cause someone grief’ or ‘to upset them.’ [1] Perhaps then, we are meant to aggrieve the Rasha, or to disappoint him by not feeding into his negative attitude. Apr 7, 2017 at 18:39

4 Answers 4


Rabbi Orlofsky was also troubled by the question. (His bio is here).

Here are some extracts from his answer:

To understand the question of the rasha and the response, we have to understand that there is a fifth son. The fifth son is the one who doesn’t even come to the Seder. The rasha, for some reason, wants to be at the Seder – he just doesn’t want to have to follow the rules.

The rasha asks, “Why are we doing this? Who needs it all?” He wants to eat already. Our response to him is hakheh es shinav, which is often changed incorrectly, because we are mistaking the next sentence translated as “hit him in the teeth”. That is a mistake, because the word is spelled with a kuf; it is not hakeh with a kaf. It really means to dull his teeth, blunt them, or as we would say in English, to take the bite out of him.

The rasha says, in essence, that we don’t need all this religious stuff: Let’s just have a nice family meal together. A little matza, some gefilte fish, and, you know, the cute little traditions that our people have enjoyed for so long. ..snip.. Our response is simple, and it instantly takes the bite out of him. We ask him, “Why are you here? Do you want to go out for dinner? Well, in two weeks we’ll all get together and go out to dinner. But why did you come to a Seder?"

There is no better way to take the bite out of a Rasha then to point out that we Jews belong to something real. When we do things, our children have to learn that there is a system. We Jews don’t pick and choose the right thing to do. If we go to work in a blizzard, but can’t make it to minyan, what message are we sending our children? If we don’t sing zemiros at our Shabbos table or walk out in shul during the devar Torah, then we are picking and choosing.

  • I've never liked this explanation as an answer to the question of the animosity. I get the vort, but it just seems (to me) like it adds to the question. Why be hostile? Especially if he really is interested deep down?
    – Seth J
    Mar 22, 2013 at 3:14

Two thoughts come to mind.

First, the Pesukim come directly from the Torah. They instruct us how to answer when we are confronted with a particular question, and these relate to the Mitzvoth of Pesah. The rabbis, however, teach us that the person asking this question is identifiably wicked, which they interpret from the language used, both in the question and in the answer. The question implies that he has disassociated himself from the community of believers. The answer implies that we would have been redeemed, but not he.

Second, the difference between fasts, especially Yom Kippur, and Pesah, is that the latter is fundamental to our system of belief and our way of life as the basis for why we serve G-d. We became His nation at that point, when He redeemed us as He had promised. But on fast days, we recognize that we are all sinners. Everyone makes mistakes. But on Pesah, if someone doesn't even want to be part of it, he's rejected everything, why should we invite him closer? He wouldn't have been redeemed anyway.

  • 2
    The pesukim actually say we should answer him זבח פסח הוא לה...
    – Michoel
    Mar 21, 2013 at 22:42
  • @Michoel you have a point. Looking into it.
    – Seth J
    Mar 22, 2013 at 0:48
  • Seth, there are countless explanations for that.. just wanted point out that it is not so simple to say that "the Pesukim come directly from the Torah".
    – Michoel
    Mar 22, 2013 at 2:04

There are certainly explanations of how the answer to the wicked son is not dismissive, such as the explanation from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe that the message is that he wouldn't have been redeemed from there, but in the final redemption all will be included even him. And the Arizal says that each cup in the Seder corresponds to each of the sons, in order, so the cup which the whole Maggid is said corresponds to the wicked son, thus really the whole haggadah is primarily addressed to him, and similar explanations.

However, it has always bothered me how you really see that in the answer. That is the hint, but not what is on the page. If that was the main message, עיקר חסר מין הספר - the main point is missing and only alluded to.

Rather, I think the plain understanding is in keeping with what Tanya says in Chapter 29:

He should also thunder against it (the sitra achra - the source of evil) with a strong and raging voice in order to humble it, as our Sages state, “A person should always rouse the good impulse against the evil impulse, as it is written, ‘Rage, and sin not.’”

This means that one should rage — in his mind — against the animal soul, which is his evil impulse, with a voice of stormy indignation, saying to it: “Indeed, you are truly evil and wicked, abominable, loathsome and disgraceful,” and so forth, using all the epithets by which our Sages have called it.


The reason that humbling the spirit of the sitra achra is effective in crushing it is that in truth there is no substance whatever in the sitra achra. That is why it is compared to darkness, which has no substance whatsoever, and is automatically banished by the presence of light.


Indeed, we find this explicitly stated in the Torah in connection with the Spies sent by Moses to scout out the Holy Land. At the outset they declared: “For he (the enemy) is stronger than we,” and, interpreting the word ממנו , the Sages say:

“Read not 'than we,' but 'than He,'” meaning that they had no faith in G‑d’s ability to lead them into the Holy Land. But afterwards they reversed themselves and announced: “We will readily go up [to conquer the Land].”

Whence did their faith in G‑d’s ability return to them? Our teacher Moses, peace unto him, had not shown them in the interim any sign or miracle concerning this, which would restore their faith. He had merely told them that G‑d was angry with them and had sworn not to allow them to enter the Land.

What value did this Divine anger and oath have to them, if in any case they did not believe in G‑d’s ability to subdue the thirty-one kings who reigned in the Land at that time, for which reason they had had no desire whatever to enter the Land?

Surely, then, the explanation is as follows: Israelites themselves are “believers, [being] the descendants of believers.” Even while they stated, “The enemy is stronger than He,” their divine soul still believed in G‑d. They professed a lack of faith in His ability only because the sitra achra clothed in their body in the person of their animal soul had risen against the light of the holiness of the divine soul, with its characteristic impudent arrogance and haughtiness, without sense or reason.

Therefore as soon as G‑d became angry with them, and thundered angrily: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation…,Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness…I, G‑d, have spoken: I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation...,” — their heart was humbled and broken within them when they heard these stern words, as it is written, “And the people mourned greatly.” Consequently, the sitra achra toppled from its dominion, from its haughtiness and arrogance.

But the Israelites themselves i.e., as far as their divine soul was concerned had believed in G‑d all along.

We confront him in order to turn him around, like the spies were confronted and regretted their behavior.


The Rebbe himself has an answer, which I've seen mentioned in a couple of variations in a couple of sources.

Basically, the specific wording of the Haggada is "Hakeh et Shinav," Hakeh with a KUF which doesn't mean to hit, but to BLUNT specifically, and davka his TEETH. THe wicked's son's entire approach is one of biting--why are you guys doing this? This is ridiculous! And we all know that such an approach is not worth regarding directly because someone who demands in such a manner isn't looking for answers. So what do we do? We blunt his teeth--the biting aspect, the part of him that is looking for trouble. Just give him love, blunt/smooth out the sharp edge that is so damaging, and then he'll be able to listen and appreciate what you have to say.

This is hinted in the gematria of shinav, which is 366. If you remove that from Rasha (i.e. removing the "bite," the attacking part of the rasha, from him), which is 570, then you are left with 207, which is Tzaddik!

  • To which Rebbe do you refer?
    – Double AA
    Apr 6, 2015 at 6:17
  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for sharing your information. As @DoubleAA indicated, "the Rebbe" is a bit ambiguous. Could you please specify (by editing) who you're quoting, and if possible, where this dvar Torah is brought. Thanks, and i hope you enjoy it on Mi Yodeya.
    – Scimonster
    Apr 6, 2015 at 7:08

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