In the haggadah (Mechon Mamre's edition of the Hagadah at the end of Hilkhot Chametz u-Matzah and in some editions of the Mekhilta on Shemot 13:14), regarding the wicked son it states

וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל וְכָפַר בָּעִיקָר

I would like to know what עִיקָר the wicked son is denying.

  • @DoubleAA It's in Mechon Mamre's edition of the Hagadah at the end of Hilkhot Chametz u-Matzah (here), and in some editions of the Mekhilta on Shemot 13:14 (like the one I found here).
    – Tamir Evan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 12:19
  • The Kasher Hagada הגדה שלמה brings both versions: וכפר is in Nussach Rav Saadia, כפר is in the Mechilta and Nussach HaRambam. The Yerushalmi has neither. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:36
  • thanks @TamirEvan I got it from Mechon Mamre, I've added it in from your comment Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 2:58
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    Are you asking specifically according to this Nussach of the Haggada?
    – Double AA
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 14:03

5 Answers 5


The הגדה שלמה - (one of Rav M. M. Kasher's 3 Hagadot) says:

From [Machzor?] Vitri

ולפי שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל של עבודת הקב"ה כפר בעיקר: שכל ככופר במצוותיו כאלו כפר בו כדכתיב ועשיתם את כל מצותי וסמיך ליה אני ה' א-לקיכם

  • what are the other 2? Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 15:30
  • @Efraim: Rav M.M. Kasher ז"ל (my wife's g-grandfather) wrote 3 Hagadot (I'm not sure of the chronology): 1. הגדה שלמה, in the "Torah Sheliemah" style. 2. הגדה ארצישראלי - with which was one of the first, if not The First Hagada-with-its-Peirush to be translated to English, and was known as "The Kasher Hagada", and the Hebrew version was used by the Israel Prisons for decades. 3. הגדה ליל שימורים which collects all the saying related to Pessach of the 5-sages from Bnei Brak - divided into Halacha and Agadita. Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 6:59

The Hagadah of the באר מים here explains that when the Rasha asks “What is this service to you?” he is also asking “and the reward for this service”, because he does not believe that there is a reward for doing mitzvos.

Therefore he repudiates one of the fundamental beliefs (עיקרים) of the Torah - that there is reward and punishment for our deeds.


The wicked son says מה העבודה הזאת לכם, which basically means "Why are you bothering with this stupidity" as the Yerushalmi says "למה אתם טורחים את כל הטרחה הזאת כל שנה ושנה". Essentially, this is a denial of the binding character of the laws of the Torah on all the Jews, which is clearly a violation of one of the basic principle of Judaism.

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    Can you provide a source for this quote of the Yerushalmi? Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 9:20

Most of the haggadah texts that I have seen have the form without the 'and'

וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת־עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל, כָּפַר בָּעִקָּר

Chabad translates this as

The wicked son, what does he say? "What is this service to you?"7 [By saying,] "to you," [he implies]: "but not to himself." Since he has excluded himself from the people at large, he denies the foundation of our faith

Thus the very fact that he excludes himself from the Bnai Yisrael means that he is denying Hashem and what has been done for us. That is one of the reasons given for the answer, that he would not have been redeemed from Mitzrayim with the rest of us had he been alive then.

This is shown in the Mechiltah as explained The Wicked Son in the Passover Haggadah Excerpt from "Emanations" Rabbi Ari Kahn

Rabbi Kahn's profile and about page show who he is and the source of this posting.

This article goes into detail and discusses (among other things) the difference created by the use of the one letter vav and brings up an historical basis for the two formulations. I have quoted parts of the article but one should read the entire posting. Note also the following footnotes in the original article. Unfortunately, my blogger account did not allow me to actually go to the pages linked in the footnotes on the original post, so I did not link them here.

[1] See the comments of Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman to Dvarim, where the change from “you” to “us”, is explained exegetically. Also see the discussion by Rav Kasher in Haggada Shelama.
[2] It is difficult to establish the authoritative version of these texts - see the discussion in the HaYerushalmi Kiphshuto by Saul Liebermann page 520.
[3] See Gedalyahu Alon, “The Jews in Their Land in The Talmudic Age” page 295 note 28, pp. 305-306

The Mechiltah actually has

רשע מה הוא אומר מה העבודה הזאת לכם לכם ולא לו ולפי שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל וכפר בעיקר אף אתה הקהה את שיניו ואמור לו בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים (שמות יג ח) לי ולא לך אלו היית שם לא היית נגאל. (מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל בא - מס' דפסחא בא פרשה יח ד"ה "והיה כי")

‘To you’ and not to himself. And because he separated himself from the community and he rejects that which is essential [i.e., is guilty of heresy]…

Rabbi Kahn goes into detail as to the difference between the Mechiltah and the Yerushalmi.

We may go so far as to say that the sages had a specific typology of evil in mind when they formulated this Midrash, someone who would have cited verses, but would have twisted them to serve their own purpose.

Rabbi Kahn elaborates

Interestingly, the Mechilta offers this teaching anonymously, while the Yerushalmi presents this teaching in the name of Rav Chiya. The version in the Mechilta is certainly the original source, as Rav Chiya in the Yerushalmi makes reference to it.

תני ר' חייה כנגד ארבע' בני' דיברה תור' בן חכם בן רשע בן טיפש בן שאינו יודע לשאל.. בן רשע מהו אומר מה העבודה הזאת לכם מה הטורח הזה שאתם מטריחין עלינו בכל שנה ושנה (בכי"ל שעה ושעה) מכיון שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל אף אתה אמור לו בעבור זה עשה ד' לי. לי עשה לאותו האיש לא עשה אילו היה אותו האיש במצרים לא היה ראוי להיגאל משם לעולם (תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת פסחים פרק י דף לז עמוד ד /ה"ד)

What is this service to you [or, of yours]? What is this toil with which we are burdened each and every year (Lieden manuscript reads “hour”)? Since he separated himself from the community you say to him…

Rav Chiya clearly utilizes the teaching in the Mechilta, as can be seen from his second sentence, “Since he separated himself from the community,” a statement which does not relate to the efficacy of ‘service’ and is a clear reflection of the Mechilta’s understanding of the wicked son’s crime of separation. Thus, Rav Chiya created a new teaching which compounded the rebellion of the rashsa: Not only is he guilty of separating himself from the community, he also questions the necessity of the Paschal service.

The sages who formulated the Mechilta had consciously created their own teaching in a similar manner. They rejected the biblical response to the son and insisted that such a question, such a questioner, is wicked, apparently reacting to the philosophical trends which must have been current during the formation of the Midrash and served as the model for this dialogue. There must have been dissidents on the fringe of the Jewish community who articulated their ideology in this manner.

We may attempt to identify each of these wicked sons historically, with early Judeo-Christian sects who deviated from the Jewish mainstream at the time our sources were developed. Scholars have traced the theological development of various distinct streams of thought which later branched off from Judaism completely. Two of the major trends of thought espoused by these groups are voiced precisely by the wicked sons in each of our sources: One Judeo-Christian sect considered itself completely "Jewish," but would not take sides politically in the struggle against Rome. To this sect, our Sages may very well have said:

To you and not to himself. And because he separated himself from the community and he rejects that which is essential [i.e., is guilty of heresy]…

The sages condemn this political neutrality as incompatible with Jewish identity: One who separates himself from Jewish destiny also cuts himself` off from Jewish history. He can- not remain in the religious community if he takes no part in the historical community and does not feel the historical continuity which begins with the Exodus and culminates in the final messianic redemption. Such a Jew, the sages of the Mechilta intimate, would not have been redeemed from Egypt; such a Jew would possibly have expressed sympathy for Egypt. He may even have refused to take part in the Exodus.

However, Rabbi Kahn discusses the two meanings caused by the use of 'and' or its removal and points out that this is due to the to the problems caused by the 'rasha' throught our history.

The sages who later compiled the Haggadah created their own unique teaching by dropping off one letter which appears in the Mechilta. The Mechilta version has an extra letter (in the Hebrew text; in the English it becomes an entire word) as compared to the version in the Haggada. The Haggada equates the wicked son’s heresy with his separation from the community:

To you and not to himself. And because he separated himself from the community, he rejects that which is essential [i.e., is guilty of heresy].

In the Mechilta the word “and” (in Hebrew, the letter “Vav”) is added: he separates himself, in addition to already being guilty of heresy! First, this son accepted the Christian belief. Now, he separates himself from the community:

רשע מה הוא אומר מה העבודה הזאת לכם לכם ולא לו ולפי שהוציא את עצמו מן הכלל וכפר בעיקר אף אתה הקהה את שיניו ואמור לו בעבור זה עשה ה' לי בצאתי ממצרים (שמות יג ח) לי ולא לך אלו היית שם לא היית נגאל. (מכילתא דרבי ישמעאל בא - מס' דפסחא בא פרשה יח ד"ה והיה כי)

To you and not to himself. And because he separated him self from the community and he rejects that which is essential [i.e., is guilty of heresy]…

The Haggadah, in omitting the word “and”, subtly changes the message brought across by Rav Hiya in the Yerushalmi. The wicked son is now guilty solely of separating himself from the community; the issues of Christian belief are no longer the current problems which the sages sought to battle.

The wicked son of the Yerushalmi has other historical parallels in Judeo-Christian theology. We know of the early Christians' objection to the entire practice of sacrifice, and of the particular significance they credited to the Pesach sacrifice. It is not difficult for us to associate the Christian concept of the obsolescence of sacrifice after the crucifixion with the point of view of the wicked son in the Yerushalmi. In stressing the word “service”, he asks specifically why the sacrifice must continue to be offered year after year; implying that its utility is outdated. The new symbol of redemption, the “ultimate Paschal lamb”, has made continued sacrifice unnecessary according to this view. It is to this specific claim that the Sages in the Yerushalmi respond:

G-d acted for me; for me and not for that man. Had that man been in Egypt he would not have been worthy of redemption from there for eternity.

'That man', אותו האיש , the Christian answer to Paschal sacrifice, was not himself worthy of redemption; it would therefore be absurd to believe that his life or his death could redeem others. This is the theological answer to Judeo-Christian theology.

It is fascinating to trace Rav Chiya’s adaptation of the earlier teaching to match the rasha of his own day. In a sense, this process of adaptation has been applied for generations. The rasha remains a dissident, either at the edge of, or outside of the Jewish community. Mainly through artistic representations, we have clear evidence how the face of the rasha has evolved, to match that which was considered askance in a particular place or time.

The rasha in the Mechilta “won” over his relative in the Yerushalmi, and serves as the direct source for the formulation incorporated in the Haggadah, most likely for a number of reasons: The Mechilta enjoyed a greater sphere of influence, it represents the original formulation, and its teaching seems somewhat broader. Nonetheless, we have noted the slight change which was made upon incorporation in the Haggada, labeling the wicked son’s separation as his heresy as opposed to being in addition to his heresy. Ostensibly, this change was made in order to fashion a generic rasha who could be used as an example of infamy at Sedarim for millennia.

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    Are you saying one of the ikkarim is to include oneself among the Bnai Yisroel at all times?
    – user5092
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 13:07
  • @deja-jew I go to a shiur in Ta'anis and we were just on Ta'anis 11a where it says 'Someone who separates himself from the tzibur in a time of tza'ar (trouble) will not merit to see the consolation'. A person who says that he is not part of klal Yisrael is indeed denying the ikarim that allowed us to survive (through the care of Hashem). Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:16
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    this sounds like playing fast and loose with the term ikkarim. Is the ikar you state codified by R'SAG? Rambam? Sefer ha'Ikk'rim? Anyone?
    – user5092
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:33
  • @deja-jew The original question was how is it expressed in the haggadah. The point being made (in the haggadah) is that since he has excluded himself from the Bnai Yisrael, he is "Kofer B'Ikar' This includes the fact that Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim and gave us the Torah and that we have a covenant that cannot be broken. The rasha has attempted to deny the existence of this covenant. You cannot get much more fundamental than that. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:14
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    That is a lot of extrapolating, is that your own insight or is there another source which says this? It seems to mind mind to be at odds with the simple, straightforward reading of the text.
    – user5092
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:21

Artscroll's The Answer Is... brings several answers to this question:

  • ROKEACH: He does not believe in the mitzvos of Hashem, Who is the "ikar," the foundation of the world's existence. In other words, he denies Hashem's authority.

  • ORCHOS CHAIM; KOL BO: He does not accept upon himself the yoke of Heaven and does not even mention Hashem's Name.

  • ALTER OF KELM: He denies the principle of Divine Providence, a basic principle of Judaism.

  • Excluding himself from the community of Torah-observant Jews is considered a denial of the basic principle of Judaism.

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