Art by Alexa Druyanoff

The Wicked Son

We should strive to not only be the wise son, but to be like the wicked son too and question everything.

I have always wondered why the wicked son was called the wicked son. After all, the only thing he does is question when he says “What is this?” I never thought that the mere act of asking a question could deem someone ‘wicked’. Even so, if you look at the context, there is nothing wicked about this question. This year at the Seder, as I thought more about the wicked son, I realized that he isn’t as wicked as I thought, and we can actually learn from him. One lesson I thought can particularly apply to high school students—the lesson that there is more to learning than getting good grades.

We are supposed to see the wise son as the perfect one. However, he has just questions about the laws. What is so wise about him? He is never curious and never partakes in intellectual discussion. He merely asks, “What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the LORD our God has enjoined upon you?” he wants to know what to do, not how to think about it. He passively studies all day, never even building relationships with his family. He doesn’t add anything valuable to the conversation, but rather reads his book all day—he never engages with the content of the discussion.

Contrary to the wise son, the wicked son does question. He is curious and asks thoughtful questions. He has a desire to want to learn more. Instead of passively staring at his books all day, he engages in conversation. Some may see this questioning as being judgmental in some way, but I see it as being engaged.

As students we can apply this lesson to ourselves. Instead of obsessively studying all day, we should question more. We should be engaged and take joy out of learning. Personally, I am always hard on myself if I don’t get a grade that I want—but then I look at the bigger picture. Did I learn something from this assignment? What questions do I still have? In the big picture, this assignment helped me to grow and I learned from it in one way or another. It’s important to not only focus on grades but take more from learning. 

So back to my Seder. As I sat there, worrying about all of the work I was going to miss because of the holiday, I instead realized that I should channel the wicked son and question everything. This was my opportunity because it was only my family at the table. I started to question more ideas and themes of the Seder like why the wicked son is named this. I also learned more about the themes of resilience in the Seder. I think questioning enabled me to have a really meaningful experience. Worrying about my grades and assignments didn’t help to develop my intellect—questioning and engaging with the material did. We should strive to not only be the wise son, but to be like the wicked son too and question everything. That is what makes a good student.


Ada Perlman is a senior at The Ellis School. She has worked for Fresh Ink since sophomore year and is currently a staff editor.

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