Notes on the Wicked Son

J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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4 Responses

  1. Max says:

    Nicely put. I emailed a similar clarification to Andrew but this was better, I hope he picks it up. This parable is among my very favorites.

    Like you I was saddened by Benedikt omitting it, as it’s the essence of the Seder in my opinion. Why else would we sit around the table and eat the horrible bread, if not to demonstrate that shared communal experience is our personal responsibility?

    That said, I’m also surprised at the surprise that greeted her over this. In my view, Reform Jews and those further left have made all sorts of changes to the liturgy that are, if not as depressing, nonetheless considerable. I’m thinking particularly of the replacement of “mchayeh hameytim” with “mchayeh hakol” in the Amidah, and the omission of a large section of the full Shma; where the former is a response to a lack of belief in traditional Jewish theology, and the latter is a suspension of law. It seems like the precedent is certainly there.

    • J.L. Wall says:

      Changes to liturgy notwithstanding, I do think that the Reform movement, over the last few decades, has more toward a position from which its acts more as a kind of theological dissent than simply an outright rejection. (I think this was why Emil Fackenheim was so adamant that the clergy and laypeople of liberal/Reform Judaism needed an education in the traditional texts.) And the new Reform siddur does, through its presentation of various “alternatives” try to position the individual congregant within a tradition of sorts (as opposed the New Union’s nasty habit of burying the things they didn’t cut but still found distasteful in obscure sections of the book). It’s not traditional Judaism, but it’s presenting a Jewish tradition of which it is a part.

      Even as an extreme example, for completely secular Jews, I think that yiddishkeit alone serves as a kind of binding portion of that tradition.

  2. This was a fantastic and beautiful post about a subject that uniquely lends itself to ugliness in many people’s hands. You seem to have a knack for that.