According to the traditional Passover text, the Hagada (the telling), there are four sons who ask questions about the Passover seder (order, the traditional ritual meal at which the Hagada is read), as follows:
There are many creative commentaries on this within the tradition. The sons are, of course, meant to refer to four different temperaments or attitudes. The wicked son is seen as a threat. He has a really bad attitude, his skepticism is dangerous. He needs to be brought to heel or banished. Here is an example.
So, the Jews are enslaved in Egypt. They face an evil Pharoh. Moses shakes him up, but God “hardens his heart“ so that time and again he refuses to let the Israelites go in spite of the increasing severity of the plagues. Why does God harden Pharoh’s heart? Does this mean it is not Pharoh’s fault? After all, he has no choice – God controls his heart. So why is he the bad one? And what about the collateral damage? How are the poor Egyptian first born sons to blame? Why are they punished, they are just kids? Come to think of it, since it is God who is pulling all the strings, why did God allow the Israelites to become slaves in the first place?
Of course, this brings up the whole question of free-will and how to reconcile it with God’s all-embracing power and goodness. You will say to me that these are unanswerable questions not relevant when talking about God. God is outside of human time and morality and has his own grand plan that we mere mortals cannot possibly understand. Ok, but why then are we encouraged to ask questions, especially during the seder. Does God want us to be curious, and to have our curiosity satisfied or not? Seems to me you can’t have it both ways.
If one believes in a good and merciful God, it makes more sense to me to conclude that he cannot be all-powerful (HT: Rabbi Harold Kushner). Some things are beyond his control and he empathizes with those who suffer. In which case why go through the all those parts in the Hagada that seem to deny this. After all, what does this drudgery mean to you?