latest Post

Two Minutes of Torah: Pesach Special - Asking Questions

The central theme of the seder is to ask questions.  And, it’s not just about asking questions, in many ways, it’s about getting the younger children and the younger people around the table to ask questions and to engage with our story.

We read in the Talmud that Abaye as a young pupil was invited to the seder of Rabba.  And, at the beginning of the seder, Rabba instructed the servants to clear all the dishes from the table,  Abaye said why are you removing the seder plates when we haven’t yet eaten?  Rabba said to Abaye, your question has served the same function as the usual questions, the Mah Nishtanah.  So now let’s dispense with those and proceed directly to Magid, the telling of the story.

As we can see from this,  it wasn’t about asking those specific 4 questions, it was about asking questions in general.  And while the seder does lay out the questions that we should ask it also might be seen as an opportunity to  encourage simply the asking of questions.  Because alongside the Mah Nishtanah, which we think of as the 4 questions, we also have the story of the 4 children and we may read this section as 4 more questions posed by children to the adults around the table. 

Pesach says to us, it’s important to ask questions and to be inquisitive and curious.  And, in many ways, this fits beautifully with a festival that is all about freedom and emerging from slavery into freedom.  As free people, we have the ability to ask questions, we have the potential to question those in authority, to question our elders and to ask questions about the way that our society is run; something that slaves never have the opportunity to do.

The problem is, that all too often, we fail to question the authorities in our lives.  We fail to ask important questions of why we should do something, especially when the thing we’re being told to do may feel unjust or wrong.  The seder reminds us that one of the privileges of being free, is the ability and the obligation to ask questions.  In the Haggadah, 'A Different Night' by Noam Zion &  David Dishon (one of the ones that I like to use), it shares a story of Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel Laureate in Physics.  He was asked why he became a scientist rather than any of the other professions that most of the immigrant kids in his neighborhood pursued.  He said that his mother made him a scientist without intending it, because while every other Jewish child in Brooklyn was asked “Nu, did you learn anything today?” his mother said “Izzy did you ask a good question today?”  The focus on questions, is what he said made him into a scientist. 

We might not become scientists as a result of asking questions but through asking questions, we can insure that we stand up to injustice, that we challenge authority when it abuses its power and that we insure that we appreciate and make use of the gift of being free people.

Pesach is an opportunity for us to celebrate our freedom and we must do this by asking questions.  

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
Recommended Posts × +


Post a Comment