would you rather I not ask?

Friday, 19 January, 2018 - 7:42 am

Moishele is taking a walk with his father one night. He looks at the stars and asks, “Abba, why are the stars arranged this way in the sky?” His father scratches his head, thinks and thinks, and finally answers, “I don’t know.” A few minutes go by and Moishele asks again: “Abba, why is the moon so thin tonight?” Again, his father thinks hard and again he answers, “I don’t know.”

Moishele feels somewhat uncomfortable and he asks his father: “Abba, would you rather I not ask?”

“Heaven forbid,” the father responds immediately, disconcerted. “If you don’t ask, how are you going to know anything?”

In this week’s parasha it says, “When your son will ask you, saying ‘What is this’, you will tell him: Hashem took us out of Egypt, a house of slaves, with a strong hand.” This pasuk is responsible for much of what happens on Seder Night. It is the source of the Four Questions, the Four Sons and all the other customs that we have on Leil Haseder, the purpose of which is to arouse the children’s curiosity and make them ask, “Ma nishtana?” – How is this night different from all other nights?

This is true not only for Seder Night. I think that this pasuk reminds us that we are a nation of people who ask questions. We are supposed to raise children who will know to ask questions, and, moreover, will not be afraid to ask questions. Avraham Avinu could have been just another son of Terach if he hadn’t gotten up and questioned the common notions. The Jewish People, throughout the generations, did this successfully. The whole Talmud is built around questions of how and why, how could this be, and in what situation. It is not for nothing that people say that a Jew answers one question with another, because, after all, if he doesn’t ask, how will he know?

Being a questioning people, we ought to take into account our own children might ask us questions. Everything that we choose to do, every choice we have made in life, every custom that we have – let us not forget that the day will come when the children will ask “What is this?” and the we will have to provide them with answers. They might ask us why we are doing such and such; but they could also come with a claim, asking: Why didn’t you teach us things that are important for us to know? Why didn’t you give us what you were given? It would be a good idea for us to have answers.

By the way, my children are already asking.

Wishing us success,

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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