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who doesn’t know to ask

Thursday, 18 April, 2019 - 12:53 pm

I think it is very good of our Sages to take a somewhat irritating Jewish characteristic and give it a place of honor. Jews are known for their expertise in asking questions. And not only do they ask, but they even answer a question with another question. This is how it is, was and will be. It will not change. So what did Chazal do? They created one special night and made the question a supreme goal of that night. An entire evening of strange behavior, the goal being to make the children ask – among other things – “Why is this night different from all other nights?” I think this is brilliant.

Not only are questions sanctified and emphasized, but among the four sons, the son who is least sharp is the one “who doesn’t know to ask.” For, as long as you know to ask, you may be wicked and maybe simple, but you are okay. You are involved in what is going on. If you don’t know to ask, we fear that something in you is seriously wrong.

This is not a joke – the entire Torah would not have existed and certainly wouldn’t have developed if we hadn’t known to ask questions, even though they may be hard ones.

This week I saw a wonderful explanation from Rabbi Gershon Chanoch of Izbitza, about the meaning of the son “who doesn’t know to ask.” The Izbitzer Rebbe takes this a few steps ahead and decrees that someone who doesn’t know how to ask has apparently not really learned Torah. Because the Torah logic, in its essence, has to contradict the logic of life in this world, and therefore, actually, the most legitimate and expected thing is that a flesh-and-blood human being jump up and ask difficult questions when he’s learning Torah. Here is the wonderful part: whoever learns Torah and doesn’t find anything difficult, no kushiya – that is a clear sign that he hasn’t yet engaged in Torah. Because the Torah mind is really the exact opposite of a this-world mind, and so, how could everything seem straight in his eyes, with no difficulties? But someone who has questions about the Torah – that is the way of the Torah.

So, first of all, go ask questions. Secondly, when you are keeping the customs of your forefathers, and someone who does not recognize this way of life asks questions, know that that is legitimate. The question is in place, and it is even to be expected, because that is the way of the Torah.

A kosher and happy Pesach to all!

Rabbi Zalmen Wishdeski

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