by Rabbi Israel Rubin
Passovers Four Questions by the youngest are not small fry. The child has rehearsed and prepared for this precious moment; and who doesnt swell and kvell with pride as the little one chants the familiar tune?
When your child asks is a most crucial point when the historic baton of tradition is relayed from one generation to the next in a 3,315 year marathon since the Exodus. The Questions are so vital, that if not asked on their own, we must try to pique their interest. Isnt this why we dip the Karpas in saltwater?
Y IS NOT A CROOKED LETTER
Questions arent just for kids. Indeed, if celebrating the Seder alone, you ask yourself the Four Questions. Do we adults pretend to know everything that we neednt ask? And asking isnt just for Passover. Judaism encourages us to always ask and inquire, to learn, think and understand. He who is afraid to ask cannot learn (Avot 2). Yes, it is kosher to ask and discover the hows, whys and wherefores.
Did you know why Jews often answer a question with a question? Why not?
THE WHYS GUYS
Of course, there are those wily whys guys of Wyoming who care more for their question than the answer. But while G-ds ways are beyond us to fully fathom, Judaism leaves wide berth for us to know and understand why this and why that. The Talmudic question and answer system probes ever deeper and takes nothing for granted, and we utilize:
Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge (Cha.B.aD) in our quest for G-ds essence.
Satisfied know-it-alls actually know little. An ignoramus was disappointed to find his Rabbi learning late at night. Instead of appreciating his rabbi's diligence, he asked: Aha! So you didn't finish Rabbinics before we hired you?
TO ASK OR NOT TO ASK, THAT IS THE QUESTION
Last, but not least, the fourth son who-knows-not-to-ask is often dismissed as an imbecile. But is it that simple? If hes just another Simpleton type, why is he listed separately? Why is the Haggadah's response to this last son more elaborate than to those supposedly wiser?
Dont underestimate he-whoknows-not-to-ask. He isnt stupid, just apathetic and indifferent.
He may be a highly educated Ph.D, full of questions, answers and opinions on other matters. But his observance has become so routine and blase that he doesnt grow spiritually. He accepts Judaism blindly because hes afraid to question it! The Haggadah addresses and involves him too, coaxing him to open up to Torahs intellectual depth and beauty.
© 2003 Rabbi Israel Rubin