I'll Take Ma Nishtana for $1000, Alex: A Fresh Look at Familiar Questions
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מסיר את הקערה מעל השולחן. מוזגין כוס שני. הבן שואל:

מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת? שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה – כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה (כֻּלּוֹ) מָרוֹר. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִילוּ פַּעַם אֶחָת – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין וּבֵין מְסֻבִּין – הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין.

He removes the plate from the table. We pour a second cup of wine. The son then asks:

What differentiates this night from all [other] nights? On all [other] nights we eat chamets and matsa; this night, only matsa? On all [other] nights we eat other vegetables; tonight (only) marror. On all [other] nights, we don't dip [our food], even one time; tonight [we dip it] twice. On [all] other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining; tonight we all recline.


כְּנֶגֶד אַרְבָּעָה בָנִים דִּבְּרָה תוֹרָה: אֶחָד חָכָם, וְאֶחָד רָשָׁע, וְאֶחָד תָּם, וְאֶחָד שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל.

חָכָם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֵדוֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם. וְאַף אַתָּה אֱמוֹר לוֹ כְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח: אֵין מַפְטִירִין אַחַר הַפֶּסַח אֲפִיקוֹמָן:

רָשָׁע מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מָה הָעֲבוֹדָה הַזּאֹת לָכֶם. לָכֶם – וְלֹא לוֹ. וּלְפִי שֶׁהוֹצִיא אֶת עַצְמוֹ מִן הַכְּלָל כָּפַר בְּעִקָּר. וְאַף אַתָּה הַקְהֵה אֶת שִׁנָּיו וֶאֱמוֹר לוֹ: "בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם". לִי וְלֹא־לוֹ. אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם, לֹא הָיָה נִגְאָל:

תָּם מָה הוּא אוֹמֵר? מַה זּאֹת? וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו "בְּחוֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ ה' מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים".

וְשֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לִשְׁאוֹל – אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר, וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר, בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה ה' לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.

What does the wise [child] say? "'What are these testimonies, statutes and judgments that the Lord our God commanded you?' (Deuteronomy 6:20)" And accordingly you will say to him, as per the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, "We may not eat an afikoman [a dessert or other foods eaten after the meal] after [we are finished eating] the Pesach sacrifice (Mishnah Pesachim 10:8)." What does the wicked [child] say? "'What is this worship to you?' (Exodus 12:26)" 'To you' and not 'to him.' And since he excluded himself from the collective, he denied a principle [of the Jewish faith]. And accordingly, you will blunt his teeth and say to him, "'For the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt' (Exodus 13:8)." 'For me' and not 'for him.' If he had been there, he would not have been saved. What does the innocent [child] say? "'What is this?' (Exodus 13:14)" And you will say to him, "'With the strength of [His] hand did the Lord take us out from Egypt, from the house of slaves' (Exodus 13:14).'" And [regarding] the one who doesn't know to ask, you will open [the conversation] for him. As it is stated (Exodus 13:8), "And you will speak to your son on that day saying, for the sake of this, did the Lord do [this] for me in my going out of Egypt."


רַבָּן גַּמְלִיאֵל הָיָה אוֹמֵר: כָּל שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר שְׁלשָׁה דְּבָרִים אֵלּוּ בַּפֶּסַח, לא יָצָא יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ, וְאֵלּוּ הֵן: פֶּסַח, מַצָּה, וּמָרוֹר.

פֶּסַח שֶׁהָיוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אוֹכְלִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁבֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ הָיָה קַיָּם, עַל שׁוּם מָה? עַל שׁוּם שֶׁפָּסַח הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַל בָּתֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם...

מַצָּה זוֹ שֶׁאָנוֹ אוֹכְלִים, עַל שׁוּם מַה? עַל שׁוּם שֶׁלֹּא הִסְפִּיק בְּצֵקָם שֶׁל אֲבוֹתֵינוּ לְהַחֲמִיץ עַד שֶׁנִּגְלָה עֲלֵיהֶם מֶלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים, הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, וּגְאָלָם...

מָרוֹר זֶה שֶׁאָנוּ אוֹכְלִים, עַל שׁוּם מַה? עַל שׁוּם שֶׁמֵּרְרוּ הַמִּצְרִים אֶת־חַיֵּי אֲבוֹתֵינוּ בְּמִצְרַיִם...

Rabban Gamliel was accustomed to say, Anyone who has not said these three things on Pesach has not fulfilled his obligation, and these are them: the Pesach sacrifice, matsa and marror.

The Pesach [passover] sacrifice that our ancestors were accustomed to eating when the Temple existed, for the sake of what [was it]? For the sake [to commemorate] that the Holy One, blessed be He, passed over the homes of our ancestors in Egypt...

This matsa that we are eating, for the sake of what [is it]? For the sake [to commemorate] that our ancestors' dough was not yet able to rise, before the King of the kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed [Himself] to them and redeemed them...

This marror [bitter greens] that we are eating, for the sake of what [is it]? For the sake [to commemorate] that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in Egypt...


(כו) וְהָיָה כִּי יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם.

(26) And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you: What mean ye by this service?


(ח) וְהִגַּדְתָּ לְבִנְךָ בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר בַּעֲבוּר זֶה עָשָׂה יקוק לִי בְּצֵאתִי מִמִּצְרָיִם.

(8) And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.


(יד) וְהָיָה כִּי יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר לֵאמֹר מַה זֹּאת וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ יקוק מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים.

(14) And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: What is this? that thou shalt say unto him: By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage;


(כ) כִּי יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר לֵאמֹר מָה הָעֵדֹת וְהַחֻקִּים וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יקוק אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֶתְכֶם.

(20) When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying: ‘What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which the LORD our God hath commanded you?


מַתְנִי׳ מָזְגוּ לוֹ כּוֹס שֵׁנִי וְכָאן הַבֵּן שׁוֹאֵל אָבִיו. וְאִם אֵין דַּעַת בַּבֵּן אָבִיו מְלַמְּדוֹ. מָה נִשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכׇּל הַלֵּילוֹת. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — כּוּלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — מָרוֹר. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בָּשָׂר צָלִי שָׁלוּק וּמְבוּשָּׁל, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — כּוּלּוֹ צָלִי. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין פַּעַם אֶחָת, הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה — שְׁתֵּי פְעָמִים. וּלְפִי דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל בֵּן אָבִיו מְלַמְּדוֹ.

MISHNA: The attendants poured the second cup for the leader of the seder, and here the son asks his father the questions about the differences between Passover night and a regular night. And if the son does not have the intelligence to ask questions on his own, his father teaches him the questions. Why is this night different from all other nights? As on all other nights we eat leavened bread and matza as preferred; on this night all our bread is matza. As on all other nights we eat other vegetables; on this night we eat bitter herbs. When the Temple was standing one would ask: As on all other nights we eat either roasted, stewed, or cooked meat, but on this night all the meat is the roasted meat of the Paschal lamb. The final question was asked even after the destruction of the Temple: As on all other nights we dip the vegetables in a liquid during the meal only once; however, on this night we dip twice. And according to the intelligence and the ability of the son, his father teaches him about the Exodus.


תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: הַכֹּל חַיָּיבִין בְּאַרְבָּעָה כּוֹסוֹת הַלָּלוּ, אֶחָד אֲנָשִׁים, וְאֶחָד נָשִׁים, וְאֶחָד תִּינוֹקוֹת. אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוּדָה: וְכִי מָה תּוֹעֶלֶת יֵשׁ לְתִינוֹקוֹת בְּיַיִן? אֶלָּא מְחַלְּקִין לָהֶן קְלָיוֹת וֶאֱגוֹזִין בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ, וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ. אָמְרוּ עָלָיו עַל רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא שֶׁהָיָה מְחַלֵּק [דף קט] קְלָיוֹת וֶאֱגוֹזִין לְתִינוֹקוֹת בְּעֶרֶב פֶּסַח כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ, וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ. תַּנְיָא, רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר אוֹמֵר: חוֹטְפִין מַצּוֹת בְּלֵילֵי פְּסָחִים בִּשְׁבִיל תִּינוֹקוֹת שֶׁלֹּא יִשְׁנוּ.

The Sages taught in a baraita: All are obligated in these four cups, including men, women, and children. Rabbi Yehuda said: What benefit do children receive from wine? They do not enjoy it. Rather, one distributes to them roasted grains and nuts on Passover eve, so that they will not sleep and also so they will ask the four questions at night. They said about Rabbi Akiva that he would distribute [109] roasted grains and nuts to children on Passover eve, so that they would not sleep and so they would ask. It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Eliezer says: One grabs the matzot on the nights of Passover. One should eat them very quickly on account of the children, so that, due to the hasty consumption of the meal, they will not sleep and they will inquire into the meaning of this unusual practice.


לָמָּה עוֹקְרִין אֶת הַשּׁוּלְחָן? אָמְרִי דְּבֵי רַבִּי יַנַּאי: כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּכִּירוּ תִּינוֹקוֹת וְיִשְׁאֲלוּ. אַבָּיֵי הֲוָה יָתֵיב קַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבָּה, חֲזָא דְּקָא מַדְלִי תַּכָּא מִקַּמֵּיהּ, אֲמַר לְהוּ: עֲדַיִין לָא קָא אָכְלִינַן, אָתוּ קָא מְעַקְּרִי תַּכָּא מִיקַּמַּן?! אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַבָּה: פְּטַרְתַּן מִלּוֹמַר ״מָה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה״.

The Gemara asks: Why does one remove the table? The school of Rabbi Yannai say: So that the children will notice that something is unusual and they will ask: Why is this night different from all other nights? The Gemara relates: Abaye was sitting before Rabba when he was still a child. He saw that they were removing the table from before him, and he said to those removing it: We have not yet eaten, and you are taking the table away from us? Rabba said to him: You have exempted us from reciting the questions of: Why is this night different [ma nishtana], as you have already asked what is special about the seder night.
אֲמַר לֵיהּ רַב נַחְמָן לְדָרוּ עַבְדֵּיהּ: עַבְדָּא דְּמַפֵּיק לֵיהּ מָרֵיהּ לְחֵירוּת, וְיָהֵיב לֵיהּ כַּסְפָּא וְדַהֲבָא, מַאי בָּעֵי לְמֵימַר לֵיהּ? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: בָּעֵי לְאוֹדוֹיֵי וּלְשַׁבּוֹחֵי, אֲמַר לֵיהּ: פְּטַרְתַּן מִלּוֹמַר ״מָה נִשְׁתַּנָּה״. פָּתַח וְאָמַר ״עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ:״.
Rav Naḥman said to his servant, Daru: With regard to a slave who is freed by his master, who gives him gold and silver, what should the slave say to him? Daru said to him: He must thank and praise his master. He said to him: If so, you have exempted us from reciting the questions of: Why is this night different, as you have stated the essence of the seder night. Rav Naḥman immediately began to recite: We were slaves.
גְּמָ׳ תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן: חָכָם — בְּנוֹ שׁוֹאֲלוֹ. וְאִם אֵינוֹ חָכָם — אִשְׁתּוֹ שׁוֹאַלְתּוֹ, וְאִם לָאו — הוּא שׁוֹאֵל לְעַצְמוֹ, וַאֲפִילּוּ שְׁנֵי תַּלְמִידֵי חֲכָמִים שֶׁיּוֹדְעִין בְּהִלְכוֹת הַפֶּסַח — שׁוֹאֲלִין זֶה לָזֶה.
GEMARA: The Sages taught: If his son is wise and knows how to inquire, his son asks him. And if he is not wise, his wife asks him. And if even his wife is not capable of asking or if he has no wife, he asks himself. And even if two Torah scholars who know the halakhot of Passover are sitting together and there is no one else present to pose the questions, they ask each other.

מַתְחִיל וּמְבָרֵךְ בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה וְלוֹקֵחַ יָרָק וּמְטַבֵּל אוֹתוֹ בַּחֲרֹסֶת וְאוֹכֵל כְּזַיִת הוּא וְכָל הַמְסֻבִּין עִמּוֹ כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד אֵין אוֹכֵל פָּחוֹת מִכְּזַיִת. וְאַחַר כָּךְ עוֹקְרִין הַשֻּׁלְחָן מִלִּפְנֵי קוֹרֵא הַהַגָּדָה לְבַדּוֹ. וּמוֹזְגִין הַכּוֹס הַשֵּׁנִי וְכָאן הַבֵּן שׁוֹאֵל. וְאוֹמֵר הַקּוֹרֵא מַה נִּשְׁתַּנָּה הַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מִכָּל הַלֵּילוֹת שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אֵין אָנוּ מַטְבִּילִין אֲפִלּוּ פַּעַם אַחַת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה שְׁתֵּי פְּעָמִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין חָמֵץ וּמַצָּה וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ מַצָּה. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בְּשַׂר צָלִי שָׁלוּק וּמְבֻשָּׁל וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלּוֹ צָלִי. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין שְׁאָר יְרָקוֹת וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה מְרוֹרִים. שֶׁבְּכָל הַלֵּילוֹת אָנוּ אוֹכְלִין בֵּין יוֹשְׁבִין בֵּין מְסֻבִּין וְהַלַּיְלָה הַזֶּה כֻּלָּנוּ מְסֻבִּין:

One begins and recites the blessing "who creates the fruit of the ground," takes a vegetable, dips it in charoset and eats a kazayit - he and everyone reclining with him - each and every one should not eat less than a kazayit. Afterwards, we take away the table from in front of the reader of the Haggadah only. We [then] pour the second cup; and here the son asks. And [then] the reader says, "What differentiates this night from all [other] nights? On all other nights we don't dip even once; but tonight twice. On all other nights we eat chamets and matsa; but tonight it is all matsa. On all other nights we eat meat roasted, boiled, or cooked; but tonight it is all roasted. On all other nights we eat other vegetables; but tonight it is all bitter herbs. On all other nights we eat whether sitting or reclining; but tonight we are all reclining."

15 טו

פטרתן מלומר מה נשתנה - דתניא לקמן חכם בנו שואלו ואם לאו שואל הוא לעצמו מה נשתנה וכיון ששאלו לנו מה נשתנה אין אנו צריכין לומר מה נשתנה אלא להשיב על דבריו (של בנו) לפי שנשתעבדנו במצרים אנו עושין כל הדברים הללו:

17 יז
18 יח
כדי שיכיר התינוק וישאל - כלומר ומתוך כך יבא לישאל בשאר דברים אבל במה ששאל למה אנו עוקרין השלחן לא יפטר ממה נשתנה וההיא דאביי לא פי' הגמ' אלא תחלת שאילתו:
So that the child will ask- it is as if by asking this he will come to ask more questions. However if he only asks the one question about removing the table, he is still not exempt from the Mah Nishtanah(four questions).

מה נשתנה הלילה הזה. פירש רבינו ישעיה זצ"ל זה נתקן עבור מי שאין לו מי שישאל שאילו היה לו בן חכם שהיה שואל לא היו צריכין לאומרו. כי הא דאביי הוה יתיב קמיה דרבה חזא דקא מגביה פתורא פי' שהיו עוקרין את השלחן אמר אטו מי אכלינן שאתה עוקר את השלחן מלפנינו אמר ליה רבה פטרתן מלומר מה נשתנה אבל במקום שאין לו מי שישאל חייבין לשאול זה את זה. ואפי' שני תלמידי חכמים הבקיאין בהלכות הפסח:

21 כא

וששאלת למה אין מברכין על ספור ההגדה הרבה דברים צוה הקדוש ברוך הוא לעשות זכר ליציאת מצרים ואין אנו מברכין עליהן כגון הפרשת בכורות וכל המועדים שאין צריך להזכיר בהפרשת בכורות שאנו עושין אותו זכר ליציאת מצרים אלא שצוה הקדוש ברוך הוא לעשות המעשה ומתוך כך אנו זוכרין יציאת מצרים ולאו דוקא הגדה בפה אלא אם ישאל מפרשין לו (וזהו ההגדה לצד שזוכרין יציאת מצרים).


ביאור ר' ירוחם פערלא ז"ל לספר המצוות לרס"ג

ומבואר מדבריו ז"ל דליכא מצוה בסיפור יצ"מ אלא ע"פ שאלת הבן ומדכתיב "והיה כי ישאלך בנך וגו'" ומבואר דס"ל דמאי דאמרינן בפרק ע"פ "חכם בנו שואלו וכו'" ואם לאו הוא שואל את עצמו עיי"ש. מדרבנן בעלמא הוא אבל מדאורייתא ודאי ליכא חיובא אלא להשיב על שאלת הבן. וכן מאי דתנן התם (קט"ז ע"א) "אם אין דעת בבן אביו מלמדו וכו'" אין זה אלא מדרבנן.


זאת אומרת מצות צריכות כוונה - ...היכא דליכא שאר ירקי דאפי' במרור בעינן תרי טיבולי כדי לאכול מרור כמצוותו ומשום היכירא ולא אמרי' שלא יאכל מרור עד לבסוף ולא נחוש להיכירא:

25 כה

The Hirsch Haggadah, Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, page 60 - 61

In what way is man's superiority over beast manifest? It would not be wrong to say: "Man questions." Undoubtedly, the very first reaction of a newborn child to the sight of the world is: "What is this?" The human spirit seeks to understand what is happening around it and the question, "What is this?" arises in the child's heart even before his mouth can articulate the words. If only we could read the expression in his eyes, we could understand the query in his mind. Questioning sums up the entire nature of the child's soul, and only because his soul continues to ask incessantly, does the child learn so much in his first years.

Later, when the child's mouth can serve his soul and he continues to ask and ask untiringly, "What is this?" we must not tire of answering. We must look upon this thirst for knowledge as a healthy sign and devote the same willingness and painstaking care with which we satisfy our children's hunger for food, to quenching their thirst for knowledge, thus providing them with mental nourishment. Should we not, then, exert ourselves to satisfy their inquiring souls? Should we not examine, not recognize all that our children come in contact with so that we will be able to teach them and supply adequate answers to their questions?


Notes toward Finding the Right Question, Cynthia Ozick
The philosopher Suzanne K. Langer somewhere observes that every answer is concealed in the question that elicits it, and that what we must strive to do, then, is not look for the right answer, but attempt rather to discover the right question.


Leon Weiseltier, Kaddish page 259

"Ready yourself for the study of Torah because it is not your inheritance.” I have pondered this statement for years. It is the most counterintuitive observation about tradition that I have found in tradition. What an estrangement it proposes: the Torah is not my inheritance! How can this be? If I was taught anything, it is that the Torah is my inheritance...

Rabbi Yossei is a realist about continuity. He cautions that in the transmission of tradition there is a moment between the giving and the receiving, a moment when it is no longer the possession of the father and not yet the possession of the son, a moment of jeopardy, like the pause in a beating heart, a moment of discontinuity, a beat skipped, when what has stopped has still to start, and what has been transmitted can slip away or run out. This is the moment for which you must "ready yourself.”


Festival of Freedom, Rabbi Yosef D. Soloveitchik, pages 53 - 54

The form of narration in the Haggadah avails itself of dialogue: one person asks and another answers. It is necessary to dramatize this narration because God reveals Himself to man if and when the latter searches for Him. If one does not inquire, if one expects God to reveal Himself without making an all-out effort to find Him, one will never meet God. "But from there you will seek the Lord and you shall find Him, if you search after Him with all your heart and all your soul" (Deut. 4:29).

Nahmanides, in his comments on the verse "His habitation you shall seek and there you shall come" (Deut. 12:5), says: "You shall come to Me from distant lands, and you shall keep inquiring where is the road leading to God's habitation." The searching for the sanctuary, the curiosity to know the location of the sanctuary, is itself redeeming and sanctifying! This curiosity hallows the pilgrimage and makes it meaningful. If one does not search for God, if a Jew does not keep in mind where is the road leading to the Temple, then he or she will never find the Temple.

On the first night of Pesah, we tell the story of a long search by man for God, of God responding to the inquisitive search, of God taking man, who longs for Him, into His embrace. At the Seder, we try to stimulate the naive curiosity of the children and thereby make them God-searchers. The quest for God, along with the acceptance of the commandments, is the true spiritual liberation.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's Haggadah, page 106

But questioning goes deeper than this in Judaism—so deep as to represent a sui generis religious phenomenon. The heroes of faith asked questions of God, and the greater the prophet, the harder the question. Abraham asked, ‘Shall the judge of all the earth not do justice?’ Moses asked, ‘O Lord, why have You brought trouble upon this people?’ Jeremiah said, ‘You are always righteous, O Lord, when I bring a case before You, yet I would speak with You about Your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?’ The Book of Job, the most searching of all explorations of human suffering, is a book of questions asked by man, to which God replies with four chapters of questions of His own. The earliest sermons (known as the Yelamdenu type) began with a question asked of the rabbi by a member of the congregation. One of the classic genres of rabbinical literature is called She’elot uteshuvot, ‘questions and replies.’ Questioning is at the heart of Jewish spirituality.

Religious faith has often been seen as naïve, blind, accepting. That is not the Jewish way. Judaism is not the suspension of critical intelligence. It contains no equivalent to the famous declaration of the Christian thinker Tertullian, Certum est quia impossibile est, ‘I believe it because it is impossible.’ To the contrary: asking a question is itself a profound expression of faith in the intelligibility of the universe and the meaningfulness of human life. To ask is to believe that somewhere there is an answer. The fact that throughout history people have devoted their lives to extending the frontiers of knowledge is a compelling testimony to the restlessness of the human spirit and its constant desire to go further, higher, deeper. Far from faith excluding questions, questions testify to faith—that history is not random, that the universe is not impervious to our understanding, that what happens to us is not blind chance. We ask, not because we doubt, but because we believe.


Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski Haggadah, page 64 - 65

The "Four Questions" emphasize yet another aspect of spirituality: the ability to live with conflict. The emphasis of modern psychology on the resolution of contention has resulted in people eschewing all conflict. Living with ongoing stress has become unthinkable, and many individuals who find themselves entangled in struggles that are not readily resolvable may attempt to escape therefrom by rather desperate methods, not the least of which is seeking the oblivion or euphoria of alcohol, mind-altering substances, or diversionary activities.

The loss of tolerance for conflict has had a profound impact on interpersonal relationships as well as on the intrapersonal psyche. The unprecedented divorce rate is, to a great measure, due to the inability to withstand conflict, and to seek immediate relief from all frustrating situations.

The "Four Questions" point out that the Seder, the feast of spirituality, is characterized by the co-existence of conflicting ideas. We eat the dry matzah, the bread of the slave, and the bitter herbs to commemorate our enslavement, yet we recline on couches and dip appetizers into dressings according to the custom of the free and wealthy nobility. How can we reconcile these opposites?

The answer is that we do not need to reconcile all conflicts. The concept of freedom as espoused in Torah is quite distinct from the secular concept. According to the latter, the ultimate aim of freedom is the absence of all discord, a state rarely encountered in reality. Torah freedom includes the capacity to live with stress, and to be able to achieve serenity in the face of conflict.


Rabbi Jonathan Sacks's Haggadah, page 107

Undoubtedly, though, the most unique of Judaism’s questions and the one most associated with the prophetic tradition is about justice: why bad things happen to good people, why evil seems so often to triumph, why there is so much undeserved suffering in the world. Karl Marx once called religion ‘the opium of the people.’ He believed that it reconciled them to their condition—their poverty, disease and death, their ‘station in life,’ their subjection to tyrannical rulers, the sheer bleakness of existence for most people most of the time. Faith anaesthetized. It made the otherwise unbearable, bearable. It taught people to accept things as they are because that is the will of God. Religion, he argued, was the most powerful means ever devised for keeping people in their place. It spread the aura of inevitability over arbitrary fate. So, argued Marx, if the world is to be changed, religion must be abandoned.

Nothing could be less true of Judaism—the faith born when God liberated a people from the chains of slavery. The question that echoes through the history of Judaism—from Abraham to Jeremiah to Job to rabbinic midrash to medieval lament to Hassidic prayer—is not acceptance of, but a protest against, injustice. There are some questions to which the response is an answer. But there are other questions to which the response is an act. To ask, ‘Why do the righteous suffer?’ is not to seek an explanation that will reconcile us to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. It is to turn to God with a request for action, and to discover, in the very process of making the request, that God is asking the same of us.


Dr. Erica Brown, Spiritual Boredom, page 106

Boredom occurs when we run out of questions because it demonstrates that we have run out of interest. Combating boredom in the Jewish classroom, or any classroom for that matter, is ultimately about the stimulation of questions. Returning to the Seder table, that ancient classroom of Jewish history, we find that Maimonides encouraged us to place objects, educational props, on the table and to use the complexity of the Haggadah ―to make the children ask. The purpose of Passover is not to tell our children the story of Jewish peoplehood; it is to make the evening interesting enough for them to ask questions. Telling especially repeated telling, leads to a flat story with a dull landscape. Asking leads to exploration, further questioning, engagement, creativity. Boredom will only leave the classroom when we have done a good enough job of making ―the children ask.