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.
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.