Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld Speaking Torah: “Questions unite people, answers divide them” (Elie Wiesel)
“The essential questions have no answers. You are my question, and I am yours — and then there is dialogue. The moment we have answers, there is no dialogue. Questions unite people, answers divide them.”
I can’t think of a time when we have more needed to hear these wise words from our teacher Elie Wiesel, of blessed memory.
We are living in a world where we are constantly pummeled with answers — answers offered by pundits and preachers, politicians and salespeople, promoters and self-promoters of every persuasion. Wiesel reminds us that all those easy answers keep us from truly meeting each other in that tender and honest place, where we stand facing each other with our shared questions.
That place is where we are meant to begin the Passover seder.
The Mishnah states that the telling of the story of our Exodus from Egypt cannot begin until at least one genuine question has been asked. Our sages stress that the rote recitation of the Four Questions does not count. A spirit of honest inquiry, curiosity, and reflection should infuse our seder ritual.
What, then, is required to commence with our telling of the Passover story? Nothing more and nothing less than one real question.
Amidst all of our preparations for Pesach, amidst of all of the cleaning and cooking, now is a time to think about what genuine questions you are bringing to the seder this year. What is one question that you want to ask the people around your seder table? What is one question that you are asking yourself?
The seder is the moment in the Jewish year, more than any other, when we remember the value that Judaism places on the process of authentic questioning. Serious, even difficult and challenging questions are to be encouraged. In the words of an old and beloved Yiddish proverb: Fun a kasha shtarbt man nisht. From a question, no one has ever died.
Indeed, the seder teaches us, it is our questions that keep us alive. This week, I am pleased to share two Pesach pieces by Rabbinical School faculty members: The first is a webinar with Rabbi Ebn Leader, and the second is an beautiful article by Rabbi Nehemia Polen.
Please feel free to share this message and be in touch if you or anyone you know would like to talk further about the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.
With blessings for a sweet and spacious Pesach.