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eJudaism: Rabbi Chagai Vilosky Is Jewish. Extremely Jewish. (Part 3/4)

04/13/2022 11:55:00 AM


Michael Greenfield

Is there a more iconic, more central, more parodied, more necessary (and more poorly named) segment of the Seder than the Four Questions, which, technically speaking, is just one question and four statements? And is there a longer answer to a single question than the Passover Seder?

Part 3: We're going to need more questions.

Can you think of another people, another religion, that loves questions as much as we do? Can you even imagine how different Judaism would be if we hadn't elevated the question to an artform? Would the Talmud, which devotes an entire tractate to Passover, be worth reading if it weren't an endless series of questions? Who cares enough about answers to read 63 tractates of them? Isn't the joy and the beauty of Judaism in the grappling more than it is in the resolution? On which pieces of Judaism, I ask you, have we ever achieved resolution? The answer is none, because that's never even been a goal of the Jewish people. The goal is - La'asok! - to engage, to grapple, to wrestle, to struggle.

Despite the wrestling we do with Passover, did you know that it is far and away the most popular of Jewish holidays? Ever wonder why that is, even among non-religious Jews? Might it be because one of the freedoms which Passover celebrates is the very questioning of Judaism which both lies at the heart of the holiday and also defines the very soul of Judaism itself?

Can we also admit, though, that even more Jewish than an endless stream of questions is an equally long stream of answers? The Haggadah tells us that five rabbis gathered in B'nei B'rak to answer the Four Questions and they spoke all night until their disciples came and said, It's time to recite the morning Shema. How could their Seder have lasted all those hours? Because the answer to the Four Questions is nothing less than the full story of the history of the Jewish people from the moment of Abraham's revelation all the way up to, and including, your Seder this weekend.

If the telling of the Exodus is that important, why don't we recite a blessing before telling the story? My favorite of the eight answers that Rabbi Chagai Vilosky gives to this question in his book, Passover Haggadah: Over 1000 answers to 300 questions, is as follows. The mitzvah of relating the story of the Exodus requires the presence of a listener, and we do not recite a blessing over a mitzvah that is dependent on another person. So, nu? I'll tell you. Since Passover can only happen in community with each other, you are critically, absolutely, indisputably necessary for the completion of Judaism's central (and most popular) mitzvah. We don't SAY a blessing, you ARE the blessing. Join friends, join family, or join our second night Community Seder on Saturday.


Rabbi Chagai Vilosky (for real):

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784