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The Task to Ask

Rabbi Yehoshua Alt

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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg Ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the Sefer, Fascinating Insights: Torah Perspectives On Unique Topics. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

The Task to Ask

Our religion differs from others in that we encourage questions and as it saysכי שאל נא לימים ראשונים…, inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you…, and שאל אביך ויגדך…, ask your father and he will tell you…[1] This is what we do at the Seder as we encourage the children to ask questions.[2]


Indeed, the word חכמה is comprised of the words כח מה, the power of questions. The more we inquire, the smarter we can become.[3] Indeed, many have become converts and Baalai Teshuva because of the power of the question.


A woman who was part of a fundamentalist Christian group continuously asked questions about her religion. At a certain point, the minister looked at her with disappointment, sharply telling her, “sister, the l-rd wants you to cut off your head and come to Him with your heart.” At that point she started looking into Judaism. She found that Judaism was the opposite, as she would ask questions and they would say you can ask even better. Then they would say that fits well with the Rambam but not according to the Raavad.


Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898-1988), who was a Jewish American physicist that won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1944, was asked what made him a physicist as he was from a very simple background. He answered that when all the other children came home from school their mother would ask, “what did you learn in school today” whereas my mother asked, “Izzy, did you ask a good question in school today?”


[1] Devarim 4:32, 32:7. See Levush, 473. Someone once said, “In Judaism, to be without questions is not a sign of faith but a lack of depth.”

[2] Orach Chaim 472:16, 473:6, 473:21, Mishna Brura. Concerning the children asking questions on the night of the Seder, the Chida explains (Haggadas Simchas Haregel) since Matza is called לחם עוני because (Pesachim 36a) לחם שעונין עליו דברים הרבה (bread upon which we declare many things) and an answer is when you answer someone on their question. The Derech Pikudescha (Mitzva 21, חלק המעשה אות ב) writes that Yetzias Mitzrayim gets more enrooted into the child through question and answer.

[3] There is a saying, “The only bad question is the one you don’t ask.”

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