Go Beyond the 4 Questions


April 21, 2022

By Rabbi Michael Gottleib, KM Synagogue

With Passover upon us, an almost universal association of the biblical holiday is the rabbinic based four questions. Our tradition has long emphasized the importance of asking questions.

Here are four questions of a different type. These don't appear in the Passover Haggadah, but rather the Talmud, tractate Pirkei Avot. Rabbi Shimon Ben Zoma, who lived in Israel during the second century asked them. His questions are thought provoking and non-rhetorical; fitting for added discussion Passover night.

1. "Who is wise? One who can learn from others." Expanding on the Ben Zoma's response, be mindful to learn from others, living or deceased; those seated around the Passover seder, or elsewhere.

1. "Who is strong? One who can say no to him/herself." Self-discipline is difficult. It's not always easy to diet, exercise, work on oneself—or forego eating leavened foods for the entire week of Passover. But as difficult as it is to say no to yourself, it's often as difficult to know when to say yes.

1. "Who is rich? One who is happy with what he/she has." How many of us can say, "I have enough." During the Passover Seder we sing the song, Dayanu, which translates, "it would have been enough for us". Dayanu is not a plea for complacency. If anything, it's a plea for perspective and heightened appreciation for all that we have.

1. "Who is honored? Those who honor others." If you want to keep friends and maintain family bonds, honor them. The word for honor in Hebrew shares the same root letters as the Hebrew word, heavy. At times, it is literally heavy, or minimally difficult, to give honor. That's an important insight particularly when seated at the Seder table with those whom you might disagree. Note: giving honor doesn't necessarily mean agreement.

This Passover as you gather around the Seder table, ask questions. Go beyond the four questions in your texts; they're examples to help stimulate broader discussion. As you form your own questions, don't forget to offer some good answers too.

I wish all of you and joy-filled, meaningful Passover celebration—

Rabbi Michael Gotlieb


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