There is a Chinese Proverb that states: “He who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.”I am sure we have all heard a variation of this from someone… that to ask a question is the sign of intelligence and a desire to learn. Questions are imperative, and a way to continue a dialogue. I love how my friend Rabbi Shlomo Seidenfeld talks about questions, especially during Passover, by saying that an answer ends a conversation, but a question keeps it going.
By now you have heard me mention that as a young student in Hebrew school my questions were mostly shut down. Instead of engaging in deep and meaningful conversation, it was mostly a “that’s the way that it is” kind of thing. Not exactly inspiring for a young and hungry mind, and I think this is why so many Jews are left with a thirst and hunger for more meaningful connections, conversations and spirituality. Strange that Judaism can be taught in this cold, calculated manner at times. And unfortunately, it is this kind of “teaching” that perpetuates the myth that Judaism is nothing more than a set of rules and laws and commandments.
When Judaism is not taught with the “good stuff” and the inspiration, it loses its power. When it is, it is easy to feel its mysticism and the magical quality it possesses. Since my return from my first (and so far only) trip to Israel in 2014, I have been so very lucky to have connected with teachers, Rabbis and scholars who not only honor my questions, but demand them. When I challenge them, not in an arrogant or negative way, but with a true desire to understand, grow and learn, we are all rewarded with a deeper understanding of a subject or reading or Torah passage.
I have learned Kabbalah, Pirkei Avos, Torah, and the Tanya… I have studied the esoteric and have learned how to make so much of all of this practical, inspiring and something that can enhance each and every day. The Torah has become my blueprint, and thankfully I want to keep building and building on it. Life is simply for meaningful when you have meaning and purpose, and this is what I have found in Judaism… what I have found in learning.
Walking around the “Chood” for Shavuot has become one of my most favorite things to do, Jewish or otherwise. While Passover still wins out as my favorite holiday… yeah, it might be about the food, too… Not there is anything wrong with cheesecake, mind you… Shavuot inspires me. Walking from building to building, room to room and seeing so many people of all ages doing the same is breathtaking, beautiful and literally soul satisfying.
The evening started with a group of us sitting in a circle of chairs outside The Community Shul. Shlomo tried to replicate the late night experience we had in Jerusalem, when we arrived and immediately went straight to the Kotel at two in the morning… an experience I will NEVER forget.
We talked about the Ten Commandments and how they are all interconnected… and what it means to us today. There were kids, adults, men and women… people from our Israel trip and people from the community. Everyone was hungry… okay, yes for cheesecake… and for a few lucky folks, for the amazing sushi spread that awaited inside. But mostly we were hungry for knowledge… hungry for spirituality… hungry for Judaism. I only wish I had been shown this menu when I was a young boy… Who knows what my path might have been… but for now, I am on a new path and am happy to be learning more and more everyday.
THIS is what Judaism is. And this is what I learned about the amazing power of learning. Stay hungry and thirsty my friends. Learn, learn, and learn some more. You will be sated, yet never sated. And that is a good thing… no a great thing!