Questioning – The essence of Jewish Faith

Anyone who wants to get closer to G-d must first find the courage to question, even before any answer is available.

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth ,

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth
Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth
Gil Eliahu

Moshe (Moses) does not stop questioning. From the very first moment that G-d wants to appoint him to rescue the Children of Israel, Bnei Yisrael, from Egypt, he is questioning. Why me? Maybe I do not fit? Maybe Aaron is a better candidate? Maybe Pharaoh will not listen to me because I'm heavy-tongued? Maybe Bnei Yisrael will not believe me?

Like Moshe, those who truly believe are not afraid to question! Faith is based on curiosity, doubts, inquiries, and questions. Faith is full of question marks, even before the exclamation marks!

Moshe is intrigued by the sight of the burning bush. Seeing his curiosity, Hashem reveals Himself: "When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, G-d called to him from within the bush".


Slaves do everything that they are told without questioning, but free people ask questions.
Anyone who wants to get closer to G-d must first find the courage to question, even before any answer is available. Similarly, Avraham, the pioneer of monotheistic faith, is not afraid to ask G-d the most difficult questions when he tries to save the people of Sodom: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

The later prophets constantly argued with G-d, because they too were true and authentic believers. That is the mission for which G-d had chosen them. G-d does not look for a "yes man" to be His representative, but rather for people who are courageous enough to challenge Him, like Jonah and Jeremiah.

On Leil HaSeder, the night of faith, the son who is described as the one who "does not know how to ask" is the child who sees the world in black and white. He represents the child who received only exclamation marks in his education. The “evil son” is the second-best role model, because at least he can ask questions, even though he does not have the patience to wait for answers but rebels against his father.

The seat of honor is reserved for the “wise child” who has the courage to ask the most difficult questions: "What are these testimonies, rules and laws that G-d has commanded you?" Unlike the “evil son”, the “wise son” has the patience to wait for answers, even if it takes time for the answers to be given, and even if he never finds the answers that he seeks.

Slaves do everything that they are told without questioning, but free people ask questions. That is why only Moshe can take Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt, because he grew up free and dares to question and struggle with G-d.

We are told that the message of many of our mitzvot is "as a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt". Am Israel is a nation that is always intrigued, that questions, strives, and dares. We are a nation of free people, who mark the night of our freedom with the courage to ask the four questions of "Ma Nishtana."

Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, son of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, in the book LiShlosa BeElul that he published in memory of his father, shares a fascinating story about a meeting between his father and Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Wilovsky, the Ridbaz, Rabbi of Tzfat and one of the greatest rabbis of that generation. He was overwhelmed by Rav Kook’s attempts to explore Jewish faith, and said to him: “Your thoughts are deeper than mine and that what I have achieved. I prefer the simple Judaism that my grandmother had!” Rav Kook, who promoted and encouraged questioning and exploring, as expressed in many of his writings, responded: “Although your grandmother was a devoted and righteous woman, you will surely agree that her level of understanding of the Jewish faith was not sufficient for the leadership of Klal Yisrael.”

Questioning is part of our narrative. Questioning is a source of strength and hope; question is the essence of faith. Anyone who seeks closeness to G-d must know how to question!

"Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty. Many forms of fundamentalism and extremism are about choosing certainty over faith. We love closure, resolution, and clarity while thinking that we are people of ‘faith’! The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty" (Brene Brown, Gifts of Imperfection)

Rav Ronen Neuwirth, formerly Rav of the Ohel Ari Congregation in Ra'anana, is author of “The Narrow Halakhic Bridge: A Vision of Jewish Law in the Post-Modern Age”, published in 2020 by Urim Publications.



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