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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jews and Questions: My latest article for Jewish Life Magazine

Hey guys, thanks to the popular requests of at least one of you, I am going to post quick reminders of my non-entertainment-related writings that have recently been published elsewhere.

To kick this off, we have my latest article for Jewish Life magazine. Starting on page 16 of both the print and online March 2013 editions of the magazine, you can find my article about the importance of questions in Judaism under the title of "Mah Nishtana: What the Seder Has To Tell Us About The Importance of Questions to the Jewish Character." Print editions of the magazine are available for free in various Jewish institutions, shuls and schools throughout South Africa and for a low price in many general supermarkets as well. Easier still, check out the new website at and view it online or download it in PDF format.

Here is a very small sample from the beginning of the piece...

"Once you get past the first cup of wine, the salt water and the tiny samplings of vegetables that only make you hungrier for a main meal that seems further away than ever, the Haggadah launches straight into what the whole rigmarole is all about in the first place: recounting the story of the Jewish people's exodus from Egypt. This being a Jewish story though, we begin with neither a “once upon a time...” nor even with a “long time ago in an ancient civilization not so far away...” but with a “why.”

Mah nishtana, ha-lyla ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-leylot – literally, what has changed, this night, from all other nights or, as it is usually idiomatically translated, why is this night different from all other nights. It might seem an inconspicuous start to the annual retelling of one of the defining stories in Jewish history, but considering that it is the events depicted in the Exodus that solidified the Jews as a nation – rather than as a ragtag bunch of monotheistic believers – it could hardly be more appropriate to frame the definition of the Jewish nation through a device that is so central to the Jewish character.

Indeed, the mah nishtana is only the beginning of what is a night full of questions. As the many, many symbolic practices of the seder are specifically tailored to have children ask about them – What's with the four cups? Why do we lean? How come you just broke that matzah? When do we eat? - the story of the Exodus itself is told not as a pure narrative, but as one that is filtered through a discussion between some of our greatest sages..."  

Check out the print or online versions available now!

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