Sunday, February 19, 2006

Love is wanting questions not answers . . .

It seems like I spend some time everyday listening to Rabbi Shlomo Singer, who is the Rosh Yeshiva of the Passaic Torah Institute. While I must admit that there is much I don't understand, because his shiurim (classes) are quite advanced discussions of the Bava Kama (one of the tractates of the Bavli (Babylonian Talmud)), I love listening to him. He has such a passion for learning and teaching the Talmud that it is quite infectious.

One of the messages that he makes often, but particularly in his shiur from April 10, 2005 is that when we have answers we don't have love. He says, "An answer isn't a relationship. The answer is the finalization of a relationship. You are through. Good Bye."

But a question says that I want to learn more, to spend time with Hashem. The Rosh Yeshiva (the teacher) is not there to give answers, but to stimulate interest and passion to learn more, because from a question one gets more life. A question is a tool to understand the Gemara, because with an answer we stop, we think we are finished -- a question keeps us going. And as Rabbi Singer says, in the study of the infinite Torah of Hashem there are no answers. Hashem does not give us a test, but wants us to strive more and more to understand. With answers we close the door -- the only thing that answers are good for is that they can help us go deeper.

Wanting to spend time with Hashem's Torah, with Hashem, with God is what is important, not answers. Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago that strives to express a fraction of this idea. What is interesting is that I wrote this before discovering the Talmud, which as should be clear by now, I feel captures this sense of eternal, infinite questioning.

Being is a Question

Rilke encourages us to
“Live the questions now”
so that we will perhaps
“live along some distant day into the answer.”

These lines
I have loved
for many years.

Yet, today they seem
too focused on an answer,
even if that answer lies in the distant future.

Instead, what would our lives be like if
we saw each day
as simply a question
without an answer
other than the question itself?

No, I am not
talking about
the meaninglessness
of nihilism.

Rather I speak of a “questionfulness”
that colors each day with
new possibilities,
new insights,
new opportunities
to ask,
to ponder,
to explore
ourselves and our world around us.

A questionfulness
that never stops
and can not be stopped
with an answer,
because it may be only
questions themselves
that drive the sun to rise,
the world to turn,
birds to sing,
and people to awaken.

Questions as Rilke warned
that have to be lived and
not covered over with answers,
solutions and certainties.

1 comment:

Talmida said...

I enjoyed this idea Jeff - thank you!