Have the Courage to Keep Asking Good Questions
until You Find their Answers
By Rabbi Shimon Raichik
Last week at the Kinus HaShluchim Rabbi Mordecai Avraham Segal of Machon Segal told the following story. The story is about a child named Moshe (a fictitious name) who while in the fifth grade seemed unable to participate in class, he was completely shut down. He had a dedicated and concerned teacher who was touched by this child’s difficulty and made great efforts to warm him up and get him involved in class. Eventually somewhere in the middle of the year Moshe finally asked a question. The teacher, overwhelmed by the change warmly received his question and showered him with compliments about what a good and important question he asked.
The next year his teacher was older man who had survived many difficulties in the Holocaust. When they learned the Gemara in Avodah Zara (3b) about what Hashem does each hour of the day the boy raised his hand. He asked what the Gemara meant when it says that Hashem plays with the Leviathan in the fourth part of each day. The teacher got visibly upset by his question and started lecturing him in front of the entire class about how wrong it is to ask certain questions because it can be considered apikorses, heresy. He explained that even though his generation had been through the Holocaust they still never asked, they simply accepted what was stated without question. He went on, and by the time he finished Moshe was crushed. From that point on he shut down and didn’t reemerge. Later after finishing the Day School system, when Moshe’s parents brought up the subject of which mesivta he should attend the following year, Moshe told them that there would be no mesivta; he was going to public school. Moshe left Judaism.
Moshe threw himself into his studies and became a prominent doctor in Boston. Later on he moved his practice to Brooklyn near Prospect Park. Although he had become a famous doctor that excelled in his field nevertheless he felt empty and frustrated inside. Often he would spend time in Prospect Park reading the newspaper and calming down before returning to work. One day while in the park he read about a young girl who got lost in the forest. The search had grown to 10-15,000 people combing the forest in Massachusetts to find the girl. He was taken by the story and his heart was moved. He prayed to Hashem and said if the girl will be found then he will return to Judaism. She was found and Moshe slowly started becoming a Baal Teshuva.
One day there was a frum Jew from Chicago who needed a specialist in the area that Moshe’s was an expert. He made and appointment with him in Brooklyn and also with another professor in Manhattan the same day. When he arrived for the appointment he said that his custom was to say a Dvar Torah before beginning an appointment. Moshe agreed and immediately asked him what the Gemara meant when it said the Hashem plays with the Leviathan in the fourth part of each day. The man was surprised and asked if he had learned in Yeshiva. He told him about his background and how this question has always bothered him. The man replied that he didn’t have an answer but that when he gets back to Chicago he would bring it up with his Rav and if he had an answer he would be back in contact.
Afterwards this man went to Manhattan for his second appointment. The professor’s office was in a large skyscraper. He arrived at the building a little more than 15 minutes before the appointment and found that the elevator was broken. With no other choice he began climbing up the stairs. After 15 minutes and around 17 flights of stairs he got a call from the professor’s office. He explained what happened and they told him not to worry just to continue on his way. By the 20th floor he stopped for a rest. Finally the elevator got fixed and he got to the floor of the office. He sat down for a minute to catch his breath and fell asleep.
Twenty minutes later at 3 o’clock he suddenly woke up to the sound of coughing. He saw two frum Jews sitting across from him. He told them that he has an appointment that he’s late for but has a custom to first hear a Dvar Torah before hand. One of them answered; “I’ll tell you a Dvar Torah” and began to tell over something he heard from the Rebbe about why Hashem plays with the Leviathan in the forth part of each day. He quoted the paskuk in Breishis (1:21) about the taninim, the great fish that Hashem created*. Rashi explains that this was the Leviathan and his mate. Hashem killed the female and salted her to preserve her for the Tzaddikim in the future. The reason for killing the female Leviathan was to preserve the world that could not be sustained if they would propagate. Because of this the Leviathan no longer had his mate he was very lonely and sad. While it is true that it was necessary to kill the female to protect the world nevertheless he was still sad and alone. This is the reason that ever since then until today, every day Hashem spends the forth part of each day playing with the Leviathan to make him happy because he is alone, and Hashem created him and needs to take care of him. The man then said that the Rebbe told him that this is a lesson that is important for education and will be of use to him in the future. When the man from Chicago heard this he thanked him and then called Moshe the doctor. Moshe found deep meaning in this explanation and became very inspired by what he heard. Soon thereafter Moshe became a wholehearted Baal Teshuva.
From this story we learn important lessons. First, that every word we say to another person can make or break them. Another lesson is that everything in the Gemara has an important lesson for us in life including the aggada. Even if we don’t know what the message is we should ask those that do understand and know. When we look into the Rebbe’s Sichos, Maamarim and Letters we will find answers and guidance. From this story we learn the importance of having sensitivity towards others especially our fellow Jew.
We are now in the month of Kislev. This month we increase in the study of Chassidus. When we learn Chassidus we see in depth how every aspect of the Torah relates and connects to avodas Hashem and answers our deepest questions. We need just open the sefer and learn! If we don’t find the answer we need to ask.
A Good Shabbos
(*We speak about the Leviathan every Rosh Chodesh in Barchi Nafshi. See Rebbe’s Maamar: “Leviathan Zeh Yitzarta l’Sachek Bo” 5712-1952)