Kushiyah

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009
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A kushiyah is a challenging question. It comes from the word kasheh, meaning hard or difficult. Kushiyot are the bread and butter of the Talmud.



If a rabbis position on a specific halachah can withstand any kushiyot it faces, then his view is legitimate; if, on the other hand, there is a case in which the position is not defensible, then the rabbi is stuck with the kushiyah and his opinion is considered unproven.



The late Nechama Leibowitz emphasised the difference between a kushiyah and a question. The latter is a request for information, as in: In how many days did God create the world?



A kushiyah is the result of a sense of difficulty or problem. Hence, Leibowitzs famous question, Mah kasheh lRashi?, What is the kushiyah driving [the great biblical and talmudic commentator] to interpret a verse as he does? Rashi was not in the business of simply supplying extra information; rather his commentary was always in response to a perceived difficulty in the text.



On Pesach, the children ask the Four Kushiyot, also known as the Mah Nishtanah. The kushiyah is a crucial educational tool. When a teacher or parent hears the point at which learning becomes kasheh, difficult, he is able to guide the student or child beyond it to the next level of understanding.

    Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009