Who Knows?

There’s a new restaurant in New York.

Where is it?

In Greece.

Didn’t you said it was in New York?

It is.

Then why did you say it’s in Greece?

Because it is.

OK… so what kind of restaurant is it?


Great! So what’s the name of this Chinese restaurant in New York that’s in Greece?

I Don’t Know.

No, this isn’t a late Purim edition. This is for real. Right out of the news.

A new Chinese restaurant just opened in Greece, a town five miles northwest of Rochester. The town’s name was changed from Northampton in 1822, out of sympathy for Greeks who were fighting for independence from Turkish rule.

And the name of the restaurant? I Don’t Know.

Yes, we do know. The name of the restaurant actually is… “I Don’t Know.” Jessie Dong, who owns the restaurant, said she came up with the name because whenever she would ask her three children what they wanted to eat, they always said, “I don’t know.”

When Dong discussed a name for the new restaurant with her family, they didn’t know that either. So they decided to name it I Don’t Know.

Dong came from Guangdong province in China to Greece in New York to cook Chinese food for Americans.

There’s more here than just a multinational story. Nothing we see or hear is by coincidence. Even the word coincidence means things that coincide. They happen simultaneously — not by chance.

The Baal Shem Tov taught that if a leaf falls from a tree, it falls by Divine guidance. How it falls and where it lands is all for a reason.

A Rosh Yeshivah we know tells about when he was a bachur. One of his rebbeim always said that you have to learn from everything that happens to you. The yeshivah happened to be in a rough neighborhood and, one day, some local thugs started a fight. They expected to easily beat the Jewish students. But Heavenly mercy willed otherwise.

In the heat of the battle, the bachur took a swing at one of the attackers and turned to see his rebbi also holding his own. He asked the rebbi, “What are we supposed to learn from this?”

“We learn it is better to give than to receive.”

So what can we learn from a Chinese restaurant named “I Don’t Know”?

Seven centuries ago, Harav Yedayah ben Avraham HaPenini Bedersi wrote in sefer Bechinas Olam, “How can a lowly insect find favor in Your eyes and aspire to know You? The end of all knowledge we have of You is that we can’t know You.”

This idea — the futility of trying to achieve direct knowledge of Hashem — later took on a nuanced meaning in a popular phrase, often attributed to Harav Nachman of Breslov, zy”a.

Tachlis hayediah, shelo neda — the ultimate knowledge is not to know.”

This is not a celebration of know-nothingism. Not the political type of the Know-Nothing party of the 1850s, which tried to block immigration to protect the economic security of native-born Protestant Americans. When questioned about their beliefs and activities, they were instructed to answer that they knew nothing.

It also doesn’t mean the mindlessness of entertainment and substance-sotted revelers who look at the world as their amusement park.

The ultimate in not-knowing is to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of the ego. Our own egos, and the egos of political and other self-serving leaders who manipulate the masses.

Ego-driven political and industry leaders are “in the know.” They run think tanks whose treads roll over anything and anyone in their paths. Because they “know” everything, they can never admit wrongdoing.

When Adam and Chava were placed in the Garden, they had only one command. “Don’t eat from the Tree of Knowledge.” Keep it simple; just listen to Hashem and it will be Paradise.

It should have been a no-brainer. But, as the old Yiddish expression about children goes, they had to investigate fun vant vaksen di fis — where do the feet grow from? They had to “know” for themselves.

The Baal Shem Tov said that, despite his vast knowledge, he served the Ribbono Shel Olam with emunah peshutah — simple faith.

Emunah peshutah — simple faith — isn’t blind faith. It’s not about closing our eyes and accepting; it is all about opening our eyes and recognizing our own limitations. It is about accepting the will of Hashem as the only route to acquiring truth.

How to achieve such a sublime level? It’s simple. Just follow the advice of the Gemara in Brachos: “Teach your tongue to say ‘I don’t know.’”