What’s in a Question?

fa5f6360-ec39-486a-95c5-3ae3346369c7Have you ever thought about the questions you ask and why you ask them? We ask questions for all sorts of reasons: Questions to make a point; rhetorical questions and challenging questions; questions intended to incite and questions meant to comfort. Questions to pique interest, promote reflection, or engender thought (hopefully like the title of this piece). By merely turning a statement into a question we are able to harness the power of words and appeal to natural curiosity to elicit emotions and facilitate deep thought.

Perhaps the most powerful of questions are questions born out of curiosity intended to uncover the unknown or clear up confusion. It is this type of question that drives Magid, the recounting of the exodus from Egypt which is the centerpiece of our Passover seder. Rabbinic texts emphasize the importance of beginning with questions – in the case of Passover, four to be precise. The Rabbis knew, as is evident from the countless questions, queries, and challenges throughout the Talmud and Rabbinic commentaries, posing questions is key to creating interest and promoting learning.

The lesson of the Rabbis, that questions drive learning, can be witnessed every day in classrooms throughout FJA. Teachers in every discipline implement lessons guided by essential questions. One class in particular, Rabbi Stein’s Jewish Journeys course is designed to provide a platform to elicit and address student inquiry about topics we all ponder or struggle with but are often too fearful to raise. This wildly successful class designed by Rabbi Stein is structured to help students navigate their own journey toward a personally meaningful Jewish identity and understanding. They are exposed to the diverse paths and perspectives that exist in the contemporary Jewish world.  They study texts from ancient, medieval, and modern Jewish thinkers, leaders, and rabbis on topics as far ranging and evocative as multiple perspectives on God, covenant, chosenness, prayer, and faith. Fueled by compelling texts, guided by intriguing questions, and conducted within a safe and welcoming environment, Rabbi Stein has created an incubator within which students can explore their deepest existential questions, and develop a personal Jewish identity they could not have discovered otherwise.To think critically we must learn to question and our sages tell us we should question to learn. At this year’s seder, what will you ask? What questions will lead you to a better understanding of your personal beliefs and the role you play in our rich, deep-rooted heritage?