The Power of Asking QuestionsApril 24, 2020 - 12:00 am
“In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’”—Exodus 13:14
During this month, I’m sharing with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generations to Generations: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children. These devotions are tied to the holy observance of Passover, or Pesach in Hebrew, which commemorates the Exodus and redemption of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. This year, Passover is celebrated at sundown April 8 to sundown April 16.
I remember as a child watching my parents meticulously clean our refrigerator in preparation for Passover. They scrubbed and cleaned every single part and got rid of food that I now know was chametz (leavened food products). I could not understand why they were doing that or what it had to do with Passover or the Exodus, so I asked my father. He beamed at me with his big broad smile and replied, “I’m so glad that you asked! This is the beginning of what Passover is all about. It’s all about asking questions.”
Asking questions is a supreme value in Judaism and it takes centre stage during Passover.
The focal point of Passover is the ritual meal known as the seder at which we retell the Exodus narrative. Yet, when we tell the story, we don’t begin with a description of events. Instead, at every seder, the story begins not with answers and explanations, but with questions.
The Bible instructs, “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt…’” (Exodus 13:14). Scripture specifies that our children should ask first, and then we should answer them.
In Jewish thought, the most powerful way to learn is by asking questions. The Hebrew word for wisdom is chochma, חכמה, and by switching the first two letters, the word reads coach ma, כח מה, which literally means, “the power of (asking) ‘what?’” Wisdom is gained by asking questions — by creating a space and a desire for new information.
The Passover seder was designed to involve children and elicit questions from them so that we can have meaningful and relevant conversations about faith. However, Jewish law specifies that even when no children are present at the seder, we must ask ourselves questions. This is because God wants us all to be lifelong seekers. God wants us to ask, to learn, to rediscover, and to recommit to Him on our journey of faith, growing ever closer to Him.
Your turn: Download a complimentary sample of my new book, Generation to Generation, at generationbook.org to learn more about passing on our faith to the next generation.