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Tuesday, 23 March, 2010 - 2:54 pm

Imagine you are standing at the doorway of the most incredible palace. It’s yours to have; all you have to do is walk through the doorway. Every part of you wants to enter.

For the briefest moment, though, you pause. “Maybe I should just turn around and leave,” you think. 
But then you are greeted by the most gracious of hostesses.
She gently takes your hand and leads you inside.  
Whatever you imagined from the outside, the inside is a million times more.
Walking in was a good decision.
If “knowledge” is the beautiful palace, the hostess beckoning us inside is our internal “sense of inquiry”.
We gain access to knowledge in our willingness to ask (meaningful) questions.
Asking questions is a doorway to knowledge, to understanding, to connection.
Asking questions is a power. A power that we should hold on to and never let go.
Yet, asking questions is not always easy.
Is it that we don’t want to expose our ignorance?
Is it that we are comfortable in our apathy?
Is it that we – the freest people in history – are willing to conform, sometimes blindly?
Passover holiday celebrates our freedom. True, it celebrates our freedom from physical slavery (external shackles), but it also celebrates our potential for freedom from any internal mechanism that keep us from being the best we can be.
Apathy, the opposite healthy curiosity, is an internal shackle that enslaves us.
So, Passover – the Holiday of Freedom – celebrates questions.
We have rituals and practices throughout the Seder Meal that are specifically designed to provoke questions. Indeed, we ask the famous 4 Questions.
In the Hagadah, we are introduced to Four Sons, each with his own distinctive world view: A ‘wise son’, a ‘wicked son’, a ‘simple son’ and one ‘who doesn’t know how to ask’. We are introduced to them by the kinds of questions they ask. Interestingly, the wise son and the wicked son both ask similar questions. It is the attitude that makes the difference. The wise son asks with authentic curiosity and openness, while the wicked son asks with contempt and cynicism. The wise son is open, the wicked son has his mind made up and is immovable. The simple son also asks questions, but shallow, skin-deep questions, not meaningful explorations that will lead to personal development. And, the fourth son is totally apathetic; he doesn’t question at all. He lives on auto-pilot. He does things without mind and heart.
The years of early childhood are formative years. It is now that we plant our children on healthy paths for life. It is now that we establish our children’s world views. Certainly, we want our children to grow into adults who know how to think, to wonder, to analyze, to evaluate, and to ask meaningful questions.
Zimmer children’s questions are celebrated. Even the youngest children are encouraged to hone their observation skills. We encourage them to ask questions about their observations. As Morahs, we model question-asking. As the children get older, we discuss the notion of asking questions: What is a question? How do you know if someone is asking - or writing - a question? What are different types of questions? Are there things you never think or care enough to ask questions? What happens if we have a question but we don’t have the courage to ask? In that case, what could we do to encourage ourselves to ask questions?
Questions beget answers beget more questions beget more answers…which leads to personal growth and discovery… which leads us to ‘own’ the palace.
To life in the palace! 

Malqha Davida wrote...

My sister is involved in Chabad in Pasadena, California. As a person who cares about the environment and who tries to repair, reuse and recycle, I have noticed that at Chabad gatherings and at my home when an Orthodox cousin visited, a great amount of waste goes on. Complying to the letter of the laws of Kashruth in this century seems to involve an abundance of plastic, paper and aluminum containers and foil, all discarded and destined for landfills unless the trash hauler is required to use a Material Recovery Facility or the individual family or congregation is into recycling. This does not seem very respectful to the Earth and it's diminishing natural resources and of other people in the world who do not have the luxury of a throw away society. Do you have any explanations or rationalizations for this practice?

Janine wrote...

I think you hit a bullseye there felals!

Raquel wrote...

The story reminds me of the adage: small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss things, but great minds discuss ideas. The geniuses such as Steve Jobs, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Moses usually start their journey to greatness with simple questions like what if and in Moses case who me? In Jeremiah G-d asks Can a man hide in earth? Do I not fill the heavens and the earth? The Torah is filled with great questions and that is what attracted me to Torah in the first place.