Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wrestling with the Big Questions

In virtually every class that I teach, I encourage students to ask questions, and all my students know that a good question can easily toss the lesson plan out the window.

In his recent column appearing in The New York Jewish Week, Rabbi David Wolpe pointed to the centrality of questions in Jewish life.  They are so intrinsic to Jewish practice and learning that we ask a series of them every day in the warm-up passages of Shaharit, the morning service:

?מָה אֲנַחְנוּ? מֶה חַיֵּינוּ? מֶה חַסְדֵּנוּ? מַה צִּדְקֵנוּ? מַה יְשְׁעֵנוּ? מַה כּחֵנוּ? מַה גְּבוּרָתֵנוּ
Mah anahnu?  Meh hayyeinu?  Meh hasdenu?  Mah tzidqenu?  Mah yish'enu?  Mah kohenu?  Mah gevuratenu?
What are we?  What is our life?  What is our piety?  What is our righteousness?  What is our attainment?  What is our power?  What is our might?

The siddur, the prayerbook, reminds us on a daily basis, even before our morning coffee, that we must ask questions, that we must probe the depths of our understanding and relationships from the very moment that the day begins.  

This passage also serves as a reminder that, as Rabbi Wolpe put it, questions drive us deeper than answers.  As such, much of the Jewish experience surrounds asking good questions, and I would not have it any other way.

No comments:

Post a Comment