The Art of Questioning

April 16, 2024

We have a really fun Passover tradition in my family. It’s purely silly, and as far as we know, it does not originate from an ancient ancestral book, nor has it been passed down for generations! But for as long as I can remember, my family has asked “The Four Questions,” a hallmark of the Passover Seder, in as many languages as we know. Seriously. We’ve had people at our Seder table who have translated the text into every language from Spanish to French, Pig Latin, Portuguese, and sign language. I know I’m forgetting one… oh yes, the Star Trek language of Klingon. By the way, if you ever come to Israel and want to join our family Passover Seder, you’ve been warned: you might be asked to translate the Four Questions from English to an obscure foreign language (if you know one).

But what exactly are The Four Questions? These are pre-written questions that the youngest member at the Seder table traditionally asks. They serve as the introduction to the section of the Seder where the story of Passover is told.

Here’s the question: why do we open up the storytelling aspect of the Seder with questions and while we’re asking, what is the significance of asking questions, in the Bible?

Those are some great questions!

The Bible is filled with questions, ranging from God’s search for Adam in the Garden of Eden to Moses’s awe at the burning bush. The first question God asks Adam, and really, the first question in the Bible, is “Where are you?”.

Is God asking where Adam can be found on a map? Most definitely not. God knew exactly where Adam was. Instead, God was asking Adam where he was internally. Was he self-aware of his actions? After eating the forbidden fruit, how did Adam feel about himself? Adam had made a mistake, and God’s questioning at that moment teaches the power of introspection.

Similarly, when God asks Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”, the answer is obvious to God.

Of course, God knows what happened to Abel. But by asking Cain this question, He gives him an opportunity to reflect, potentially even an opening for repentance. Instead of saying, “Cain! You terrible person, I know what you did!” God allows Cain, through the power of reflection, to take ownership of his mistake.

Interestingly enough, Cain does not use this opportunity to introspect. He responds with his own question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Perhaps implying that he does not feel responsibility outside of himself—even for someone else. Regardless of whether he took the opportunity to reflect, he had the opportunity to answer the question freely.

Jumping to the book of Exodus, Moses asks a question that falls into a different category of Biblical musings. In Exodus 3, Moses encounters a phenomenal sight: a bush engulfed in flames that is not consumed. He wonders, “Why is the bush not consumed?”.

Just for a moment, can you imagine asking this question to the Almighty? But here, this question is a moment of inquiry—and Moses’s curiosity and willingness to question the ordinary ultimately set him on a path to Divine mission. Just look back at Moses’ questioning of the Egyptian treatment of the Hebrew slaves.

Moses teaches us that when we ask the right questions, even those that arise from everyday observations, we can uncover extraordinary truths and embark on life-changing journeys.

As we gather around our Seder tables this Passover, let us appreciate the profound role that questions play in both our traditions and in providing a deeper understanding of the world around us. The act of asking “The Four Questions” is more than a ritual; it embodies the spirit of inquiry that connects us deeply to the story of when we were once slaves—and had no right to wonder. Just imagine, for a second, the Jewish slaves asking Pharaoh to explain his reasoning for throwing the baby boys into the Nile River. They would have been tossed for a swim themselves!

This reminds me of a famous Albert Einstein quote: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” This sentiment echoes the importance of curiosity as a hallmark of a free society, unlike the slaves in Egypt. Today, questioning is not just a right but a fundamental aspect of our freedom and personal growth.

Questioning encourages us to explore, challenge, and change, allowing us to better our worlds by gaining a deeper connection to our reasons why. At the Seder table, when we teach our children the art of asking questions, we are giving them the gift of freedom. What is better than telling a child they have the power to discover the world around them?

Today, as we navigate an incredibly complicated and nuanced world, where sometimes people are guided away from asking real questions—like why do people take terrorist organization “facts” at face value?—this Passover, give your children the gift of questioning. Teach them how to ask, how to be curious, reflective, and inquisitive. Even if you don’t have an answer, you are unlocking their power of “Why.”

Or should I say, “¿Por qué?”

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Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

Sara Lamm

Sara Lamm is a content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. Originally from Virginia, she moved to Israel with her husband and children in 2021. Sara has a Masters Degree in Education from Bankstreet college and taught preschool for almost a decade before making Aliyah to Israel. Sara is passionate about connecting Bible study with “real life’ and is currently working on a children’s Bible series.

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