People conventionally understand the seder to be about getting the children to ask questions. But it goes deeper than that.
Learning to nurture curiosity is the quest of our times.
How do we nurture in our children and in ourselves curiosity, not cynicism? Fascination not apathy? How do we raise a generation of curious kids?
In a fast-changing world, as technology shifts the way we live, learn, work and play — and established professions quickly become obsolete — how do we equip them with the curiosity necessary to adapt and find their place?
More fundamentally, in a world of mass cynicism and apathy, how do we raise our children to be engaged and enthusiastic, to be excited about life? And excited about being Jewish?
The Passover seder is a crash course in curiosity. We kick off the main section — during which we relive the great beginnings of the Jewish people, our Exodus from Egypt and our liberation from slavery — with “Mah Nishtanah?” (“The Four Questions”) traditionally sung or recited by the youngest child. One of the reasons we do this is as a warmup exercise to provoke our curiosity for the remainder of the seder.
This element of curiosity, of childlike wonder, continues throughout the seder. We point, we probe, we speculate, we marvel.
And it’s not just the children. If there are no children attending, then an adult will ask the four questions. Indeed, at the seder, we are all children; we are all curious. And if, like the simple son, we lack that curiosity and “don’t know how to ask,” others must “open up the conversation for us,” provoking us into a curious state.
People conventionally understand the seder to be about getting the children to ask questions. But it’s deeper than that. It’s about provoking curiosity.
Curiosity is more profound; it’s what makes us care enough to ask questions in the first place. To be curious is to show an interest — and to be interested enough to want to know more. It’s a fascination that is expressed through a question that arises in your mind.
Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein is the chief rabbi of South Africa.