The Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins tonight, is traditionally known by four names:
- The Festival of the Paschal Sacrifice, for the paschal lamb or goat that was sacrificed
- The Festival of Freedom, because we remember the liberation of the ancient Jews from slavery under the Egyptians
- The Festival of Spring, as it falls within the first month of the Jewish year (Rosh Hashanah, the “Jewish New Year,” is actually in the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar)
- The Festival of Matzah, for the unleavened bread that is the signature food of the holiday
To these, I add a fifth name: The Festival of Questions.
The holiday begins with the Passover Seder, a combination of a ceremony, prayer service, and holiday dinner replete with rituals and symbolic foods. Among the many purposes of the Seder rituals, the primary purpose is to evoke curiosity from children.
The entire point of the Seder is to elicit questions.
Questions are the best tool we have for learning and teaching, and this is what the Seder is all about.
In many contexts, sometimes (ironically) even in educational contexts, questions are discouraged. Questions can be seen as challenging authority, or as an attempt to incite debate. Some people get defensive if you ask them questions.
Sometimes, we might hesitate to ask questions out of fear that asking questions will reveal our ignorance, or that people will think our question is “stupid” — and by extension that means we are stupid. The truth is that the most knowledgeable people are those who are willing to ask questions, to embrace what they don’t know in the pursuit of learning more.
At the Passover seder, all questions are welcome. No question is too simple, too complex, too ignorant.
This is a time for children and adults to be curious, to embrace what the Zen masters call “Beginner’s Mind.”
It is the perfect holiday on which to embody your inner Fool.
So go ahead and rejoice in not knowing, challenge the accepted practices, get curious. Passover is the Festival of Questions.