When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering and found that it had been burned up, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s remaining sons . . . — Leviticus 10:16
The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47, and the Haftorah is from 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17.
Here’s a bit of Bible trivia for you: The exact midpoint in the Five Books of Moses falls in this week’s Torah reading. Specifically, according to the original Hebrew version, the midpoint is in chapter 10, verse 16. On either side of the midpoint is the exact same word — in Hebrew drash, which in English means “inquire.” At the center of the Hebrew Bible we find “drash, drash,” “inquire, inquire.”
What is the significance of these words and what is their meaning?
According to the Jewish perspective, all learning begins with a question. Walk into any Jewish study hall and here is what you will not find: the quiet atmosphere of a college lecture hall where students sit passively listening to a professor talk. Rather, you will find a room alive with passion. It is loud and boisterous as students engage in the traditional question-and-answer dialogue. As one question is answered, another is asked. As one solution is suggested, it is probed and poked. And so the learning goes in a cycle that never ends.
The Sages teach that the question-and-answer format was adopted because it is the best way to learn and grow. Someone who thinks that they know everything will have a hard time learning anything. But when we have questions, we create a space inside us for something new. We are open to wisdom, God’s words, and to change.
This is why we find at the heart of the Hebrew Bible the words “inquire, inquire.” God is telling us that the heart of all learning is questioning. We must never stop asking, seeking, and probing. Because, as Socrates put it, “A life unexamined is not a life worth living.”
The Bible encourages us to examine life and seek out answers in the pages of our Bibles. A Talmudic Sage once said about the Bible: “Turn it over and turn it over; everything is there.” All of life’s solutions can be found in the Bible – and their discovery begins with a question.
As children, we are naturally curious about the world around us. It’s the way we learn how things work and who we are. However, as we grow older, that childlike wonder fades. As adults, we think that we have all the answers, but God says to us: “Inquire, inquire!” Never stop asking, never stop learning! The moment that we stop seeking is the moment that we stop growing. When we lose passion for the new, that’s when we become old.
This week, let’s reawaken our spiritual curiosity. Take time to look at your life, ask questions, and then search the Scriptures for answers. Now, repeat!