The Question Machine
My wife and I have been taking care of our 8 year old nephew, Felix, for a while and have quickly realized how much we forgot about dealing with younger children. The hardest part for me is becoming “Google” again, or as my wife and kids like to joke: “The Source of All Knowledge.”
Debbie took Felix to Wave Hill for a Shabbat walk. She told him the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. “Why did they not simply vomit the fruit and undo their sin?”
They took out a book about Shabbat and its laws: “Why can’t Tio Simcha design a solar powered car that does not use a flame and can be used on Shabbat?
Debbie then explained how we derive the Shabbat laws from the Mishkan: “Why doesn’t the Prime Minister of Israel simply build a new Temple?”
We had a small tornado this past Sunday in the Bronx: “Boy! God must be very angry!” “Well, Felix, no one was hurt even though so many trees fell and cars were destroyed. Maybe He isn’t so angry.” “Then, why did He do it?”
I may have been an “Answer Machine” for many years, but the position does not carry as much prestige as being “The Question Machine” Felix has become.
There is an important difference between the first paragraph of Shema and the second: “You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home…” (Deuteronomy 6:7) The second paragraph has an almost identical phrase with a powerful change: “You shall teach them to your children to discuss them, while you sit in your home…” (11:19)
The first paragraph of Shema commands us to teach Torah. The second paragraph commands us to teach our children to discuss Torah, to nurture them as Question Machines.
We can only nurture our kids as Question Machines if we are willing to become Answer Machines, even if we must respond, “I don’t know. I’ll have to look it up on “Google.”
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