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What Is a Question?

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

Asking silly questions was often a humorous punchline to popular television shows not so long ago. Just think of the famous quip by Joey Tribbiani from the award-winning television show, "Friends." Whenever a potential love interest came into focus, Joey would ask with a suggestive undertone, "How you doin'?" Or, consider the television show "Family Matters" also popular in the 1990's and it's quirky protagonist, Steven Urkel, who would sheepishly ask, "Did I do that?" every time some mishap caused alarm or discomfort among the other leading characters.

These days, even a question meant to get a laugh is flooded by the barrage of complicated relationships, complicated politics, complicated ecology, and a complicated universe. Just try reading a news feed online and you'll have a wild ride through politics of the moment, home and garden tips, investment advice, and the latest celebrity breakup all before you finish your first cup of coffee or tea! We can use a little more curiosity about the world around us. We certainly need some better questions.

With a little attention, we find that the times we ask a good question is a powerful tool for connection with others, even providing deep insights into our own thinking and experience. It seems impossible to find our place in the world without some form of questing, of seeking out the truth that dwells around us.

The word ‘question’ itself is Latin in origin and refers to the act of seeking. In the Hebrew language, to ask a question (לשאול) is also to seek out, or to inquire. The question frames an interest in discovering meaning and invites a response. As a basic human need, this curiosity can bring great purpose into our lives. The satisfaction of an answered question, or even the understanding of what a question seeks to answer is inspiring, wondrous, even divine. In conversations and in teaching, questions are there to evoke a relationship. More than an opportunity to solicit and receive information, a question is posed to communicate a desire to connect to deeper truths and to discover sacred connections.

The focus on a question can be playful too. Relationships are built upon the courageous leap to connect. Those moments should be filled with curiosity and joy! Questions can be the dramatization of that connection, bridges of the chasm between doubt and faith, between uncertainty and deep knowledge. And so, questions as important tools of language deserve attention.

I invite you to join me on a journey of exploring the questions in the Five Books of Moses, the Torah. It's a wonderful place to start, because this book has an aura of certainty. Since there are nearly 300 (!) questions in the Torah, all filled with curiosity, doubt, and even skepticism, how questions are able to inspire faith is an idea I hope we can share.

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