Whenever a question came up at the dinner table – about history, or science, or art, or just about anything that wasn’t “how was school today?” – my father would send me to the book-lined living room with the words “go look it up.” As a result, I fell in love with books, ideas, facts, trivia, and the very act of research, investigation, and learning itself. I suspect that when I was still little, he knew the answers, but as I got older, he didn’t, and so I somehow became Daddy’s Little Research Assistant.
Decades later, I still am in the habit of looking things up when a question arises. Of course, the information-age beacons of knowledge – Google, the Internet Movie Database, and Wikipedia, plus the powerful smart phones – make the research a bit easier, especially when finding the answer is in pursuit of having something quickly solved.
But I still delight in the long play… wandering the stacks in a library, browsing an encyclopedia, following a reference in one book to another, to another, to another. In search of something deeper, in search of answers to burning questions and the questions those questions lead to. And I still don’t have many answers, as much as I think I’ve read and researched and investigated – especially given how much I had to read in seminary.
But therein lies the joy.
And… therein lies our fourth principle, the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Not acquisition of the only facts, but the search. We sing “we will finally see that to question, truly, is an answer.” We “praise the source of faith and learning.”
This month, we will have another question box sermon. Last winter, it was in service of preparation for my path to ordination. This fall, it is simply in celebration of asking, inquiring, wondering, investigating. This is a centerpiece of Jewish religious life – to read and study and ask questions, and ask questions of those questions. Let us give a nod to that rich tradition and enable our own propensity for asking questions and having our own answers questioned.