Texts on Sakranut: Encouraging Curiosity in the Classroom
Introduction: Genesis 3:1

וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ הָיָ֣ה עָר֔וּם מִכֹּל֙ חַיַּ֣ת הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָׂ֖ה יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ אֶל־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה אַ֚ף כִּֽי־אָמַ֣ר אֱלֹהִ֔ים לֹ֣א תֹֽאכְל֔וּ מִכֹּ֖ל עֵ֥ץ הַגָּֽן׃

Now the serpent was shrewdest of all the wild beasts that the Eternal God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say: 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'"

Text 1: Albert Einstein

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

"The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice, and the desire for personal independence, these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank my lucky stars I belong to it."

Text 2: Rabbi Abraham Jacob of Sadgora

The Rabbi of Sadgora once said to his disciples, "We can learn something from everything: we may learn not only from things God has created, but also from the creations of humans." One of his students asked, "What can one learn from a train?" "That because of one second a person can miss everything," he said. "And from the telegraph?" "That every word is counted and charged." "And from the telephone?" "That what we say here," the rabbi responded, "is heard there."

Text 3: Isidor I. Rabi

My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: "So? Did you learn anything today?" But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. "Izzy," she would say, "did you ask a good question today?" That difference--asking good questions--made me become a scientist!

Questions for Group Conversation

  1. What attracted you to the text?
  2. What is this text’s message about curiosity?
  3. Are these “words to live by”?
  4. What questions emerge from this text?
  5. What is the text’s relationship with Jewish tradition?
  6. How would you present this text to your students?
  7. What if anything is missing from this text?
Conclusion: Pirkei Avot 4:1

בן זומא אומר: איזהו חכם? הלומד מכל אדם.

Ben Zoma says: Who is the wise? One who learns from all people.