Isador Rabi was a Jewish scientist who won the Noble Prize for Physics in 1944. In his autobiography, he tells the story of the key question that shaped him.
“Every day when I came home from school,” he said, “my mother would not ask me how I did. She would not ask what happened in school today. She would simply say, ‘Izzy, did you ask a good question today. Hearing that question repeatedly,” he said, “made me a great scientist.”
Not just for great scientists, but for each of us: Asking the right question can make all the difference.
Consider the biblical story of Abraham and Isaac. God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his treasured son. How does Abraham respond? He asks no questions. He does not ask God why he has been commanded to murder his son. He does not wonder about his responsibility as a parent and conscience as a human being. He does not even ask Isaac how he feels after everything has happened.
This Abraham contrasts sharply with the Abraham who pled on behalf of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah earlier in Genesis. That Abraham questions relentlessly. That Abraham pushes God to the brink. That Abraham pleads for justice and righteousness. That is the Abraham we admire. That is the Abraham is the one who teaches us the power of asking the right questions.
For this evidence of this truth, recall the way President Kennedy phrased that famous line from his first inaugural address: “Ask not,” he said, “what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” He was urging us to change our question. If we change our questions, we can change the world.
The Next Four Blog Posts Will Present Four Questions We Must Ask Ourselves. Stay Tuned…