Reb on the Web


It has been said that “curiosity is one of the most certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”  Another philosopher quipped that “curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.”  There are lots of ways to make the same point.  Curiosity is a key to your inner growth and to reaching your potential.  However, curiosity is only one of many competing emotions.            

Moses turned to the people of Israel and said, “You have all been slaves for centuries.  Follow me and together we will venture out into the desert and you will have the chance to embrace your freedom.”  To be accurate, I cannot say for sure that Moses used those exact words.  But it is only logical to assume that his message to the Jewish people had to have been very close to this sentiment.  You would think that the urge for freedom and a sense of curiosity for what being free might feel like, would have propelled the Jewish people forward.  Yet, we all know that that is not what happened.  Almost at every turn, the people fight Moses.  When the Jewish people are standing on the banks of the Red Sea and they can literally see their freedom in front of them, instead they turn to Moses and say, “Why did you have to bring us out here to die in the desert?  How could you do such a thing to us, bringing us out of Egypt?  Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to leave us alone and let us work for the Egyptians?  It would have been better to be slaves in Egypt, than to die here in the desert?”

Sometimes fear is far more compelling than curiosity or even the urge for freedom.  On the other hand, there are moments when a healthy dose of fear can protect us from curiosity.  Maddie Gilmartin is only 12 years old and she lives in New Hampshire.  One day Maddie walked outside and saw a flagpole.  She was curious.  Is it really true that if you stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole that your tongue will freeze to it on the spot?  Maddie didn’t believe it could be true and her curiosity got the better of her.  Sure enough she walked up to the flagpole and put her tongue straight on it.  Here is how the article describes what happened next.  “Maddie’s father, Sean, saw her standing at the flagpole, with her arms waving frantically.  Maddie tried to pull her tongue off the flagpole as soon as it happened and that is what made it bleed.  My wife and I frantically tried to free Maddie by using warm water.  Thankfully the paramedics arrived and released her from the flagpole.  She is expected to make a full recovery, but doctors have warned that it may take six months for the swelling to go down.”

I read that article about poor Maddie and all I could think of was the old saying that, “curiosity killed the cat.”  So it may be true that “curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” However, it can also be just as true that curiosity is the pain in your tongue.  On the other hand, it’s safe to say that Maddie’s curiosity taught her a powerful lesson about flagpoles in New Hampshire during the winter. Chances are she won’t be curious about doing such things again anytime soon.            

In the end, the message to remember is that every person has this built in emotion called curiosity.  Sometimes curiosity can even put us at risk.  The only question is, is it worth the risk?            

Our tradition teaches us that at the very moment in which the Jewish people were complaining about being taken out of Egypt, a man named Nachshon stepped forward and literally walked into the water.  It seems that he was “curious” as to what would happen.  But perhaps he was just as convinced that faith and courage, when combined would curiosity would lead to good results.  The story goes that when the water reached Nachshon’s nostrils, it was then that the waters parted and the Jewish people were finally set free.            

Never underestimate faith, courage and curiosity.            

What are you curious about?  Are you willing to wade into the waters of your curiosity?  Just remember that flagpoles in the wintertime can be very painful.   Please note: Rabbi’s message on cover page and Reb on the Web Page are the same.