Remember the frustration of high school Spanish—trying to memorize all those vocabulary words, work through the syntax and the endless assortment of seemingly arbitrary rules? Aggravation seemed to turn to despair when you heard a four-year-old effortlessly transition from English to Spanish, with no hesitation or stumbled pauses.

Why do children in multilingual homes succeed where intelligent adults fail so miserably?Why do children in multilingual homes succeed where intelligent, educated adults fail so miserably? One theory holds that the adults don't allow themselves to learn the new language; instead they merely improve their proficiency at translating from their native language into their adopted tongue. Thus the comical consequences of translated colloquiums. Try translating "hold your horses" into French and then see the perplexed reaction of the rushed Frenchman. It just doesn't work. Whereas the child who grows up speaking two distinct languages does not critique the terminology or analyze which language makes more sense; he genuinely learns both languages.

I was once in a group discussion when someone opined that the Torah was written by a variety of authors and should be studied under that premise. A fellow student responded: "Torah presents itself as the absolute undiluted word of One G‑d. In order to study Torah you must view it from the Torah's perspective, otherwise you are projecting yourself onto Torah, and you're not studying Torah."

G‑d's choice to give the Torah in a barren wilderness underscores the key to learning Torah. Deflate your identity, abandon all models of what things are presumed to mean, check your ego at the door and then you are ready to learn to "speak Torah," versus translating Torah into your lingo.

It's so tempting to revert back to what I already know. That's what all the other nations did when G‑d visited their hometown during the "Who wants the Torah" world wide tour. It doesn't conform to what I already know, so no thanks.

And so it goes. Each day the challenge repeats itself. Ideas come our way, and we make a choice: do we project our perspective onto them, simply summarize the profundity with the same quaint summary we've used so often to cut so many cookies, or do we allow ourselves to be transported, inspired, amazed and even challenged by novel insight? Are we willing to be dumbfounded, to be "stupid" and learn something fresh?

Fare to board this hot air balloon is jettisoning the ballast of what you already knowIn the potential of the wilderness, Torah invites us on a journey to its limitless heights. Fare to board this hot air balloon is jettisoning the ballast of what you already know. Then comes the really exciting part, once up in the air you get to steer. Once subsumed into the material, the path it explores is yours to direct and discover.

In the early 70's an accomplished academic began to study Torah. Anxious to explore his newfound passion, he sent a letter to the Rebbe with a list of scholarly questions. The Rebbe responded with a hint towards patience; in the Rebbe's sweet way he replied to the effect of: "You don't know enough to ask questions, study first; ask questions later." Time went on, he studied, and those questions faded and more sophisticated ones followed. A lifetime of learning was underway; now he was genuinely studying the material, far different than the impetuous challenges of the novice.

Shavuot takes us back to the wilderness, back to before we knew everything—allowing us to learn something.