"In many traditional Jewish communities when a child entered cheder, religious school, for the first time, that child was greeted by a curious sight: a chart of letters smeared with honey. The new student licked off the honey from the letters, one by one, thus learning a critical lesson: learning is sweet, and the very letters of the words carry the sweetness.

"Study is so sweet because it is wresting meaning from the world. Making things yield their sense in language is the aim of study. One seeks to understand, always to understand, whether it is the intricate talmudic argument or the idea behind a lovely legend. The words explain, and conceal. One can view the world as a work of art, as a pageant, as a tragedy, as a comedy, as a farce; all of these may be true, but the Jewish tradition also sees the world in another light — the world is a riddle. And the aim of this earth's inhabitants is to figure it out.

"That is why there is such intense concentration on the transmission of tradition from one generation to the next. There are answers for each generation to work out on its own, but if it loses the accumulated answers of all previous generations, then it must start at the beginning. Why work to arrive at the same point as those who preceded us? The goal is to build, to expand the net of language until it takes in more and more of the world, until we snare more bits of meaning in the grillwork of our concepts. There is tearing down to be done as well as building up, but even in tearing down it is well to keep the shattered fragments on hand; one never knows when more material will be required for the new structure."