1. We have already spoken at length last Shabbos regarding the fact that the Hebrew word for “redemption” (geulah) is composed of the word “exile” (golah) with the addition of the letter alef. At that time we explained two implications of this relationship between the word golah and geulah.

First of all, the transformation from galus to geulah is made by inserting the letter Alef, which represents G‑d. This shows that the redemption does not mean the dismantling and dissolution of exile, but rather the “insertion” and revelation of G‑d within the exile. Geulah comes about through bringing out G‑d’s presence within the exile, and showing that He is the true Master of the universe.

The second implication is that the redemption is “composed,” so to speak, of our service of G‑d during the time of galus. Just as the word geulah is not made from a separate set of letters, but from the very letters of the word galus, so too the redemption comes through our service in exile — not through some different sort of service.

Today we will speak of a number of related points which will further explain the special mission of the Jewish people in this particular time immediately before the redemption. We will do this by first explaining more deeply the first geulah, that from Egypt, which contained both aspects of geulah mentioned above.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they took with them the gold, silver, etc. of the Egyptians, to the extent that Egypt was emptied out of its wealth. By doing this, they carried out G‑d’s intention in giving it to the Egyptians in the first place — that the Jewish people should purify it by using it for holy purposes. The Jewish people did not merely flee Egypt; they took Egypt itself (i.e. its possessions) and “inserted” G‑d’s presence by revealing its holy potential. The revelation was so complete that the Egyptians even gave them things they didn’t ask for! (Rashi, Ex. 12: 36) Even more surprisingly, even when the Jews refused to take some of the wealth, the Egyptians actually forced it upon them! (Berachos 9b)

This would seem difficult to understand: it is the opposite of human nature for one to willingly give away one’s own belongings. In addition, the Egyptians were never even commanded to give their things away; the Jews were commanded to take them!

This is all understood in light of the abovementioned. The Alef — i.e. the presence of G‑d — must be revealed in the golah itself. This was accomplished through eventually bringing the Egyptians to the recognition that this was the ultimate purpose of them having this wealth. Once this was accomplished, they gave over everything willingly.

The second aspect of geulah — that the word geulah is composed of the letters golah — is also evident in the first redemption. How was this elevation and “redemption” of the wealth of Egypt achieved? It came about only through their descent to Egypt, to golah, showing that the geulah was clearly composed of the golah. This serves as a prototype for all other redemptions, in particular the ultimate redemption through Mashiach — all of which show the two dimensions we have discussed.

2. This is not totally understood, however. Granted, the geulah from Egypt accomplished the elevation of exile, of golah. But there were much higher revelations associated with this geulah. The geulah came through the revelation of G‑d Himself “in His Glory and Essence.” Furthermore, the purpose of the geulah was in order that the Torah be given. The Torah itself is higher than the world and preceded it, and was given with a G‑dly revelation which transcends the world. The revelation at Mt. Sinai was therefore much higher than that represented by an Alef, which is G‑d as Creator and Master of the world.

The question is even more striking when we speak of the ultimate redemption through Mashiach. This will be with a revelation that totally transcends the world, together with the revelation of a totally new and superior dimension of Torah, as G‑d said, “A new Torah will come out from Me” (Yeshayahu 11:9). How then can we say that geulah is composed solely of golah with the insertion of an Alef, which just represents the level of G‑dliness which can be revealed within the mundane world?

The explanation of this is that there are several levels of meaning to the letter Alef:

1) Alufo shel olam, which, as discussed previously, refers to G‑dliness revealed within the world.

2) From the expression a’alefchoh chochmah, which refers to Torah, which is higher than the world, but still close enough that it is somewhat related to it, and can be compared with it.

3) The three letters which make up the letter alef (אלף) are alef, lamed, and fei. These same letters can be rearranged to form the word peleh (פלא), or “wonder.” This represents a level of G‑dliness which is completely beyond comparison with the world.

The letter Alef therefore contains three levels or stages in the G‑dly revelation necessary to completely transform galus.

The first stage is to reveal within the world that G‑d is its Master. Since the world itself conceals the G‑dliness within it (the word olam related to helam, concealment), a Jew must serve G‑d in a way that reveals that everything within the world has G‑dliness within it. The second stage is through revealing the dimension of G‑d which transcends the world. This is done primarily through learning Torah, which, as mentioned above, preceded the world not only in time, but in the intensity of G‑dly revelation within it. We then come to the third dimension, that of peleh — the niflaos (wonders) of redemption which totally transcend the creation.

In Chassidic terminology, these three levels correspond to the supernal Sefiros. The first level corresponds to Malchus, as G‑d is “King of the world” (i.e. connected to the world), and to middos in general, since it is through them that G‑d conducts the world. The second level corresponds to mochin (intellect), but the level of mochin which is still connected to middos. The third level of peleh is that of mochin as they are themselves, separate from middos and the world — connected instead above, with the Sefirah of Kesser. This corresponds to the well-known explanation of the difference between our service of G‑d now as compared with the days of Mashiach. During galus, our service is in the purification and elevation of the seven middos (corresponding to the conquer of the seven nations of Canaan), including the level of mochin connected with middos. The service of geulah is that of mochin themselves, corresponding to the additional three lands which will become part of Eretz Yisrael in the days of Mashiach: Keini, Knizi and Kadmoni.

This represents the progression of G‑dly revelation leading to the days of Mashiach: 1) G‑dliness within the world, 2) G‑dliness higher than, but still connected with the world, and 3) the revelation of G‑d’s essence. Our service of G‑d in galus (which consists of bringing the Alef into golah to bring the geulah) must correspond to these three levels. And through this we bring about these kinds of G‑dly revelation alluded to by the letter Alef.

This means that we must reveal the presence of G‑dliness within the world by using all physical objects for a holy purpose — “for the sake of Heaven” (to correspond to the level of G‑dliness within the world). Furthermore, we must bring down and reveal the second level through learning Torah, and reveal the third level of peleh by learning Pnimiyus HaTorah, Chassidus, which corresponds to the level of peleh in Torah.

We can extend this idea further: in addition to the revelation of the level of peleh through the study of Chassidus, it is revealed through the very exile itself. The prophet Yeshayahu said (12:1), “On that day [(of redemption] you will say, ‘I thank you G‑d for having been angry with me.’ ” This verse seems somewhat puzzling. Granted that we will be thankful for G‑d’s nullification of exile — but this expression of appreciation would not really be wholehearted. One would praise G‑d even more completely if there had been no exile to begin with!

In light of the above this can be easily understood. Redemption comes about from and is composed of the very exile itself. We are therefore thanking Him deeply for the exile since we realize that it has brought the highest revelations, including that corresponding to the level of peleh.

3. Since the ultimate redemption will come through Mashiach, it is self-understood that Mashiach will also embody these three levels. This can be seen from the statement of the Rambam (Commentary of the Mishnah, Chelek, Yesod 12) that Mashiach stems from “the house of Dovid and is a descendant of Shlomo.” The connection with Dovid HaMelech is clear, since he is the primary source of monarchy; but why is Shlomo HaMelech relevant here?

The inner reason for this is that the era of Shlomo HaMelech closely resembled the Messianic Age. In the days of Dovid HaMelech, there were wars which made it impossible for him to build the Beis HaMikdash, as G‑d told him, “You have spilt much blood.” The days of Shlomo HaMelech, however, were characterized by world peace reminiscent of the Messianic Age. This is alluded to in his name, which itself means peace (Shalom).

Shlomo HaMelech was able to attain this because of his unsurpassed wisdom (chochmah). This wisdom nullified the unholiness of the non-Jewish nations without the necessity for war, and was so complete that they came by their own accord to bring him gifts, including the sparks of holiness within them — similar to the state of affairs which will exist in the days of Mashiach. And this shows his greatness not only in Chochmah, but in Malchus (kingship), as we see that even after Dovid HaMelech ruled, he faced many challenges. Shlomo HaMelech, however, “Rested on the throne of G‑d,” and experienced, in general, tranquility and peace.

This is the connection with Mashiach, who will fully embody the superior qualities of monarchy (similar to Dovid) and wisdom (like Shlomo). The Rambam actually says that the wisdom of Mashiach will in fact surpass that of Shlomo HaMelech. This will enable him to go beyond the level of Chochmah which is connected with middos and revel the level of peleh. We can see this same point from the fact that Mashiach is both a king and a rav, and will teach the entire Jewish people Torah, including the level of peleh, i.e. Chassidus.

In order for each individual to absorb and internalize these revelations, he must find these three levels within himself and accentuate them. Every Jew actually has a spark of Mashiach within, as can be seen from the prayer said when taking the Sefer Torah out of the Ark on the holidays: “May there be realized in us the verse which says, ‘And there shall rest on him the spirit of the L‑rd....’ ” — a verse which refers to Mashiach. Each individual must actualize and reveal within himself 1) malchus andmiddos, 2) mochin which are connected with middos, and 3) the higher level of mochin.

This is alluded to in the beginning of this week’s chapter in Pirkei Avos, chapter Four. The Mishnah lists four qualities: “Who is wise?...Who is strong?...Who is wealthy?.. Who is honored?...” These correspond to the four general levels of which all ten soul-powers are composed. “Wise” corresponds to Chochmah; “strong” corresponds to Binah; “wealthy” corresponds to Tiferes (which includes all the middos); and “honored” corresponds to Malchus.

Furthermore, these four levels correspond to the four letters of G‑d’s Name, which in turn are contained within the Jewish soul. The Jewish soul is a “portion of G‑d” (chelek Elokah mi’ma’al), the word Elokah being connected with the name Elokim, representing the level of G‑dliness revealed within nature. The soul is also called chelek Havayah [amo], corresponding to the level of G‑dliness which transcends the world. A Jew must also draw down the third level of G‑dliness — that which transcends the world completely, that of peleh — by being even more scrupulous than halachah requires. And by revealing these four levels, we bring about the ultimate monarchy of Mashiach, whose rule is compared to a throne which has four legs. Although a chair will remain upright even with only three legs, the throne is even stronger and more solid with four legs, representing perfection in Malchus.

This idea is yet further emphasized on Shabbos, which corresponds to the Sefirah of Malchus. This is even more striking during Sefiras HaOmer, especially in a year when we begin counting on Sunday, and the Malchus of each week therefore falls on Shabbos. And this week in particular has unique significance, being Malchus she’b’Hod, since hod is connected with the idea of hoda’ah — the level of peleh.

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4. The abovementioned receives yet further stress in the Shabbos immediately following Lag BaOmer, the yahrzeit and festive day of Rashbi. The Rashbi revealed the inner dimension of Torah in written form (the Zohar), and in such a way that it could be clearly understood by those who learn it. He also connected Pnimiyus HaTorah with the revealed part of Torah, similar to unifying the level of peleh (the highest of the three levels) with the second level, that of Torah in general. And through the unification of these two levels he was able to reveal these higher levels of G‑dliness even within the world.

This can be seen from the Talmudic saying (Megillah 29a),Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said, ‘Everywhere the Jews were exiled, the Divine Presence was with them: they were exiled to Bavel and the Divine Presence was with them...’ ” This shows that even within the lowest level of existence — that of exile — the Divine Presence is nevertheless manifest. This is also connected with the fact that Lag BaOmer corresponds to the Sefirah of Hod she’b’Hod. As mentioned above, hoda’ah corresponds to the level of peleh, the reason being that it is an acknowledgement of G‑d which completely transcends natural limitations, even those of intellect. However, even this level is drawn down and into the level of intellect.

And this process has continued through the subsequent generations, notably that of the AriZal, when it became “a mitzvah to reveal this wisdom [of Pnimiyus HaTorah].” It was carried further by subsequent Chassidic leaders, beginning with the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid, and with even greater intensity through the Alter Rebbe. This process continued through the subsequent Rebbeim down to my sainted father-in-law, and increases from year to year — up to these very days with the first-time printing of certain Chassidic discourses from handwritten manuscripts.

As mentioned above, this draws down the level of peleh (which is essentially beyond understanding) to the sphere of understanding. This same idea is expressed in the Alter Rebbe’s explanation of the beginning of chapter 89 in Psalms, Maskil L’Eisan HaEzrachi. Eisan refers to the essence of the soul, which is on the transcendent level of peleh. Maskil refers to the sublime intellectual level which is both higher than understanding, but nevertheless the source of intellect (corresponding to the second level). Ezrachi is related to the word “to illuminate,” i.e. that through the level of maskil, it is possible for the level of Eisan to be revealed in all levels of the soul. And although the complete attainment of this will be in the days of Mashiach, it is still accomplished to a certain extent even now. Furthermore, it gives one the ability to reveal G‑dliness even within the world, as indicated by the last verse of the Psalm, “Blessed is the L‑rd forever (l’olom, literally “to the world”), Amen and Amen.”

From this Psalm we proceed to Psalm 90, “A prayer by Moshe, the man of G‑d,” which also alludes to this same concept. We request, “May the pleasantness of the L‑rd our G‑d (no’am Hashem Elokeinu) be upon us,” again referring to the revelation of a sublime level (no’am Hashem) coming down to our level (“upon us”). This theme continues with the rest of our request, “Establish for us the work of our hands,” which refers to the building of the Third Beis HaMikdash.

This will be hastened through the study of Torah, and of Chassidus in particular. This also includes looking into the face of your Rebbe, which helps one’s understanding, as the Gemara (Eruvin 13b) quotes R. Yehudah HaNasi as saying, “This that my sharpness exceeds that of my colleagues is because I saw R. Meir from the back; and if I would have seen him from the front, I would be even sharper.”

All this will help further purify the world and reveal G‑dliness within it. It must be accompanied by the additional G‑dly service of each particular Jew, by keeping away from evil and, furthermore, doing the utmost to fulfill the oath administered to his soul before birth, “You shall be a tzaddik.” One might object and point out that in Tanya itself it is written that not every individual can necessarily become a tzaddik, and that one doesn’t have complete free choice in this area. However, since the Jew has the essence of G‑d within him, ultimately even this is within his reach. Furthermore, after all the purification, etc. of the Jewish people over the course of time, now every Jew is able to reach the level of tzaddik — similar to the way things will be in the Messianic Age.

All this contains straightforward guidance in what all Jews should be doing to further hasten the redemption — in all three levels alluded to by the letter alef. This means first of all revealing G‑d’s presence in the world through using all worldly objects for a holy purpose, etc. In addition, there must be a special increase in Torah study — and particularly the study of Chassidus — in a way that it should be clearly understood in Chochmah, Binah, and Daas. Included in this is also influencing others to follow suit.

May all this hasten the redemption so that it come immediately, even before we have a chance to remove our “unclean garments”; and only afterwards will we be told to remove them (see Zechariah, 3:3 ff). And then the entire Jewish people will come out of exile together will all the houses of study, shuls and the Torah scrolls within them. This includes the Sefer Torah which was completed this week through the efforts of Jewish women (Bais Rivkah School), and brought to its place in shul with great joy, singing, etc. And may it be G‑d’s will that we all come together to the holy city of Yerushalayim and the Holy Temple Mount with the construction of the Third Beis HaMikdash.