1. “And it came to pass in the fortieth year on the eleventh day of the eleventh month...” This year, Yud Shevat marks the fortieth anniversary of the Previous Rebbe’s passing, the day when:

All of his deeds, teachings, and service on which he labored throughout his lifetime... is revealed and shines from above to below and... “brings about salvation in the midst of the land.”

Our Sages associate the significance of forty years with Moshe telling the Jews that G‑d grants them at that time, “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear.” Similarly, our Sages state, “After forty years, a man attains [full grasp of] one’s teacher’s knowledge.” Thus, at present, we are given the potential to comprehend the inner intent and the essence of the Previous Rebbe’s service. This, in turn, should bring about a new era in the comprehension of his teachings and the fulfillment of his directives.

The statements of Moshe mentioned above were made in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. Then, the Jews were given the potential to comprehend, “all that the L‑rd did in the land of Egypt... the great wonders... and profound miracles.”

The exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah (and subsequently, the entry into Eretz Yisrael) are of fundamental importance to the Jewish faith. With the exodus from Egypt, the Jews became G‑d’s people. This distinction was reinforced at the giving of the Torah when G‑d gave His Torah to the Jews within the context of this material world. His intent was that they would study the Torah and fulfill the mitzvos and, in this manner, refine this world and transform it into a dwelling for G‑d.

The full potential for this service was granted in the fortieth year when G‑d granted the people, “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear,” thus, enabling them to comprehend in full, “the knowledge of the Teacher, G‑d, Himself.”

The Zohar explains that the fulfillment of the first commandment, the knowledge of G‑d, contains two dimensions: a) a general awareness of His existence and b) the knowledge of G‑dliness as He is manifest in all His particular dimensions.

The wonders of Egypt enabled the Jews to attain an initial awareness of G‑d as the verse states, “And I will take you to Me as a people... and you will know that I am the L‑rd, your G‑d.” This was intensified at the giving of the Torah when, “You have been shown to know that the L‑rd is G‑d.”

The completion of this service of knowledge, the comprehension of the particular dimensions of G‑dliness, came in the fortieth year, as the Zohar continues:

The Jews had applied themselves for forty years to the commandments of the Torah as Moshe had taught them.... This was the instruction in a particular manner as it is written, “And you shall know this day and take unto your heart.”

Thus, G‑d’s granting “a knowing heart...” to the Jews in the fortieth year represents the completion of the service associated with the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. This prepared them to enter Eretz Yisrael where the fulfillment of the mitzvos and the construction of the Bais HaMikdash, generates the potential to realize the intent of the giving of the Torah, to transform the world into a dwelling for G‑d.

This sequence of events is more than a historical chronicle, but rather, provides a lesson for us at all times. We recall the exodus from Egypt twice each day, emphasizing how each person must consider it as if he left Egypt himself. Similarly, when we bless G‑d as “the Giver of the Torah,” we use the present tense, implying that the giving of the Torah is always relevant. Similarly, G‑d’s granting a “knowing heart...” in preparation for the entry into Eretz Yisrael is of eternal significance.

Thus, when a period of forty years of service1 is completed, a Jew derives the potential to attain full grasp of his Teacher’s (G‑d’s) intention.2 Greater emphasis on the above comes at present time since, according to all signs, ours is the last generation of exile and, through “attaining [full grasp] of our teacher’s knowledge,” we are preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael in the Messianic redemption.

In particular, the above is relevant in regard to the passage of forty years since the passing of one of the Chabad Rebbeim. Chabad places a stress on comprehension of the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah using the faculties of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Thus, there is a greater connection to “a knowing heart,” and “one’s teacher’s knowledge.”

The above concepts can be understood in greater depth through a more particular examination of the two quotes mentioned above. There are a number of questions raised by G‑d’s granting of, “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear:”

a) Why must these potentials be granted by G‑d?

b) The verse states that these potentials are granted “to you.” What is the significance of that addition?

c) What do the three concepts “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear” allude to?

d) What is the significance to the order in which they are stated in the verse?

Similarly, our Sages’ statement, “After forty years, a man attains [full grasp of] one’s teacher’s knowledge,” provokes certain questions:

a) The expression “attains,” קאי is somewhat problematic. On the surface, an expression like “comprehends” or “perceives” would seem more appropriate.

b) The Hebrew word used for “man” is Inish. Chassidic thought explains that of the different terms used for man in Lashon HaKodesh, Enosh refers to the lowest of levels, a weak person who cannot master his nature. Therefore, it appears inappropriate when speaking about a person who “attains [full grasp] of his teacher’s knowledge” to use the word Inish.

These questions can be resolved within the context of the concepts mentioned above. The intent of the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah is the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d in this world. When a Jew unites with G‑d through studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvos, he can establish a dwelling for Him. There are two dimensions to these efforts:

a) the revelation of G‑dliness from above;

b) the manner in which it will be received and accepted within the world.

Thus, the general awareness of G‑dliness established through the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah is a reflection of the revelation of G‑dliness from above, while the deeper, particular understanding achieved after forty years reflects the internalization within the context of the world.

This relates to the teachings of the Mitteler Rebbe who explains that in prayer, there are two levels of meditation: a general meditation, “Know before Whom you stand,” and a particular meditation, connected with the meaning of the individual prayers one is reciting.

The general meditation has an advantage in that one relates to the essence of the G‑dly light. In contrast, the particular meditation brings the matter closer to the individual person. The general meditation can cause a person to deceive himself into thinking that he is very close to G‑d even when, in truth, he is very distant. In contrast, a person who develops a particular conception of the matter will not deceive himself in this manner. Indeed, the comprehension of the particulars will lead him to a deeper and more inclusive understanding of the whole. The general understanding, however, is beneficial because it gives direction to the particular meditation that follows.

This concept can be related to the two levels of the knowledge of G‑d described previously. The general meditation parallels the knowledge of G‑d achieved through the exodus from Egypt, the revelation from above, while the particular meditation is associated with the internalized knowledge achieved after the forty years in the desert.3

The above concepts can be explained within the context of the two quotes, “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear,” and “After forty years, a man attains [full grasp of] one’s teacher’s knowledge,” mentioned above. Since the “knowing heart” that is granted after the forty years is associated with internalizing the revelation of the giving of the Torah, it follows that it, like that revelation itself, relates to the following two dimensions: a) the revelation of the name Y‑H‑V‑H which transcends the world. [The world was created through the medium of the name E‑lohim. At the giving of the Torah, a higher level of G‑dliness, the name, Y‑H‑V‑H, was revealed.] b) the Torah was given to the Jews in this world. From the giving of the Torah onward, “the Torah is not in the heavens.” Indeed, the Jews have a certain measure of dominion over the Torah.4

Similarly, these two dimensions are associated with the level of fulfillment achieved by the Jews in the fortieth year. Therefore, the verse which describes the Jews’ attainment of “a knowing heart...” relates that it is being “given by the L‑rd,” emphasizing the aspect of revelation from above and that the revelation is being granted “to you,” i.e., indicating that it will be internalized within the Jews.

In this manner, the Jews will be able to reach a complete level of comprehension, not only the general knowledge which comes about through the revelation from above,5 but also the appreciation of all the particulars that comes about through a person’s use of his own intellectual capacities. The full use of our intellectual potential is alluded to by the three expressions: “a knowing heart, eyes to see, and ears to hear,” which refer to our three intellectual powers. “Knowing” refers to the power of Daas (“knowledge”). “That see” refers to the power of Chochmah (“wisdom”), the “eye of the mind” and “that hear” refers to the power of Binah (“understanding”) the potential to internalize ideas.

These intellectual peaks affect “the heart,” and bring about an emotional response which, in turn, brings about change on the level of thought, speech, and action. This gives us the potential to “attain [full grasp of] our teacher’s knowledge.”

The latter expression implies that a person renews his entire being and bases his activity on a new foundation. He no longer acts within the context of his own limited existence, the base for his efforts is “his teacher’s knowledge.”

To emphasize how this changes his entire being, our Sages use the expression קאי איניש rendered as “a man attains.” קאי literally means “stands.” Employing this term implies that the activity is not only intellectual, but lifts up the totality of one’s being. The term inish which, as explained above, refers to the lowest rung of humanity, indicates how even the most underdeveloped parts of our being will be raised to the level of “the teacher’s knowledge.”

Furthermore, “his teacher’s knowledge,” refers to the manner in which the teacher comprehends the concept for himself, not the way he communicates it to his students. To express this idea in terms of the Jews’ attaining “[full grasp] of their teacher’s (G‑d’s) knowledge” after forty years in the desert, this implies that they were able to perceive, not only the aspects of G‑dliness associated with the creation of the world, but rather the transcendent aspects of G‑dliness which are above creation. These aspects of G‑dliness were enclothed in the Torah which is “G‑d’s wisdom” and “He and His wisdom are one.” Though this level was given to the Jews when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai, it was not until forty years later that they “attained full grasp of their Teacher’s knowledge” and were able to internalize this potential and make it part of their beings.

In doing so, this fulfilled the intent of the giving of the Torah, the establishment of unity between the world and G‑d. This can be achieved through the knowledge of the Torah when “a perfect unity” is established between a Jew and G‑d which raises up the totality of the Jew’s being (even the lowest elements, Inish, as above) to “one’s teacher’s knowledge.”

These two levels of knowledge of G‑d: knowledge of Him as Creator and knowledge of Him as He transcends the creation and is manifest in Torah are reflected in the Rambam’s statements in the Mishneh Torah. He begins that text by stating:

The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:1)

He continues describing a number of principles relating to G‑d as Creator in order to give us the potential to “recognize He who spoke, and [thus,] brought the world into being” (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:2).

The Rambam, however, does not confine himself to a description of the knowledge of G‑d as He is manifest in creation. Rather, he also describes how:

The Holy One, blessed be He, recognizes His truth and knows it as it is. He does not know with a knowledge which is external to Him... Rather, the Creator, may He blessed, He, His knowledge, and His life, are all one... He is the Knower, He is the subject of knowledge, and He is the knowledge itself. (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:10)

This knowledge will ultimately be attained by the Jewish people as well as the Rambam states in the conclusion of this text:

The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. Therefore, Israel will be great sages and know hidden matters, attaining knowledge of their Creator to the [full] extent of human potential as it is stated, “And the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters fill up the ocean bed.”

There is some difficulty, however, in ascribing man’s potential to comprehend these dimensions of G‑dliness to the Rambam’s statements. The Rambam writes:

The truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought. This is implied by the verse, “Can you find the comprehension of G‑d? Can you find the ultimate of the Almighty?”...

It is not within the potential of a living man... to comprehend this matter in its entirety. (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:9-10)6

Based on these statements, it is difficult to understand how one can “attain [full grasp] of his Teacher’s (G‑d’s) knowledge.” Furthermore, the Rambam’s perspective, itself, is difficult to comprehend. Though, as quoted, he negates the possibility for us to comprehend G‑d as He exists for Himself, he, himself, gives a description of G‑d’s knowledge (as quoted previously). Furthermore, he includes that description in a text which is written “for the limited and for the great.”

This difficulty can be resolved within the context of the objections the Raavad has raised to the Rambam’s statements about the knowledge of G‑d. In Hilchos Teshuvah 5:5, the Rambam concludes his attempt to resolve the apparent contradiction between Divine omniscience and free choice by stating, “We have no power to know how the Holy One, blessed be He, knows.” The Raavad objects to the Rambam’s statements, stating:

He began by asking questions, but ultimately left them unanswered and returned the matter to a question of faith. [If so,] it would have been better for him to have [initially] left the matter to be accepted with simple belief.

In resolution of these objections, we must conclude that the Rambam is not telling us that there is a certain dimension we can understand and afterwards, deeper truth that cannot be comprehended by human intellect. Rather, he is teaching how through faith, a person can lift his knowledge to a level which transcends the potential of human powers of understanding. Faith does not have to remain a potential which is in essence above the person. On the contrary, a complete service of faith permeates our powers of understanding and elevates them, taking them beyond their limits.7

When a Jew’s faith permeates through the totality of his being in this manner, he has the potential to “attain [full grasp] of his Teacher’s knowledge,” to comprehend the dimension of G‑d’s knowledge which transcends the limits of human potential. Our capacity for such comprehension thus, stems from two factors: a) G‑d’s willingness to enclothe Himself in the attribute of knowledge. From that knowledge, comes into being our potential of knowledge. b) The internalization of our power of faith. This gives us the potential to unite with G‑d’s knowledge.

Thus, at the giving of the Torah, the Jewish people were at the level where their understanding of G‑d related only to the dimension of G‑dliness manifest in the creation. During the forty years in the desert, they elevated themselves level after level until after the forty years were completed, G‑d granted them, “a knowing heart,8 eyes that see, and ears that hear,”9 powers that allow them “to attain [full grasp] of their Teacher’s knowledge,” i.e., to comprehend G‑d’s knowledge. Since this potential transcends the limits of human potential, it had to be granted from G‑d.

Based on the above, we can explain the relationship between the giving of the Torah and the “knowing heart...” received after the forty years in the desert on the basis of the Talmudic structure, “a general principle which is followed by a specification and then again, by a general principle.”

The giving of the Torah is an all-encompassing generality, for it was given by G‑d who is all-encompassing. Afterwards, during the Jews’ forty years of service, came “specifications,” particular steps upward through the Jews’ efforts. After forty years, when this service of “specifications” was completed, “a man attains [full grasp] of his teacher’s knowledge.” The specific knowledge becomes united with the all-encompassing revelation, elevating all the specific aspects of knowledge and service which transpired in these forty years.

[This line of thinking can be extended and related to other Talmudic structures. The principle of “from a general principle to specifications,” can be related to the process in which G‑d enclothes Himself (the “general principle”) into the intellectual framework of Torah (“specifications”)10 in order for man to proceed “from specifications (limited human knowledge) to a general principle (the knowledge of the Teacher).”11 ]

A parallel to this sequence can be seen in our daily service. We begin the day with prayer, a general statement of awareness that we stand before G‑d, King of kings. Afterwards, we proceed to the various particular elements of service which we carry out throughout the day.

More particularly, within the service of prayer itself, we begin with a general statement, Modeh Ani, an acknowledge­ment of G‑d’s granting us our souls. Afterwards, the different blessings and prayers we recite bring out particular dimensions of our connection with Him. At the conclusion of the prayer service, we again make a general statement, Ach Tzaddikim, which relates that “the upright will dwell in Your presence.” G‑d’s presence refers to His essence, the fundamental point of His being which includes all existence. Since this general statement follows all the particular elements of the prayer service, it represents a higher level than our original statement.

To explain the above concepts within the context of the forty years since the Previous Rebbe’s passing: A Nasi of the Jewish people does not abandon his flock. Rather, each Jew is given the potential to “attain [full grasp] of his teacher’s knowledge,” to lift his entire existence up to the level where it is controlled by “the knowledge of the teacher.”

This can be achieved by studying the Previous Rebbe’s teachings. In regard to the giving of the Torah, our Sages explain that the word Anochi, the opening word of the Ten Commandments, is an acronym for the Hebrew phrase meaning, “I wrote down and gave over Myself,” revealing how G‑d invested Himself in the Torah. “The righteous resemble their Creator,” and thus, they too, invest themselves in their teachings. Thus, the Rebbe Rashab remarked before his passing, “I am going to heaven, but I am leaving you my writings.”12

The above is particularly relevant since our generation is the final generations of exile and the Jewish people have already accomplished the refinement of all the particular sparks of G‑dliness invested within the world. In the previous generations, this service of refinement had not been completed.13 At present, however, we have elevated all the sparks of G‑dliness within the world and are ready to proceed to the ultimate and complete redemption.

* * *

2. Since “from the Shabbos are blessed all the days of the coming week,” it follows that the above concepts are associated with this week’s Torah portion, parshas Bo. This portion describes the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, “On this very day, all the armies of G‑d (Tzivos Hashem) left the land of Egypt.”

The key to the Jews’ departure from Egypt is their identification as “armies of G‑d.” A soldier stands in absolute self-nullification, giving himself over beyond the reaches of his intellect. Even when he sleeps, one can appreciate that he is a soldier.14

When this bittul which transcends intellect permeates through and encompasses one’s entire being — as explained above in regard to faith — a connection is established with G‑d’s essence. “The simple commitment of a common person is connected with G‑d’s transcendent simplicity.” Thus, in the maamar connected with the Previous Rebbe’s passing, Basi LeGani, the Previous Rebbe explains how the king squanders all the treasures of the kingdom on behalf of the common soldiers for they are the ones who are actively involved in carrying out the war.

Thus, when the Jews were identified as “the armies of G‑d,” “the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed Himself to them in His glory and redeemed them.” Afterwards, for forty years, they internalized this service of bittul until they “attained [full grasp] of the Teacher’s knowledge” as explained above.

The Messianic redemption will reflect the redemption from Egypt as the prophet declares, “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” Thus, after the conclusion of this forty year period, the potential is granted for us to “attain [full grasp] of the teacher’s knowledge” and enter Eretz Yisrael in the Messianic redemption.

3. On the basis of the above, an answer can be given to the many who have asked: What service is required at present in the fortieth year after the Previous Rebbe’s passing?

This service must involve making a new entity — within ourselves and within our surrounding environment — which stands on a new foundation, the “full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge.” All the activities which the Previous Rebbe demanded of us: the study of Torah with diligence, fulfilling mitzvos b’hiddur, and, in particular, spreading the wellsprings of Chassidus outward, must be carried out with renewed energy, based on a new perspective. We must begin looking at things, not from our limited perspective, but from the perspective of “the full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge,” i.e., viewing things as the Previous Rebbe would have viewed them.

This means that it is not sufficient to add merely an additional aspect of service — or even to add a new general body of service. What is required is to establish ourselves as an entirely new entity based on the Previous Rebbe’s approach. Though this is a declaration of a general nature, surely, after consideration of the matter, each individual will appreciate the particular activities that he should carry out as a new entity based on “the full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge.”

Our Sages stated, “A person must say, ‘The world was created for me.”‘ This implies that, in addition to the personal renewal experienced by each individual, there must be new activities in the world at large. Efforts must be made to establish new institutions for Torah study, prayer, and deeds of kindness which are permeated by the spirit of Chassidus. In places where an institution of this nature already exists, efforts must be made to open at least one more institution and, in places where, as of yet, no such institutions exist, to establish one — preferably more — institutions of this nature.

Since everything in the world begins with Torah, it is proper that effort be made to publish new collections of Torah in both Nigleh and in Chassidus, and in particular, in the teachings of the Previous Rebbe. Similarly, it is appropriate that on the day of Yud Shevat itself, increases be made in the areas of Torah study, prayer, and deeds of kindness. In the latter area, donations to charity should be made in multiples of forty.

May these activities bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Those who lie in the dust will arise and sing,” with the coming of the Messianic redemption. May it be in the immediate future.