Attaining A Grasp Of Our Teacher’s Knowledge
Sichos in English

 Shabbos Parshas Bo; Yud Shvat, 5750


“And it came to pass in the fortieth year on the eleventh day of the eleventh month...” This year, Yud Shvat marks the fortieth anniversary of the Rebbe Rayatz’s passing, the day when  “all of his deeds, teachings, and service in which he labored throughout his lifetime...are revealed and shine from above to below and...bring about salvation in the midst of the land.”

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

The statements of Moshe Rabbeinu mentioned above were made in the fortieth year after the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah. Then, the Jewish people 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 Yisroel) are of fundamental importance to the Jewish faith. With the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people became G-d’s people. This distinction was reinforced at the giving of the Torah when G-d gave His Torah to the Jewish people. G-d’s intent was that they would study the Torah and fulfill the mitzvos and, in this manner, refine the 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,” enabling them to comprehend in full “the knowledge of the Teacher, G-d Himself.”

The Zohar explains that the fulfillment of the first commandment, to know G-d, contains two dimensions: a) a general awareness of His existence and b) the knowledge of G-dliness in all His particular manifestations.

The wonders of Egypt enabled the Jewish people 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 Jewish people had applied themselves for forty years to the commandments of the Torah as Moshe had taught them, “And you shall know this day and take unto your heart.”

Thus, G-d’s granting “a knowing heart” to the Jewish people 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 Yisroel, where the fulfillment of the mitzvos and the construction of the Beis HaMikdash generated 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.  It 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 Yisroel is of eternal significance.

Thus, when a period of forty years of service is completed, a Jew derives the potential to attain full grasp of his Teacher’s (G-d’s) intention. This is especially so regarding the 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 Yisroel in the Messianic redemption.

This capacity is particularly relevant to the passage of forty years since the histalkus of one of the Chabad Rebbeim. Chabad stresses comprehending the inner dimension of the Torah with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Thus, there is a greater connection to “a knowing heart” and “one’s teacher’s knowledge.”

There are a number of questions raised by “G-d’s granting to you a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear”:

a) Why must these abilities be granted by G-d?

b) What is the significance of mentioning that these abilities are granted “to you”?

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

d) What is the significance of their order?

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” (kai) is somewhat problematic. On the surface, an expression like “comprehends” or “perceives” would seem more appropriate.

b) The word used for “man” here is inish. Chassidus explains that of the different terms used for man in Lashon HaKodesh, inish refers to the lowest of levels, enosh, 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.

The intent of the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Torah is the establishment of a dwelling for G-d in the 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, and 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 world.

This explanation relates to the teaching of the Mitteler Rebbe that in prayer, there are two levels of meditation, a general meditation – “Know before Whom you stand” — and a particular meditation of the meaning of the prayers.

The general meditation has the advantage of relating 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 close to G-d even when, in truth, he is distant. In contrast, a person who develops a particular conception of the matter will not deceive himself in this manner. Understanding the details will lead him to a deeper understanding of the whole. The general understanding, however, is beneficial because it gives direction to the particular meditation that follows.

This concept can be compared to the two levels of the knowledge of G-d described above. 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.

Similarly, the knowing heart granted after forty years is the internalization of the revelation of the giving of the Torah. Therefore it, like the revelation itself, relates to the following two ideas: a) the revelation of the name Havaya, which transcends the world, and b) the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people in this world. From the giving of the Torah onward, “the Torah is not in the heavens.” Indeed, the Jewish people have a certain measure of dominion over the Torah.

These two dimensions are associated with the level of fulfillment achieved by the Jewish people in the fortieth year. Therefore, the verse which describes the Jewish people’s 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,” indicating that it will be internalized within the Jewish people.

In this manner, the Jewish people will be able to reach a complete level of comprehension. Not only the general knowledge which comes about through the revelation from above, but also the appreciation of all the particulars that come 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 that see, and ears that hear,” which refer to our three intellectual powers. “Knowing” refers to the power of daas (knowledge). “That see” refers to the power of chochma (wisdom), the mind’s eye. And “that hear” refers to the power of bina (understanding), the potential to internalize ideas.

These intellectual processes affect the heart, causing an emotional response affecting the levels 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 basis for his efforts is “his teacher’s knowledge.”

To emphasize how this changes one’s entire being, our Sages use the expression, “kai inish” (a man attains). “Kai” literally means stands. This term implies that the activity is not only intellectual, but lifts up one’s whole being. The term inish, referring to the lowest rung of humanity, indicates that 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 teacher’s comprehension of the concept, not the way he communicates it to his students. The Jewish people attained “[full grasp] of their teacher’s (G-d’s) knowledge” after forty years in the desert. This implies that the Jewish people were able to perceive the G-dliness associated with the creation of the world, and the transcendent aspects of G-dliness above creation. This revelation was invested in the Torah, which is “G-d’s wisdom,” and “He and His wisdom are one.” Although this level was given to the Jewish people 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 themselves.

This achievement fulfilled the intent of the giving of the Torah: the establishment of unity between the world and G-d. Through the knowledge of the Torah, a perfect unity is established between a Jew and G-d raising the Jew’s whole 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 Rambam’s Mishneh Torah. Mishneh Torah begins with the following passage: “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)

Rambam describes 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). However, he does not confine himself to a description of the knowledge of G-d as He is manifest in creation; 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, regarding the Creator, may He be 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 the ocean bed.”

It is difficult to ascribe man’s potential to comprehend these dimensions of G-dliness to the Rambam’s statements, since the Rambam writes: “The truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought, as 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 power of a living man...to comprehend this matter in its entirety.” (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:9-10)

Based on these statements, it is difficult to understand the Rambam’s perspective, how one can “attain [full grasp] of his Teacher’s (G-d’s) knowledge.” Although he negates the possibility of comprehending G-d as He exists for Himself, he, nevertheless, gives a description of G-d’s knowledge (as quoted above). Plus, he writes these words in a text written “for the limited and for the great.”

The Raavad objects to the Rambam’s statements about the knowledge of  G-d. In Hilchos Teshuva 5:5, the Rambam attempts to resolve the apparent contradiction between Divine omniscience and free choice by concluding, “We have no power to know how the Holy One, blessed be He, knows, ” yet the Raavad objects to the Rambam’s statements: “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.”

The Rambam is not telling us that there is a dimension we can understand and deeper truth that we cannot. Rather, he is teaching how through faith, a person can lift his knowledge to a level that transcends the potential of human understanding. Faith does not have to remain a potential, that 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.

When a Jew’s faith permeates his entire being, he has the potential to “attain [full grasp] of his Teacher’s knowledge,” to comprehend the dimension of G-d’s knowledge that transcends the limits of human ability. Our capacity for such comprehension stems from two factors: a) G-d’s willingness to invest Himself in the attribute of knowledge, from which is derived our capacity for knowledge, and b) the internalization of our power of faith, which 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, the Jewish people elevated themselves level after level until, after the forty years, they were complete. G-d granted them, “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear,” 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 ability, it had to be granted from G-d.

The relationship between the giving of the Torah and the “knowing heart...” received after the forty years in the desert can be explained on the basis of the exegetical rule, “a general principle that 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 Jewish people’s forty years of service, came specifications, particular steps upward through the Jewish people’s efforts. After forty years, when this service of specifications was completed, “a man attains [full grasp] of his teacher’s knowledge.” That is, the specific knowledge becomes united with the all-encompassing revelation, elevating all the specific aspects of knowledge and service of these forty years.

There is a parallel to this sequence 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 carry out the particulars of service throughout the day.

We begin our prayer with a general statement, “Modeh Ani,” an acknowledge­ ment that G-d grants 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 in the context of the forty years since the Rebbe Rayatz’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 height can be achieved by studying the Rebbe Rayatz’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,” also investing themselves in their teachings. The Rebbe Rashab remarked before his passing, “I am going to Heaven, but I am leaving you my writings.”

The above is particularly relevant since our generation is the final generation of exile and the Jewish people have already accomplished the refinement of all the particular sparks of G-dliness invested in the world. In the previous generations, this service of refinement had not been completed. 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 “the Shabbos blesses all the days of the coming week,” the above concepts are associated with this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Bo. This portion describes the Jewish people’s exodus from Egypt, “On this very day, all the armies of G-d (Tzivos Hashem) left the land of Egypt.”

The key to the Jewish people’s 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.

When this bittul that transcends intellect permeates 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 maamer connected with the Rebbe Rayatz’s passing, “Basi L’Gani,” the Rebbe Rayatz explains how the king squanders all the treasures of the kingdom on behalf of the common soldiers, for they are the ones who actively carry out the war.

Thus, when the Jewish people 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.”

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.” 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 Yisroel in the Messianic redemption.

3. On the basis of the above, we can answer those who have asked: What service is required at present in the fortieth year after the Rebbe Rayatz’s passing?

This service must involve making a new manifestation – within ourselves and within our surrounding environment – which stands on a new foundation, the “full grasp of our teacher’s knowledge.” All the activities the Rebbe Rayatz 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 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 being based on the Rebbe Rayatz’s approach. Although this is a declaration of a general nature, surely, after consideration, each individual will appreciate the particular activities that he should carry out as a new being 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, 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 Nigla and in Chassidus, and in particular, of the teachings of the Rebbe Rayatz. Similarly, it is appropriate that on the day of Yud Shvat itself, increases be made in the areas of Torah study, prayer, and deeds of kindness. Of the latter, 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.


Through “attaining [full grasp] of our teacher’s knowledge,” we are preparing to enter Eretz Yisroel in the Messianic redemption.



A complete service of faith permeates our powers of understanding and elevates them, taking them beyond their limits.




A Nasi of the Jewish people does not abandon his flock.





We have elevated all the sparks of G-dliness within the world and are ready to proceed to the ultimate and complete redemption.


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