HASHEM has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see, and ears to hear until this day. (Devarim 29:3)
“… HASHEM has not given you a heart to know”: A person cannot fathom the depths of his teacher’s mind or the wisdom of his teachings until after forty years. Therefore, the Omnipresent was not strict with you until this day; but from now on [since today marks forty years for the people of Israel], He will be strict with you; and therefore: “Observe the words of this covenant…” (verse 8). (Rashi)
Can it really mean that a person cannot understand what his Rebbe says until after forty years? Don’t many students do very well and receive consistently high grades? Of course they understand what their Rebbe says? What does it mean that a person does not fathom the depth of his Rebbe’s mind or his teachings until after 40 years?
One of my great teachers, who himself is a huge Talmud scholar, once related to us a special deep thought and appreciation he gained while on a long boat journey from America to Israel in his first year of marriage.
He told us of a quote from Reb Chaim Velozhin ztl., the greatest student of the Vilna Gaon ztl. about his Rebbe. Reb Chaim testifies, “What we have from the writings of the Vilna Gaon (which is a substantial library by itself) is just a drop from the ocean compared to what he really knew- without exaggeration.”
He then told us of an introduction to a Sefer- a book, by Reb Aaron Kotler ztl. and there he quotes this statement of Reb Chaim and emphasizes that, “When Reb Chaim Velozhin says that what he have in the form of the Vilna Gaon’s writing is just a drop from the ocean of what he really knew- without exaggeration, he really means without exaggeration!”
My Rebbe told us that for many weeks he stood gazing out and observing the breadth and depth of the ocean. With miles of water in every direction he imagined three thousand miles and more in this direction or that and in some places it’s six of miles deep. All he could say to himself with great wonderment, while contemplating these basic facts known by all school children is “Without exaggeration!”
The Vilna Gaon once quipped something to the affect that most people who write books, the books they pen are better than them, but Moshe Chaim Luzatto ztl. is much greater than his book the Mesilas Yesharim which a classic, an all-time masterpiece.
It is hard for us to appreciate levels that are beyond our experience. We often profoundly underestimate who are dealing with especially when it is a great person. We see hair and eyes but what we don’t see is more. What we cannot gain access to is what is beyond our grasp. It takes a whole lifetime, some forty years of time discover what’s truly-classic and to graduate from the appreciation course that educates us about the depth of their hidden heights. DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.