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A Sun and a Shield
The frozen continent did not always boast frigid temperatures. “Antarctica was once warm!” argues Yale Professor of Geology Hagit Affek, in a recent article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists. Her research group examined fossils of rare shells and flowers, indicating that Antarctica was once a forest. They also found fossils of animals that usually live in much warmer climates, such as alligators and large turtles. These findings suggest that Antarctica was once as warm as California is today. Affek has also developed more direct models of estimating the temperatures that prevailed then. They did so by measuring the concentration of various carbon isotopes in fossil shells, which reflects the temperature in which the shells grew.

Now, it’s true that we need to be cautious when extrapolating data for the distant past based on current measurements. It is possible that conditions then could have been so radically different as to render our calculations way off the mark. Nevertheless, Dr. Affek’s studies are fascinating because they indicate that the frozen conditions of today are not immutable. Just as the planet could have been substantially warmer in the distant past, those same conditions can return in the future. One day we can even experience a world in which most of the land mass enjoys balmy temperatures year-round, with conditions ideal to support life.


When Moshiach comes, the Talmud says, G-d will “remove the sun from its shield, and the righteous will be healed by it.” The meaning of the prophecy is twofold, spiritual and physical. In a physical sense, the light that reaches us from the sun must pass through a protective layer, which absorbs some of the sun’s rays so that we are able to receive it.

In the future, the light from the sun will reach us directly, without having to pass through the protective layers. In a spiritual sense, G-d’s radiance as it is reflected to earth is likened to the light of the sun, as the verse states (Psalms 84:12), “For a sun and a shield is Hashem Elokim [the L-rd G-d].” Just as the sun shines through a shield and without the shield we wouldn’t be able to withstand its radiance, so, too, does the spiritual light reaching us from G-d pass through a shield, Elokim. The word Elokim, L-rd, in Hebrew has a numerical value of 86, same as the word Hateva, the natural world. This is the purpose that G-d’s name Elokim serves--it is a shield, filtering out the full intensity of G-d’s light, so the natural world will be able to withstand it.

In the future, G-d will remove the sun from its shield. In other words, He will remove the covering of Elokim and will shine forth directly from the name of Hashem. The tzadikim will benefit from it, since they will be purified enough to withstand this great revelation of light from above.


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