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Keep Your Head Up
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

If you are unaware of the debt that you owe to your vestibular system, try this experiment, suggested by a recent science article in the New York Times: Hold your finger in front of your eyes and wave it back and forth a few times. You see a blur, right? Now hold your index finger in front of your eyes and shake your head back and forth. This time, your finger stays firmly in focus.

Our ability to keep our gaze focused on a target even as we move about erratically is a gift of the vestibular system, a tiny bony labyrinth within the ear that tracks the motions of the head and relays that information to the brain. The brain uses the information arriving from the vestibular system to adjust the position of the eyes so they can continue to track objects, even while the head is in motion.

*  *  *

Over our nearly two thousand years of exile, we have become very familiar with the sensation of being out of balance, of not being on firm ground. As soon as our ancestors became comfortably settled in one country, the political winds would change. Soon they would be driven out, compelled to start new lives elsewhere. This has repeated itself countless times over the course of our nation’s history.

And yet, somehow, we have retained the ability to keep our gaze firmly fixed on our target. We never lost the sense of who we are and where we are headed. The finger stays in focus.

Our secret has been our adherence to the Torah, as explained and expounded by the Rabbis, under a system known as halachah. Halachah, literally, means “the way.” It is a guide, a pathway through life, clarifying for us where to place our next step, even while the future seems murky and uncertain.

In our generation, we have been fortunate to receive the guidance and wise counsel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson. The Rebbe’s keen perception, together with his unfailing honesty and dedication to the Torah, kept us going through some very turbulent times, as the Jewish community rebuilt itself from the ashes of the Holocaust. Through every crisis, the Rebbe was a voice of calm, reassuring us that the Jewish people will live forever, and the Torah will never be forgotten. Not only this, the Rebbe put words into action, sending out thousands of emissaries throughout the world, to reach out to Jews everywhere, to bolster them, as well.

During these final moments of exile, let us hold on to the Rebbe’s prophecy: “Behold, the time of your Redemption has come.” The Rebbe’s assurance will keep us on firm footing as we complete our mission, to prepare ourselves and the world to greet Moshiach.

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.



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