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Thursday, May 23, 2024 - 15 Iyyar 5784
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Stopping the Seizure

Epilepsy is a condition that causes sudden brain seizures. During these seizures, the epileptic can experience convulsions or jerking motions of the limbs, and may even lose consciousness. Every year, several thousand patients die during epileptic fits if help does not arrive in time. Prompt recognition and treatment of a seizure can prevent injuries or death. However, in the grip of a seizure, the epileptic is unable to call for help.

What is needed is an early warning system, that will alert caregivers that a seizure is in progress before the patient reaches the point of danger. An Israeli start-up company, BioLert, has developed a device that can recognize the early stages of a seizure and set off an alarm. The sensor, which the patient wears around the wrist or ankle, can detect the unusual jerky pattern that distinguishes a seizure from normal body movements.


What would be nice to have is a sort of spiritual “early warning system.” The Tanya explains that the mind of a person is like a warring city, where two kings, the evil inclination and the good inclination, battle for control. Sometimes the good inclination gains supremacy; other times the evil inclination seizes command.

When we follow the guidance of the good inclination, we experience harmony within ourselves, with one another and with the world at large. Following the evil inclination, on the other hand, leads to a state of disunity and disintegration. Our movements become less fluid, our path in life less assured.

What is the warning system that lets us know that a “seizure” may be underway? Says the Hayom Yom (a collection of daily Chassidic aphorisms, compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe): “The beginning of one’s decline, G-d save us, is the lack of Divine service in prayer. Everything becomes dry and cold. Even a mitzvah performed by habit becomes burdensome. Everything is rushed. One loses the sense of pleasure in Torah study. The atmosphere itself becomes crass.”

Once detected, how do we stop the whole sorry cascade in its tracks? By infusing excitement and joy in our prayers. Not a rote service, but “service of the heart,” in a way that is reinvigorating and rejuvenating.

One of the key themes of our prayer, repeated multiple times throughout the day, is a plea for Redemption. Nothing can better express our yearning, our cry for help, to end the “seizure” and redeem us from our inner exile, immediately.


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