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Predisposed to Good
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Researchers at UCLA report that they have discovered a gene implicated in autism. The gene, known as CNTNAP2, is most active in brain regions involved in speech and thought. Dr. Daniel Geschwind, principal investigator in the study, says, “This gene not only may predispose children to autism. It also may influence the development of brain structures involved in language, providing a tangible link between genes, the brain and behavior.”

Knowledge of this gene, which may predispose certain children to develop autism, opens the door for further research and development of more effective treatments for autism.

Just as our genes can leave us predisposed to certain conditions, even if not actually causing them, we can say the same about our good traits. We all have deep reserves of strength within us; however, we need to draw upon these strengths in order for them to surface.

This, perhaps, is what Rabbi Akiva meant in his statement in Ethics of the Fathers: "All is foreseen, but permission is granted." Every one of us is made of a body and soul, which together perform all types of activities. Every choice and action of ours is foreseen by G-d. Does that mean that G-d is controlling our every deed and free will is an illusion? According to Jewish philosophers, G-d grants us free will to either express or suppress our inner nature. We cannot choose our circumstances or our character traits; however, we can choose how to express them to adapt to our circumstances in the best possible manner.

Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher who was also a famous physician, wrote that most diseases come from improper diet. We now know that a healthy lifestyle can prevent many difficulties. Psychologists today argue that by acquiring the right habits one can overcome various maladies, even those with a biological basis.

The day is approaching when the world's potential for good will be revealed. Evil will be eradicated completely, leaving no trace. This state of perfection is the hidden potential which has been concealed in the world since its creation. From the moment G-d brought heaven and earth into being, the Torah says, "The spirit of G-d was hovering over the face of the water." Our sages say that "the spirit of G-d" is actually "the spirit of King Moshiach."

The "positive predisposition" of the world has been waiting for nearly 6,000 years for the force that will put it into effect. This power belongs to King Moshiach. However, he cannot act alone. G-d wants the world to be transformed on its own terms, using its own inherent powers rather than ones imposed from without. Our good deeds, performed within the limitations of nature, are slowly changing the world and preparing it for the revelation of Moshiach.

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



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