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Out of Order
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The scientific method is a formal approach to studying natural phenomena. It consists of the orderly progression of observation-hypothesisprediction-experiment. If the experiment bears out the predictions, then the hypothesis is supported. The results are then written up and submitted to a scientific journal for publication. Articles submitted to scientific journals must also conform to a rigid format: An introduction, overview of previous research, description of the methods used in this study, followed by results and conclusion. If the article is accepted for publication, it becomes part of the body of knowledge known as "science."

In truth, though, reality does not always conform exactly to the scientific method. Science just as often progresses through a leap of intuition, a flash of insight. Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of all times came about almost by accident: An experiment did not turn out as expected, but the results sent the scientists looking in a completely different direction. Science has taken some "quantum leaps" in understanding, in which a strikingly new approach emerged, completely unexpected and seemingly unrelated to what came before.

That said, it nevertheless can't be disputed that the orderly approach of the scientific method has been phenomenally successful. The best way is to integrate into the structure and orderliness of the scientific method some room for intuition and just plain "randomness."

The same is true for the concept of Redemption. The Geulah can come in one of two ways. Either it will follow an orderly progression, in which the world will be transformed step by step until eventually reaching the ultimate stage, the Redemption.

According to a second approach, however, the Geulah is not the final stage of a natural progression. Rather, it is a leap into the unknown; a step into a future that is completely and infinitely different from what came before. The G-dly revelation that we will experience is entirely beyond our present grasp. The world will enter a new stage that we cannot even begin to envision within our current reality.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that these two approaches correspond to two stages of Redemption. In the first stage, the world will remain in its natural state, albeit refined and perfected. In the second stage will be a reality that we cannot conceive of using our current tools.

As a preparation for the imminent Redemption, it is appropriate for us to utilize the attributes of both stages. On the one hand we should continue to progress in an orderly manner, in refining ourselves and improving our conduct, step by logical step. On the other hand, we should also "grab on" to any random mitzvah that comes our way, even taking on mitzvot that seem to be beyond our current level. This way we will be prepared for the Redemption, according to both approaches.

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



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