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Into the Depths
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Today we have powerful telescopes scanning the far reaches of the cosmos. We know the altitude of every mountain on Mars. Robots dig in its rocky terrain to search for any signs of water, or any evidence that the harsh climate may have once sustained life. Billions of dollars have been sunk into these pursuits. In the meantime, 95% of planet Earth is covered with water, and only a small fraction of the ocean depths have ever been explored. "We simply have no idea what might be found there, under the depths," says Professor Robert Ballard, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island.

One thing is certain--the few expeditions that have explored the ocean floor have yielded a wealth of new scientific knowledge. Hefty deposits of rare minerals, as well as colonies of previously unknown ocean creatures, have been discovered. From these creatures, chemicals can be extracted that could be used to produce new medications or other beneficial compounds.

Ballard recently received a 23 million dollar grant to convert a former navy ship into a research vessel. The ship is equipped with powerful sonar as well as a robotic submarine capable of withstanding the high pressures and strong waves of the ocean depths. The submarine will gather data as well as samples of the mineral and biological treasures of the ocean floor, most of which have never been investigated before. The submarine is also equipped with powerful underwater cameras that will photograph striking images of the undersea world.

The sense of mystery that surrounds the ocean depths is not exclusive to science. Our sages, of blessed memory, describe the sea as "the concealed world." By its very nature, water conceals that which lies beneath it. 

Our sages teach us that everything that exists in this world is a reflection of a spiritual reality and has a parallel in one of two planes: in the upper worlds or in the soul of man. The "concealed world," which corresponds to the ocean bed, is a reflection of the most exalted spiritual world, completely above human understanding. In the soul as well, it refers to the most hidden depths, which the average person cannot bring into the realm of conscious awareness.

Our inner "ocean" consists of limitless spiritual strengths, of which we currently have no conscious knowledge. In the near future, however, these treasures will be revealed to all, with the final and complete Redemption. The prophet Isaiah describes this period as a revelation of infinite G-dly insight, which will encompass all of creation. "And the world will be filled with knowledge of G-d, like water covers the ocean bed" (Isaiah 11:9). 

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



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