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Emulating the Sun
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Next week, on April 8th, we bless the sun, an event that occurs only once in 28 years. Therefore, it is appropriate to consider some of the lessons we can learn from the sun.

The sun is the primary source of energy for all life on earth. Plants capture energy from sunlight to make their own food, through the process of photosynthesis. Plant matter, in turn, supplies the energy to sustain animal life. Furthermore, the warmth reaching us from the sun allows us to maintain an optimal body temperature necessary for survival. Our planet, earth, is situated at just the right distance from the sun to be able to make use of its life-giving rays without being either burnt up or frozen. Almost all living creatures on earth are dependent on the sun for survival (although there are some, living near deep-sea thermal vents, who make use of other forms of energy and do not need the sun).

I work in the field of solar energy. Once, before I was scheduled to address a conference of Jewish scientists, the Rebbe told me: “You have an important message to communicate. Tell your colleagues that as a scholar of solar energy you encourage every Jew to emulate the sun.

“Why is this star of such great importance? There are larger heavenly bodies, indeed, many that dwarf the sun in size. What is unique about the sun? It provides light and generates heat.

“There are other heavenly phenomena called ‘black holes.’ These are also powerful sources of energy, but in this instance, the energy is directed inward. The ‘black holes’ pull everything, even the energy they emit, to themselves.

“The sun, by contrast, generously gives of itself to the entire planetary system. So, too, a Jew must radiate ahavas Yisrael--love for a fellow Jew. After all, if the sun was only capable of heating its own mass, who would have paid any attention to it?”

The sun, then, is the quintessential mashpia—giver, mentor. Yet, the earth is the ideal mekabel—recipient. The earth alone has the capacity to make use of the energy of the sun, to transform it into a useful form to sustain life. This balance between mashpia and mekabel, giver and recipient, is the foundation of all relationships in existence, including, perhaps especially, the relationship between the Creator and His creations.

When we bless the sun, we acknowledge that despite its seeming might and omnipotence, the sun itself has a source—G-d—and we praise Him for His beneficence in allowing us to make use of the sun’s energy. At the same time, G-d expects of us to make ourselves into suitable mekablim—recipients—by actively using the energy He gives us, to sustain life, both spiritual and physical, and to transform the world into the warm, sunny and G-dly place it is meant to be.

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



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