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Ocean Depths
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

According to recent estimates, only 5% of the ocean has ever been explored, and the exploration has been limited to the uppermost 30 meters. The deepest ever reached by a human was 10.9 kilometers, fifty years ago. Since that time, no divers have explored the ocean depths. The intense pressures at the ocean floor--over a ton per cubic centimeter--prohibit further investigation.

The ocean depths contain within them geothermal openings with a wealth of rare minerals, gas and oil, as well as exotic microorganisms. The bacteria that flourish at the ocean depths survive by means of rare proteins that are a treasure trove for pharmacologists. Yet, despite the great promise of the undersea world, the great pressures at the ocean bed discourage researchers from descending.

Today, there are only five submarines in existence that are capable of descending to a depth of 4,500 meters. (The record goes to a Japanese sub, the Shinka, which descended to an astonishing 6,400 meters and back.) To put this into perspective, imagine trying to explore an entire continent, five times larger than all the known continents put together, using only five Jeeps!

As of today--despite the development of new lightweight titanium alloys that can withstand greater pressures, and new batteries that likewise weigh less and provide twice the power, no new breakthrough seems likely. The United States government granted $17.6 billion this year on NASA to explore outer space--but only $300 million to explore the oceans, despite the great promise lying at the ocean depths.

It is difficult to understand the logic behind these decisions, especially in a capitalistic country where the "bottom line" rules. However, according to Jewish tradition, the sea is referred to as "the hidden world." The waters of the ocean conceal the great treasures that lie beneath it.

Similarly, our soul has layers of depth of which we are usually unaware. We prefer to remain with the conscious, superficial, rational levels of the soul. It is risky to explore the vast ocean of the subconscious--nobody wants to surrender control of their conscious mind to that extent. And thus, most of us live our lives floating above the waters, ignoring the world beneath.

But beneath the ocean of the subconscious is a great light--G-dliness--which lies at the core of each one of us. And unlike exploring the oceans, each of us can access our personal depth, through studying the deepest teachings of Torah. The teachings of Chassidut, in particular, show us the path to achieve greater self-knowledge and knowledge of G-dliness. These teachings supply us with the oxygen and resistance to pressure that allow us to survive and thrive at those risky depths. And they lead us directly to the world that we will experience with our fleshly eyes, with the true and complete Redemption.

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



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