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No Threat
About 20% of Americans suffer from either asthma or allergies. Both conditions share a common cause. The immune system overreacts to a harmless substance in the environment, causing swelling in the nasal passages and respiratory system, leading to sneezing, runny nose, coughing or wheezing.

One theory to explain the recent rise in prevalence of allergic diseases is the “hygiene hypothesis.” in previous times, when people lived close to nature, without modern sanitation, the immune system was kept busy fighting off genuine threats, such as dangerous viruses and bacteria. In developed countries, our immune system is exposed to fewer dangerous pathogens, and having “nothing better to do,” it attacks otherwise harmless substances such as pollen, ragweed and animal dander.

One of the prevailing treatments for asthma and allergy is immunotherapy – exposing the patient to very low levels of the offending substance, until the body learns that it is not a threat.

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As the obvious evils of the world became eradicated, what was left was the more “refined” evil – the kelipat noga, similar to the adherent peel encasing a fruit. The peel must be removed and discarded before the fruit can be eaten, yet it is not harmful or dangerous. It serves a useful purpose.

In previous generations, physicality was believed to be a threat to one’s divine service. There were people known as perushim, or ascetics, who engaged in various forms of self-mutilation to break the physical body and allow the soul to roam free. However, the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, put a stop to such practices. He taught that it was forbidden to abuse the body, and in fact, it is our task to elevate and refine the body – to make it holy.

The key is to recognize that the physical body is not foreign – it is not a threat to our divine service. The ultimate goal is to make this world into a dwelling place for the divine – and we can do that only by accepting the physical world as it is, and finding the spark of holiness in it. G-d creates and sustains everything in this world at every moment. There are certain substances that are completely unholy and can never be used for a mitzvah of any sort. Those must be avoided at all costs. But the rest falls into the category of kelipat nogah, which is there for us to use, to enjoy and to elevate to holiness.

At this time, we have already completed the process of elevating the physical. The world is physically ready to receive the Divine revelation. What is holding us back? All we need to do is open our eyes, remove the fears and internal barriers, and we will finally experience the true and complete Redemption.
 

 


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