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Wednesday, February 28, 2024 - 19 Adar I 5784
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Communication Problem

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is an illness that results from a breakdown in communication between the brain and the muscles. For an inexplicable reason, the motor neurons, which carry signals from the brain to the muscles, stop functioning. The sensory neurons still work, which means that people with ALS can still feel their bodies—they just can’t control them. Neurons have limited ability to repair themselves, meaning that once a neuron is gone, it’s gone for good.

Stem cells are a promising area of research to treat ALS. Unlike nerve cells, stem cells have almost unlimited ability to grow and divide. Producing and then injecting healthy, functioning astrocytes into a patient’s nervous system seems to provide support for damaged motor neurons, slowing the progression of the disease, improving quality of life and even extending survival.

Just as body illness can be caused by breakdown of communication, the same is true of many spiritual illnesses as well. In essence, we are all like cells of a single body. At one point, our souls in heaven were like undifferentiated stem cells, able to grow and develop with almost unlimited potential. But after coming down to earth, we undergo a process of differentiation. We develop differently from each other and forget our common roots. Eventually we drift so far apart that communication becomes impossible. We can’t even talk to each other, let alone coordinate our actions and cooperate with each other to reach common goals.

But imagine if we could recapture some of that infinite potential we were all born with. Imagine if we could go back to a state before differentiation—a state where we were all the same, with no differences and barriers between us.

Stem cell technology is the most promising avenue we have to cure diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. But what about spiritual stem cell technology? We already have the tools in our hands to tap into that “undifferentiated” state that lets us identify completely with each other, feeling each other’s pain and sorrow as our own.

Chapter 32 of Tanya explains that actually, all of us are part of one indivisible soul, and only our bodies are separated. When we give more consideration to our bodies, while treating the soul as secondary, there cannot be true love and unity between us. This is what Hillel meant when he said regarding the fulfillment of the command to “Love your fellow as yourself”—“This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.” The basis of the entire Torah is to raise and exalt the soul above the body, to bring down G-d’s infinite light into this world. This is possible only when there is unity among us, because G-d does not dwell in a place of disunity. All we need to do is remember our common Divine origin and let it take predominance in our lives, and we hold the key for healing all our physical and spiritual ills.



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