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by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The human body is inhabited by over 2,000 species of bacteria, although only a hundred or so of these are pathogenic, able to cause disease. These tiny, simple organisms are capable of wreaking havoc in the human body, trillions of times their size.

The pathogenic bacteria are extremely crafty and resourceful in mounting their attacks on their human host. They are able to invade the body’s cells and turn the cell-to-cell communication system to their own advantage. They can produce proteins that mimic the body’s own signaling proteins, which stimulate the cells to produce materials needed for the growth of the bacteria. Other bacteria kill off the body’s normal flora, the useful bacteria that flourish in the body, so as not to get in their way.

The challenge for bacteriologists today is to discover new strategies to uproot harmful bacteria. The antibiotics which have been in use for the past half-century are no longer very effective. A new class of drugs is being developed that use the bacteria’s own weapons against itself.

Just like in the physical world, in the spiritual world too we have our internal enemies. The powers of impurity are minute in relation to the stature of the Jewish soul. Nevertheless, these puny forces can wreak havoc with the soul’s ability to express itself here on earth.

Like the bacteria, which cannot survive or flourish outside its human host, the forces of impurity likewise have no life force of their own. Impurity has no independent existence beyond what it can draw from holiness. Therefore, the way to fight off these forces are similar to the method of fighting bacterial infection.

There was a time when antibiotics were the answer to a wide range of ailments. However, the bacteria have developed resistance to our most powerful drugs. In a spiritual sense too, the teachings of Mussar used to be a potent tool against impurity. The study of Mussar focused on the lowliness of the human character and how it could be elevated. However, as people progressed these teachings were no longer effective. Something more powerful was needed to truly inspire people not just to overcome their negative traits but to fill their lives with meaning and purpose.

The solution is found in the teachings of Chassidut. These teachings light up the soul from within and emphasize our essential goodness and inviolable connection with G-d. In the face of this connection, the powers of impurity simply melt away, as they have no true existence of their own. The revelation of the inner soul breaks the illusion of ego, of self-centeredness, which impurity depends on. The end result will be the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Evil will dissipate completely like smoke.”

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



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