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by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

"If you can't explain it to your grandmother, that shows that you don't really understand it." This quote, attributed to one of the foremost scientists of the twentieth century, Dr. Albert Einstein, expresses a new approach towards classical science. Until that point, academia was referred to as the "ivory tower," inaccessible to all but the most intellectual. However, Einstein and his colleagues ushered in an era in which scientific knowledge was popularized and made into the domain of the layman.

Today we are witness to the overwhelming and, by and large, successful efforts of scientists to make their theories, even the most complex, easily understood by a lay audience. Reams of books have been published on the most esoteric discoveries of physics and biochemistry, all in terms that can be readily absorbed by those lacking a scientific background. The closer connection between scientists and the populace also advances the cause of science. An educated population understands the importance of funding scientific research and will allow tax dollars to be dedicated to this purpose.

One thing that greatly advanced the popularization of science was the internet. However, the internet is only the vehicle through which the swelling interest in science can be satisfied. This process, of ever-greater access to information, has been building for over four hundred years, and reached its peak within the last century, or even the last decade.

The scientific revolution began in parallel with another revolution, this one in a spiritual realm. Three hundred years ago, the "windows of heaven" and the "wellsprings of the deep" opened up. The windows of heaven refer to the revelations of the inner teachings of Torah, taught first by the Baal Shem Tov and then by his followers. They expounded on mysteries of the Torah that until their time had been hidden away and taught only to the most elite scholars. The Baal Shem Tov was the first to receive a signal from above that the time had come to disseminate these teachings to the broad public, to pave the way for the coming of Moshiach. At the same time, the world also witnessed an outpouring of the "wellsprings of the deep"--revelations of the mysteries of nature and creation. These discoveries have allowed us to live a life of unsurpassed ease and luxury, further paving the way for the Redemption.

These two types of revelation work hand-in-hand. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, always taught his chassidim to utilize all the discoveries of modern technology to disseminate Torah and mitzvot. Radio, video, internet--all these are wondrous communication tools that allow us to bring the teachings of Torah to an ever-broader audience. Similarly, advances in medicine, agriculture, nutrition and technology enable us to live healthier, more comfortable lives and devote more resources to studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvot, which prepare us for the time of Moshiach, when “The entire occupation of the world will be to know G-d.”

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



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