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Come to the Water!
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Last October, the U.S. space agency (NASA) launched a missile to the moon, to penetrate the moon's surface and discover whether there might be ice under its south pole. This is one of the coldest regions in the solar system, a space never illuminated by the sun. Now, why do we care whether there is water there or not? The existence of water is a precondition for supporting life. Simply put, if water is found on the moon, it is a first step towards human colonization. Oxygen can be extracted from the water for breathing, and the water itself can support growth of vegetation, enough to supply the needs of a space station to be built on the moon.

As to why anyone would want to live on the moon, that is a separate question. Indeed, now that the missile has been launched and water has been discovered, it is time to ask another question--what, really, are we looking for on the moon? Not always to NASA's public relations people have a clear answer. However, we can answer the question from a slightly different perspective--the spiritual dimension of the universe.

"There is no water but the Torah," say our sages (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Kama 17a). Just as human settlement on the moon is impossible without water, it is also impossible to survive on earth without Torah. Rabbi Akiva compares the relationship between Jews and the Torah to fish and water. A fish cannot survive outside the water, and a Jewish soul cannot live without Torah.

Chassidic teachings, the inner dimension of Torah, explain this absolute necessity. Divine energy flows to the world through the vehicle of the Torah. Although every Jew also has a direct relationship with G-d, even without Torah, this connection is only revealed during special times, such as times of self-sacrifice, mesirut nefesh. However, the day-to-day connection of a Jew with G-d is maintained through regular Torah study and fulfillment of its precepts, the mitzvot. 

Those who do not yet have an overt connection to Torah feel a soul-thirst. They seek life (water) in the furthest and coldest reaches of the universe, trying to find truth and meaning. Meanwhile, the wellsprings of living water lie at their very feet. All one has to do is open a Jewish book, or attend a Torah class, in order to taste of this life-giving liquid.

The call of the prophet Isaiah--"May all those who are thirsty go to the water!" is easier to carry out than ever. The prophecy that "the world will be filled with knowledge of G-d like water covers the ocean bed" has already begun to be fulfilled.  There is no need to wander to distant places to enjoy the waters of Torah. "Taste and you will see that G-d is good." It is there for you anytime, anywhere, for everyone.

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



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