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Why Crawl when You Can Run?
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

"Babies must learn to crawl before they can walk!" This was the conventional wisdom among parents and pediatricians alike. Parents would even bring their children for physical therapy if they did not develop in the usual order and skipped the crawling stage.

However, new research has overturned this common approach and called into question the necessity of the crawling stage. Researchers have shown that there are many cultures in which the children never pass through a crawling stage. The parents carry the children on their backs until they are old enough to walk. Neurological and developmental tests show no deficits in children who grew up in these cultures.

The researchers theorize that the crawling stage is a development that began in western civilization in the last 200 years or so, when people began to live in homes with smooth and safe floors.

This anthropological study demonstrates how limited our understanding of human development is, and highlights our tendency to judge all infants worldwide according to the standards of the western world.

In the spiritual field as well, there are stages that used to be considered mandatory, but the approach has recently changed. For example, for thousands of years it was accepted that in order to study the hidden teachings of Torah, it was first necessary to achieve perfection in all areas of Torah knowledge and character development. Recently, however, the strong need of the time allows us to leap over those stages and proceed directly to study of the inner dimension of Torah.

Recently meaning within the last 400 years, beginning from the famous Kabbalist from Safed, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, known as the Arizal. He was the first to say, "It is a mitzvah to reveal these teachings." In reality, 200 years passed before this was implemented, when the Baal Shem Tov founded the Chassidic movement and began to teaching the hidden dimensions of Torah in terms that could be understood by the layman.

Even those who have only a rudimentary understanding of Judaism have the right and even the obligation to leap directly into the study of the deepest dimensions of Torah, and to advance rapidly, like a child who begins to run even before he can crawl! True, this approach is a shortcut and a revolutionary departure from the accepted wisdom of the past. However, these teachings, which show us clearly how to perform the mitzvot of love and fear of G-d, are the only thing that give us the spiritual strength we need to contend with the challenges of the final moments of exile. Indeed, they are a foretaste of the Torah of Moshiach, which will soon be revealed to us.

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



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