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Restored, Body and Soul
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

A common problem reported by amputees is “phantom limb pain.” They continue to complain of pain in the missing limb long after it has been removed. Neurologists explain that sensations from the missing limb, such as heat, cold, pain or itch, continue to be felt in the brain. Although the limb itself has been removed, the nerve cell bodies in the brain continue to generate impulses, which the brain then attributes to the limb itself.

The fact that the brain retains an image of the missing limb is to the body's advantage, as, when, for example, the amputee is fitted with a prosthesis. The sensations from the missing limb help the amputee adjust to the prosthesis and use it more naturally. More advanced prostheses are in development that actually use nerve impulses from the brain to control the prosthetic limb.

In Chassidic teachings, the Jewish people is described as a body, with each type of person corresponding to a different organ or limb. We each have our unique function to perform, without which the entire body cannot thrive or live optimally. And when one limb appears to be missing or dysfunctional, that pain is felt in the brain, which cannot rest until steps are taken to relieve the pain.

The head is the leader of the Jewish people in each generation. The body can survive with a missing limb or two, but cannot live for a second without a head. It is inconceivable for the Jewish people to survive without a leader.

Regarding our forefather Jacob, our sages say, “Just as his children are alive, so is he alive.” By our following in the ways of Jacob, we keep him alive, acting as his limbs here in this world, to carry out his mission. The same is true for all our tzadikim and leaders over the course of the generations. They are the head and we are the limbs. We are alive and functional only because of our attachment to the tzadikim, the scholars and Jewish leaders in each generation.

What happens when the leader of the generation appears to have passed on? In the Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi quotes the Zohar, which states, “A tzadik who has passed on is found in this world more than while he is alive.” As long as we maintain a connection with the tzadik, through studying his teachings and carrying out his directives, we keep that link alive and thus, we keep the body alive.

As pained as we are by the loss of the Rebbe's visible leadership, the Rebbe is even more pained by the apparent severing of our link with him. However, the Rebbe has left us clear instructions for what we must do in the brief remaining time until the revelation of Moshiach, when the connection will be restored openly. By preparing ourselves and the world for Moshiach, we bring about this revelation immediately.

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


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