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Learning to Fly
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Who among us has never dreamed of flying? It seems that the fantasy of growing wings and taking flight is a common one among many people. Recently, someone found a way to make that dream a reality.

Swiss pilot, inventor and aviation enthusiast Yves Rossi, nicknamed “Jet-Man,” is the first person to achieve sustained human flight using a jet-powered wing strapped to his back. He flew across the English Channel in September of 2008 in under 10 minutes, reaching a speed of 125 miles per hour during the crossing. Now Rossi hopes to market his wing engine to the general population, to enable others to achieve their dream of flying.

Each of us enters this world in order to perfect ourselves as human beings. To elevate ourselves to greater heights, beyond our given limitations, and thus be able to fly above and beyond obstacles that stand in our path. The way to reach these heights is through fulfilling the mitzvot of the Torah. Two mitzvot, in particular, are known as “wings”—the mitzvot of love and fear of G-d.

Love and fear of G-d are like the engine that drives us to keep mitzvot and fulfill G-d’s will. Love is the source that leads us to fulfill all positive commandments, while fear of G-d is what motivates us to fulfill all negative commandments.

With each mitzvah that we do, we create a spiritual light. The mitzvot that we do are elevated to lofty spiritual levels through the love and fear that accompany them. For this reason, love and fear are described in the Zohar as gadfin, wings, which propel the mitzvot on high.

The only question is how do we sprout these magnificent wings? How, indeed, do we elevate ourselves above our negative habits and inclinations, mistaken notions and egotistical drives, in order to experience true love and fear of G-d?

The answer can be found in a work known as the “written Torah” of Chassidism—the book of Tanya. The author of Tanya, Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, lays out a path whereby every individual can attain these two qualities, love and fear of G-d.

Developing these two wings is also described as a personal geulah, redemption. Through love and fear of G-d, we become freed of all selfish considerations that hinder us in our self-development, and allow our true core to reveal itself. The Tanya explains that in the essence of every Jewish soul there burns a fiery love of G-d. Through revealing this love, we bring about the complete and final general Geulah, for the entire universe.

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


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