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Look Away from the Hype!
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

The scientific industry employs hundreds of thousands of researchers engaged in projects to study all sorts of phenomena, from the simplest to the most complex; the astronomical to the most minute. Once the research is completed, the race is on to get the report published in the most prestigious journal possible, which is the key to scientific stature and career advancement. However, a surprising study by Dr. John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece, shows that a majority of articles published in the most prestigious journals turn out to be wrong, with many of their findings being refuted within a few years.

Dr. Ioannidis argues that the criteria that scientific journals use for accepting submissions are not necessarily the validity or reliability of the work, but how interesting or groundbreaking the study seems to be. Therefore, a study that is well-“hyped” and presented as a cutting-edge breakthrough is more likely to be accepted than one that makes more modest claims about its own significance. However, most “cutting-edge” research turns out later to be wrong, after further investigation.

*  *  *

What is true for the scientific domain is also true in the spiritual world. We tend to be more stimulated by “hype,” by the promise of exciting and drastic change. Yet true change comes about in an unobtrusive manner. An example of this is the two stages in Moshiach’s coming, as described by Maimonides. Our sages say that “There is no difference between this world and the days of Moshiach, except that [we will no longer be] subjugated by the nations.” So what about those glittering prophecies of delicacies available like dust, resurrection of the dead, and “The wolf shall lie with the lamb”?

One way of resolving the dilemma is to interpret those prophecies allegorically. However, the Lubavitcher Rebbe takes a different approach. He holds that the prophecies will literally come true, but at a later stage. During the first stage of Moshiach’s coming, the world will indeed function normally, according to nature. The dramatic changes will not happen until a later stage.

What is the significance of an era of Moshiach in which the world proceeds naturally? The Rebbe explains that only in this way can the true intention of the time of Redemption be fulfilled. For G-d wants a “dwelling in the lower worlds.” He wants a world that runs according to the rules of nature, in which we have free will, and willingly choose to recognize G-d and follow His decrees. Only later, once the recognition of G-dliness is complete and the world has been transformed in a natural way, will the table be set for the era of the miraculous.

The message is: Look away from the hype. True change comes about not with sirens and horns blaring, but through quiet acts of transformation; change that is internalized almost without realizing it. Then one day we will awaken and notice that, indeed, we are living in the era of Moshiach.

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

 

 


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