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Friday, May 24, 2019 - 19 Iyyar 5779
 
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7:57 PM in Flatbush
Shabbat Ends 9:03 PM
Friday, 24 May 2019
Parashat 
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Final Flight

On the 20th of July this year, the space shuttle Atlantis returned to earth, a flight that marked the end of NASA's space shuttle project. Returning along with the shuttle was an interesting Israeli experiment on the effects of space travel on the cell.

The experiment was designed to study the effects of cosmic rays on telomeres, the ends of chromosomes that play an important role in protecting the genetic material. Every time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter and shorter, hampering their ability to protect the DNA. Eventually, the telomeres get so short that the cell cannot divide anymore, at which point the cell dies. 

Telomeres are believed to be a crucial aspect of the process of aging and death. Cancer cells, which tend to replicate at an unusually rapid rate and are “immortal,” have an enzyme called telomerase, which restores the telomeres to the ends of the chromosomes. Normal cells do not make this enzyme, which is why they can usually only divide for a few generations and then stop growing. It is known that the sun's rays can cause cellular damage, which is why this experiment was undertaken in space: to determine the extent of damage to telomeres by the intense rays in space.

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For many generations, the prophecies of Redemption were believed to be supernatural occurrences that could not possibly happen according to natural laws. However, the recent rapid pace of scientific advancement has demonstrated that it won't be long until science itself figures out a way to resurrect the dead and achieve immortality. The more we understand the principles behind aging and cell death, the closer we come to discovering a physical mechanism to halt these processes. Already our life span is much longer than the generations that preceded us; the challenge that awaits our generation is to use our increased longevity and wellbeing towards positive, spiritual purposes.

In the 1940's, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph I. Schneerson, made an announcement: “Immediate teshuvah, immediate Redemption.” His son-in-law and successor, the present Lubavitcher Rebbe, used a different expression: “Moshiach Now!” What both these statements express is a refusal to accept the status quo, and a deep yearning to actualize a different quality of life – the life of Redemption.

For now, scientists will conduct their lines of research, which may result in some aspect of immortality at some point in the future. However, we need to follow our own lines of progress to bring about the Redemption – when the prophecies of resurrection and immortal life will be fulfilled, without question. Through Torah study, prayer and acts of kindness, we will merit the Redemption immediately.

 

 


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