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Not for Nothing

Microbiologists at Stanford University recently discovered that only 12% of a bacteria's genetic material is essential for life. Destroying the other 88% has no effect on the bacteria's ability to survive or reproduce.

This study was undertaken because the researchers were trying to discover the best way to eradicate pathogenic microorganisms. The discovery that up to 88% of the genes could be wiped out without any significant adverse effect was a surprising finding.

This number is quite mind-boggling when you consider the precision with which the cell operates. The cell environment is kept in perfect balance of electrolytes, ions, acids and necessary chemicals, yet the genome contains vast amounts of non-functional DNA. On a human scale, the percentage of “junk DNA” is even greater – researchers estimate that up to 95% of the human genome does not code for functional proteins. The theory of evolution postulates that these genes are left over from a conjectured ape ancestor. But in the case of bacteria, the theory falls apart, as presumably bacteria are the progenitors of all living creatures.

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What we need to do is pick up our heads and look forward, not back. The presence of all this excess DNA only shows us how far we are from actualizing our potential.

The books of our Prophets, the Talmud and the Midrash are filled with descriptions of the astounding changes that will happen in the natural world when Moshiach comes. “A lion, like cattle, will eat hay”; “The wolf will lie with the lamb.” The only way a predatory, carnivorous creature can ever be transformed to a herbivore is if it undergoes extensive changes to its digestive system and metabolism. Changes that, perhaps, are already coded for in its DNA. Not only the animal world will change dramatically in the Messianic era. Plants will grow to an astonishing size, as the Midrash says, “In the future a stalk of wheat will grow like a palm tree.”

The physical changes in the world will come about as a result of profound spiritual changes, which will be wrought primarily through our own efforts and Divine service. The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the Hebrew word for Redemption, Geulah, has the same letters as the word for exile, Golah, with the addition of the letter Aleph, which represents the One G-d. Simply by introducing the unity of G-d into the mundane world, we transform exile into Redemption.

   
 

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