Until recently, neurologists believed that the mature brain was unable to grow new neurons. It was widely accepted that neurogenesis took place only in young, developing brains. The field of neurology has recently undergone a profound revolution when it was discovered that new brain cells can grow even in an adult brain, primarily in the hippocampus, the part of the brain most connected to learning and memory.
Unfortunately, it was also found that the new neurons were unstable and were broken down within weeks of formation. Now hope has arisen again, for a method has been discovered to stabilize these newly formed neurons and ensure their continued existence. Intense, focused and challenging study, which causes the brain cells to work hard, lengthens the life span of new neurons and improves their functioning. In psychological terms, this form of study is called "learning to learn." When the brain grapples with an entirely new area of study, this strengthens the neurons and forms new connections in the brain.
It appears that the most learned and intellectual people among us would have the hardest time finding an entirely new area of study, to give their brains a good workout. Where can they go to find a field to which they have not yet been exposed, one that will be fascinating, satisfying and challenging enough to create an incentive to invest the great energy necessary to form new brain cells?
Indeed, the salvation can be found--for everyone--in a field that has been studied for over 3,000 years by millions of people: our holy Torah. In the future, G-d will reveal an entirely new dimension of Torah, which has been hidden in it since it was given on Mount Sinai. Regarding this "new Torah," which will be taught to us by Moshiach, it is said that the entire Torah that we studied until now will be like nothing in comparison.
We are currently in a stage that is a foretaste of this great future revelation. The revelation is already here, to an extent, and can be accessed by any individual, on any level, in any language and any mental state. We are referring to the teachings of Chassidism, particularly Chabad, which take G-dly concepts and make them accessible to human understanding. These teachings are considered a foretaste of the Torah of Moshiach. There are many books that have been written to introduce concepts of Chassidus according to any level of understanding, including young children.
Through study of Chassidic teachings, we will hasten the Redemption. We will experience the revelation predicted by Maimonides in the conclusion of his monumental Mishneh Torah: "And in that time all of Israel will be great scholars who will know hidden things and will grasp the knowledge of their Creator according to human ability."
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.