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Thursday
Sep122019

Out of Control

Deep in the US military laboratory in Fort Detrick, MD lurk deadly viruses like ebola, anthrax, smallpox and plague. The United States Army Medical Research Institute is a biodefense center that studies germs and toxins that can be used as bioweapons, and also studies disease outbreaks. Its 900 employees conduct research for government agencies, drug companies and universities.

Recently, fears of contamination have led the Center for Disease Control to shut down the lab and put all research on hold, a suspension that may last for months.They found that the high-security labs did not have sufficient systems in place to decontaminate wastewater.

The problem began in May, 2018, when a decades-old steam sterilization plant was ruined in a flood. Research was halted for months while the institute worked on developing a new chemical-based decontamination system. However, an inspection by the CDC in June found that procedures were not being followed correctly and the facility had a high risk for leaks and contamination. They now must go back to a heat-based system of decontamination, which is expensive and will take a long time to construct. Research still continues at the lab, but not on the deadliest pathogens.

***

One of the biggest fallacies in the human experience is the belief that we can contain and harness evil for our own purposes. We invent deadly weapons or cultivate virulent pathogens, seemingly oblivious to the risks to ourselves. The same is true in a spiritual sense. All of us harbor within ourselves negative traits such as anger, arrogance, greed. Attempts to harness these traits for positive purposes are generally doomed to fail. They tend to consume us before we are able to put them to positive use.

What, then, are we supposed to do with the evil that lurks either within us or outside of us? In Chassidut there are two pathways to eliminating evil. One is to subdue it, to subjugate it—a path that is fraught with danger. The other approach is to overwhelm it completely with goodness. This is the path of transformation—to change our negative traits to good.

Right now, the dangers of ebola virus or anthrax bacteria are so great that we cannot safely contain them in a lab. The forces of evil similarly elude our control. The complete eradication of evil will occur very soon, though, with the coming of Moshiach, when “the spirit of impurity” will be removed from this earth. The most harmful substances will be transformed and will become beneficial to mankind.

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