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New research into smoking shows that addiction can begin from the first cigarette. Even a one-time exposure to inhaled nicotine stimulates pathways in the brain that lead to withdrawal symptoms as the nicotine level of the blood falls. A new study on smoking addiction among youth (as well as a study on the effects of smoking on the rat brain) has overturned the medical wisdom of the past, that only repeated exposure to cigarettes can lead to addiction. The practical implication of this study is that to avert the negative outcomes of smoking, efforts must be focused on preventing children and teens from taking that first smoke. Once nicotine has been inhaled once, future addiction becomes far more likely and difficult to avoid.

This finding corresponds to the spiritual concept that even a one-time exposure to a negative influence can undo years of positive education. The media of our day are unsurpassed in their sophistication; they know how to hook us, even after a relatively brief exposure. 

Our sages have assured us that "The measure of good is more powerful than the measure of evil." In other words, if one cigarette, one television show or even one image has the power to undo years of education, and create new pathways in the brain or soul, there must also be positive sources of influence of the same or greater potency.

These spiritual antidotes can be found in the study of Torah. Torah is called the "elixir of life," which sustains and protects us against the vices of this world. The profoundest teachings of Torah tend also to be the most powerful; however, they have the disadvantage of being less accessible, since they can be understood only by the advanced student of Torah.

The teachings of Chassidus remove this disadvantage. The Baal Shem Tov and his successors, particularly Rabbi Schneur Zalmen of Liadi, founder of Chabad Chassidus, took the deepest teachings of Torah and made them understood on the level of the common intellect, by couching them in the language of CHABAD: chochma, bina and daat (wisdom, understanding and knowledge).

 Particularly in our generation, we can access scores of volumes of Chassidic teachings in almost any popular language. This is thanks to the efforts of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who not only spent hours teaching profound Chassidic discourses to huge crowds, but also made sure that these  teachings were transcribed, edited, translated and published to reach an even wider audience.

Our first contact with the inner teachings of Torah, whether through the Rebbe's teachings or any other source, "captures" the soul and gives us the strength and fortitude to meet life's challenges. Light has the power to drive away darkness, and leaves us energized to meet the ultimate challenge--to overcome the final darkness of exile and greet Moshiach.

 

 


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