In about another month, the orbiting space satellite Kepler will be launched on a three-year mission, during which it will scan the far reaches of outer space to find planets similar to Earth. These planets are called "Earth twins."
Over three hundred planets that are more-or-less similar to Earth have already been discovered in the Solar System. However, for most of them, grave doubts exist regarding their ability to sustain life. In 2007, a rocky planet similar to Earth, Gliese 58ic, was discovered. However, it is so far away that it is difficult to determine whether it supports life. Therefore, NASA continues its search.
According to the Torah, it is possible that there might be life on some other planet. However, conscious beings can be found only here. The Torah was given here, on Earth, the sole place in the universe where created beings exist who can follow its doctrines. If we are truly interested in communicating with intelligent life, it would be appropriate to start our search somewhat closer to home. In other words, before investing huge resources in finding intelligent life on distant planets which may or may not exist, why not reach out to the intelligent life that definitely exists, right in our midst? Even if we find intelligent life on other planets, it's still doubtful whether we can establish a relationship with them or if we have anything to offer them. For the people right next door, there is no question that the possibility for a relationship exists.
Often, we seek the truth in distant venues, on alien planets, remote continents or exotic cultures, when actually the truth is right at our doorstep. To reveal it, we don't need sophisticated telescopes or bottled oxygen on the peaks of the Himalayas. All we need is to fulfill the mitzvah of "Love your fellow as yourself." To open our eyes and take notice of our fellow human being.
"Love your fellow as yourself; all the rest is commentary," was the sage Hillel's response to a brazen seeker who came to him demanding to be taught the whole Torah on one foot. This is also the final preparation that we must make to hasten the Redemption. By a display of love for one another here on planet Earth, we will merit the revelation of G-d's love from Above. The infinite love that will find expression in the true and complete Redemption, with the revelation of Moshiach, the ultimate friend of Israel.
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.