In 1990–91 the Rebbe MHM announced that the time of the Geula had arrived and that everything in the world had to be connected with Moshiach and the Geula. One day, in the fall of 1991, I found a letter of the Rebbe MHM printed in Likutei Sichos in which he was responding to someone who had identified himself as a “secular Jew.” The entire letter was devoted to explaining that there is no such thing as a secular Jew. There are Jews whose professions deal only with holy matters, and there are Jews whose professions deal with secular matters. But there is no such thing as a secular Jew—all Jews are holy. This was exactly my issue. Then I noticed that the letter was dated 13 Iyar, 5732 (1972)—Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s 20th yartzeit! I realized that in the coming spring, on 13 Iyar, 5752 (1992), we would mark his 40th yartzeit. A wonderful idea then occurred to me to hold a conference honoring his 40th yartzeit on exactly these topics—the holy and the secular in the Era of Moshiach. When the concept was finally crystallized, the theme of the conference was “The Role of Science in the Era of Moshiach.” I worked together with Rabbi Moshe Feller, the director of Merkos-Lubavitch in Minnesota, to organize the conference, which took place on 13–14 Iyar, 5752, in S. Paul, Minnesota.
The guest speakers were Professor Pesach (Paul) Rosenbloom, the famous Lubavitcher mathematics professor who edited Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s mathematical paper, and Dr. Tsvi Saks, another well known Lubavitcher mathematician famous for his lectures on mathematics and Chassidus.
That fall, my family and I moved to Crown Heights, and the next Spring I contemplated convening another conference for Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s 41st yartzeit. After thinking it through, I decided against it since I was new in Crown Heights and not so familiar with the people and places, etc. Also, I did not feel the same sense of urgency as I did at the 40th yartzeit—a major milestone. Just to be sure, however, I wrote a letter to the Rebbe MHM asking:
1) Should I make a Moshiach and Science conference in New York similar to the one I had made in Minnesota the year before? And 2) Should I publish the proceedings of the conference of the previous year? To both questions he answered “Yes.”
Professor Silman putting on Tefillin with Dr. Lawrence Lasher, Pioneer Project Manager at NASA Ames Research Center, at the Moshiach and Science Conference of 2002.
To carry out the Rebbe MHM’s first instruction, I organized a second Moshiach and Science conference which took place on 11–13 Iyar, 5753 (1993) in Crown Heights. To carry out the second instruction, I am writing this book.
The main speaker at the 1993 conference was Rabbi Dr. Naftali Berg, a Lubavitcher chosid and director of research of the Advanced Technology Office of the Pentagon’s Army Research Laboratory. He spoke about “Swords Into Plowshares at the Pentagon” which appears in chapter III.
On the morning of 11 Iyar that year, before I went to the conference, it occurred to me that there should be an institute to organize such conferences every year and to carry out other Moshiach and science research. I wrote a letter to the Rebbe MHM that morning asking if we should establish such an institute to be called the “Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib Research Institute on Moshiach and the Sciences.” Later in the afternoon, towards the end of that day’s session, I received a message that that the Rebbe MHM gave his consent and blessing. Thus the RYAL Institute was established, and with G-d’s help we have held a Moshiach and Science conference every year since, in addition to various lectures, publications, etc.
Some of the main highlights of our conferences over the years have been:
>>In 1993 and 1994, Dr. Berg delivered major lectures on Quantum Mechanics and String Theory.
>>In 1994 Dr. Alvin Radkowsky, designer of the U.S. nuclear navy, spoke about his design of a new non-proliferative nuclear reactor—”A Nuclear Reactor for the Era of Moshiach.”
>>Professor Yirmiyahu Branover, a member of our board of directors, spoke at several conferences. In 2003 we held our conference at Touro College and Prof. Branover delivered a major lecture covering his entire philosophy of Moshiach, Torah and science as well as his own personal story.
>>In 1997 we held our conference at New York University (NYU). It focused on Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib’s mathematical paper which was presented by Dr. Neil Miller who had written a mathematical commentary on it. (RYAL’s paper and Dr. Miller’s commentary are reprinted in the Appendix.)
>>In 1996, the RYAL Institute together with the Committee for the Geula directed by Rabbi Zimroni Tzik of Bat Yam, Israel, organized a major conference on Geula and science at Tel Aviv University. It was attended by over 250 Israeli scientists.
We have seen some of the ways in which Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib continues to inspire Jewish scientists to this very day and, as the revival of the dead is a part of the Era of Moshiach, we look forward to his immediate return. He should come back and join us and direct the work of the Institute that bears his name.