Cosmologists and astrophysicists agree that the first billionth of a second after creation was a critical moment with profound ramifications. In that moment, time and space were created, and matter first took shape. The core of the galaxies as well as the forces that hold the galaxies together came into being.
There is no debate that we have no conception whatsoever of the physical laws that existed in that primordial split-second, under those conditions of extreme temperature and pressure. Modern scientists have concluded that while the entire universe began in just a minute fraction of a second, it took billions of years for the world to reach its present state. However, given how little we know of the initial conditions, how did scientists extrapolate from there and draw a conclusion about the present age of the universe?
It started in 1924, when the astronomer Carl Hubble demonstrated that the universe is expanding according to a speed known as Hubble's Law. By calculating backwards using Hubble's law, astronomers came up with an estimate of 13.7 billion years from when the universe began to expand. They therefore assumed that the world must have begun that many years ago.
However, if they admit that the initial conditions are unknown, then those conditions cannot be used as a basis for calculating the present age of the universe. Hubble's law might be an accurate description of how the universe appears now, but we don't know for sure that it applied just as well in the distant past.
Just as all of physical existence began with a sudden intense outburst of energy, the same is true in the spiritual field. In the past it was possible to attain great spiritual feats within a short time frame. Single individuals like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our forefathers, were able to accomplish in their lifetimes what has taken us, their descendants, thousands of years and millions of people to do.
A few generations later, during the 210 years of the Egyptian exile, the Jews managed to refine 202 of the 288 holy sparks that fell into the world for us to gather up. When this mission is completed, the Redemption will come. Thus, during the Egyptian exile most of this spiritual service was done. The small remaining part has taken us over 3,300 years to complete.
One thing we know for certain--the time has come. The Lubavitcher Rebbe has informed us that we have already completed the process of refinement that is necessary to bring Moshiach. The 5770 years of the world's existence were sufficient to bring about the real "big bang"--the bursting out of all limitations. With Moshiach, we will experience an unprecedented outpouring of G-dly knowledge that will enable us to truly understand the past, present and future, and to integrate them all into a single G-dly reality. The infinite future will soon be revealed in real time, and a new light will shine over the entire universe.
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.