"I have something interesting to show you," said the doctor,
and withdrew a large photograph from his briefcase. "Do you
know what this is? It is a photo of an original cell from
which a living creature develops. It was taken by a very
delicate instrument capable of a forty-thousand-to-one
enlargement. Can you note here, on the side of the cell, a
certain swelling that is divided by a split of sorts?
"This is the beginning of the reproductive process of the
cell. It grows very quickly and subdivides into two separate
identical cells. The camera caught it at the very inception
of this splitting process. Each of the two cells will then
repeat the division, forming four cells, then eight and so
on, geometrically, until a living entity is created within
the mother's womb."
I was all wonder as I studied the cell embarking on the
process of creating a living creature. This is the building
block of an independent living thing which will execute all
of the many and complex tasks of its life, of its very
existence upon earth.
While I was still busy pondering this marvel, the doctor took
out a second photo. This was a cluster of cells formed by the
reproduction of the original cell, he said. It had between 64
to 128 cells identical to the one from which they were
reproduced. It was difficult to count the cells in this
cluster, since only the outer cells were visible. Each such
cluster was no more than a tiny speck that only the most
advanced technology could capture on film and enlarge for the
benefit of the naked eye.
"Perhaps you can tell me how many cells there will be in the
living creature eventually produced by this cluster?" I
"The size of cells is measured in thousandths of
millimeters," he explained. "If the size of a single cell is
between three and thirteen thousandths of a millimeter,
dependent upon its function, then a square millimeter of a
body can contain some million cells, if not much more. Now go
calculate how many billions of cells there are in a mouse or
"But I don't understand," I asked, stunned. "A living
creature is composed of hundreds of different parts and
organs, each one respectively containing many different kinds
of cells. There is the eye, for example, or the vast network
of blood vessels, or the brain. How can identical cells
produce such a complex living thing?"
"An astute question. This photo of the cell cluster is the
turning point. From this moment on, the cluster becomes
elongated and while the cells continue to multiply by
subdivision, they also begin specialization.
"I see you're confused. Let me explain. The cells found in
the part of the cluster that is beginning to elongate, will
eventually become the head. These are developing according to
their future function and are no long identical to those in
the center, which will be the body.
"There is an astronomical number of kinds of cells.
The head alone contains skin, eyes, teeth, blood and the
brain. Each of these organs are composed of a huge number of
cells that differ from one another, each type adapted to its
particular function within the organ to which they belong.
The cells developing into legs are also subdivided into a
vast number of different types, from muscles, to nerves to
bones. There are skins cells and nail cells, all of which
comprise the finished product of a functioning leg of a
living creature. Each cell in the cluster you see here
contains an entire DNA catalogue, so to speak, including a
program of all possible developments. The cell is capable of
developing into any particular, specific cell which the body
"Very marvelous indeed," I remarked. "And who gives the
instructions to the various cells to execute such drastic
changes as those necessary for the execution of the many
functions? One need not be a doctor to realize the difference
between cells that make up teeth and cells that serve as the
lens of an eye."
"An excellent question. Science has no answer to it. What
directs a given cell and orders it to become a bone marrow
cell, a nerve cell or a muscle cell? It is a mystery. But one
thing is clear: it is not the single cell that makes this
decision. Only the One who has the complete blueprint of the
future body in its entirety, only He can know what function
each and every one of the billions of cells must fulfill, and
according to which design encoded in it, it must go on to
develop. The instructions must come only from a central
headquarters that controls all the cells and is familiar with
the final map of the finished body.
"We can compare this to a single soldier in a military
campaign comprised of millions of soldiers. He must receive
his orders -- whether to advance or retreat, or entrench
himself -- from a supreme commander who knows what is going
on at the global level and is also the one responsible for
the movements of each and every soldier.
"The hidden commander of the development of the embryo into a
complete, living creature assigns the instructions of the
necessary development of every cell and also determines their
exact location. Imagine teeth or eyes that are formed in a
place unsuited for them . . . The director-general who
transmits the instructions never makes a mistake amongst the
billions of cells. The instructions are conveyed to the exact
addresses. Only in this fashion can there be any normal
continuity in the world."
"Incredible! We actually know Who this hidden Director-
General is, the Master of all creations Who controls the
infinite detail of everything that takes place in every cell
of every living thing even before birth. Thanks to you, I
have become privy to another level of depth in the blessing
of asher yotzar, the One Who created man in wisdom.
Thank you for this insight."
The marvel of the formation of every creature is one of the
most outstanding manifestations of Hashem's presence in our
world. It is not by chance that many baalei teshuva
designate the birth of their first child as the turning point
in their awareness of a Creator. Dovid Hamelech gave
expression to this marvelous feeling of being a product of
Hashem's handiwork in the following chapter of Tehillim,
139, which is intertwined with the Metzudos
"For You have formed my kidneys (even though they are in a
most hidden place in the body); You have knit me together in
my mother's womb (in the darkest place, within my mother's
womb, You clothed my form with flesh and skin).
"I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
(the wonders of my formation that include marvelous works).
Marvelous are Your works, and my soul knows that right well
(even though my soul is intelligent and knows a great deal,
still, it cannot fathom the wonders of Your works).
"Your eyes saw my unshaped flesh (when I was still like a
pupa, that is, an entity without limbs, unformed as yet, You
saw it with Your eyes).
"How precious are Your thoughts to me (they are dear and
important to me). How great is the sum of them (how vastly
great and numerous are the topic headings and the general
laws that govern them). If I should count them, they are more
in number than the sand (they defy counting)."
Dovid Hamelech concludes this chapter with a statement:
Abominable and deserving of death are those sinners who
praise Hashem and elevate Him to a status where, they claim,
it is not deeming for Him to bother with this puny world.
Their real intent is to banish His surveillance so that they
can carry out their nefarious schemes unobstructed.
Let us promote within us the feeling of closeness to the One
Who created us, each organ, every cell, and Who gave us a