It is stated in the works of Maimonides1 (also known as the Rambam) that just as there are sicknesses and remedies for the body, so too there are sicknesses and remedies for the soul. By observing conditions that affect the body, we can make certain inferences about their effect on the soul.

A state of illness generally implies either a deficiency or a weakness in some part of the body. There is, however, a certain disease in which the body is not lacking anything; on the contrary, something new is added (such as a growth). At first glance, it appears that this extra lump of flesh should not cause any harm. Nevertheless, this is a condition that can be even more problematic than when something is lacking. The extra protuberance is detrimental to the organ on which it grows, and may even spread to harm other parts of the body.

The treatment for this disease differs greatly from the remedies used to cure other illnesses. Whereas most treatments add something to the body, the remedy for this particular disease is to remove the superfluous growth, allowing the person to become healthy once again.

In the past, this disease was not as prevalent as it is today. Therefore, a cure was not actively pursued. Unfortunately, in spite of the tremendous advances in many areas of medicine, this malady occurs with alarming frequency these days. As a result, many new treatments have been devised to combat it.

In the spiritual realms, we are now living in an age when the “footsteps of Mashiach can be heard, heralding an end to the darkness which is symptomatic of the period of exile. In anticipation of the obliteration of evil, there is a last-minute surge in some negative ways, particularly insolence and arrogance. These afflictions reflect their equivalents in the physical realm, where cancerous growths that take over the body, can give the impression that the afflicted person exists only for the sake of the diseased tissue! Although these negative traits existed before, they were never as prevalent as they are today.

G‑d provides us with new therapies in the form of Chassidus, revealed only in the past two centuries. The study of Chassidus teaches us how to remove the diseased portion, that manifests itself as arrogance.

For this reason, the study of Chassidus is more important now than ever before. Although its dissemination was not necessary in earlier times, the increasing darkness in the world today requires a corresponding increase in light.

However, the analogy is not perfect. In the physical realm, if one continues with a treatment for an extended time, it can have a detrimental effect on healthy parts of the body. In the spiritual realm, however, one can engage in the study of Chassidus for a lifetime without harm. In fact, such constant study will have a positive outcome: the continuing refinement of beneficial traits.

Likkutei Sichos,Vol. 1, p. 150ff.;
Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe, Vol. 18, p. 332