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Parashat Vayakhel 5782 — 02/26/2022

Parashat Vayakhel 5782 — 02/26/2022

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we embarked on a new format. We will be considering Rambam’s (Maimonides’) great philosophical work Moreh Nevukim (Guide for the Perplexed) in the light of the knowledge of Vedic Science as expounded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The individual essays will therefore not necessarily have anything to do with the weekly Torah portion, although certainly there will be plenty of references to the Torah, the rest of the Bible, and to the Rabbinic literature. For Bereishit we described the project. The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, laid out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so. Beginning with Toledot we started examining Moreh Nevukim.

Shemot 35:1-38:20

Last week we began our discussion of General Relativity with local solutions to the gravitational field equations, which, in some cases, can lead to the formation of black holes. Black holes are regions of spacetime that have been twisted into a singularity – a single point like the cusp at the tip of a soft ice cream cone, where all the mass-energy in the black hole is infinitely compacted. Nothing, no light, no radiation, no matter, no energy can escape the intense gravitation of a black hole. What happens in a black hole, stays in the black hole – it can’t cause anything to happen outside.

Today I would like to continue by looking at global solutions to Einstein’s equations. We have seen that “Matter tells space-time how to curve,” and Einstein famously worked out the phenomenon of the bending of starlight by the sun (verified by the 1919 Eddington eclipse expedition) and the difference in the rate of precession of the perihelion of Mercury over the Newtonian prediction (a long-standing anomaly of Newtonian physics which whose solution dropped easily out of Einstein’s theory). In each of these cases, the local curvature of spacetime due to a single mass (the sun in our first example) or a group of masses (the sun and planets in the second case – Mercury describes an elliptical orbit around the sun, but the ellipse rotates very slowly in space due to the pull of the other planets in the solar system).

In 1922 a Russian physicist, Alexander Friedmann, showed that one could calculate a solution to Einstein’s equations for an entire spacetime that had a uniform mass density. Depending on the density, spacetime could be convex and closed (like the surface of a sphere), flat (i.e., Euclidean) or saddle-shaped – the latter two being open and infinite in extent. The solutions that Friedmann proposed led to a prediction that the universe was expanding, a prediction that was verified by Edwin Hubble (the Hubble space telescope is named after him, not Carl Hubbell, who pitched for the NY Giants) in 1929.

The expansion of the universe was discovered by noting that in all directions the galaxies are receding from us, and the speed of their recession is proportional to their distance. Think of a balloon onto which pennies are pasted. Now blow up the balloon – the pennies will all recede from each other because there is more surface of the balloon being “created” as it expands. You can convince yourself that the rate of recession between any two pennies will be proportional to the distance between them, as Hubble observed.

Now if the universe is expanding, it must have been smaller in earlier times. How far back does this go? According to Friedmann’s solutions, it goes back to a singularity, a point of infinite mass density, like a black hole into which the entire universe is compressed. Please note that this point does not exist anywhere in space or time. All space, time, matter and energy are compressed into this one point. Then, in some way we do not yet understand space, time, matter and energy appeared out of nowhere and the history of the universe as we now understand it began.

This “Big Bang” is certainly a seminal creative moment – it is, according to classical General Relativity, a creation ex nihilo / “creation from nothing” moment. Time springs into being out of eternity; space spreads out against the background of unboundedness. It also leaves open other questions. Are there other universes, parallel to ours? Are universes being created and destroyed all the time? If they exist, are the physical laws that govern them the same: In what dimension do they exist? Is it possible to explore that dimension?
These issues leave quite a bit of room – an infinite amount of room, in fact – for Divine creativity. In fact, Rabbinic tradition holds that Gd created and destroyed many universes before settling on ours – the difference between them lying in the absence of free will, sin (distancing from Gd), repentance (return to Gd) and forgiveness (reintegration with Gd). In other words, the worlds Gd destroyed were specifically those that were “billiard-ball universes,” governed strictly by natural law, without free will. Whether this Rabbinic teaching corresponds to something in physics, is of course an open question and one which we would have to have access to other universes in order to answer.

Friedmann identified three possible “universes” – closed and convex, open and flat, open and curved. The open universes are predicted to expand forever, while the closed universe is predicted to expand to some maximum dimension, then start to contract until everything collapses into a singularity again. The extent of the expansion and the total time between the initial singularity and the final singularity is given by the mass-density in the universe, which must be above a certain minimum amount. (This is why we are so assiduously searching for “dark matter” – it appears, observationally, that the universe is closed, but there is not enough visible matter to close it. This is obviously an area of active research, and may result in new paradigms of physics before all is said and done.)

In the situation of a closed universe, what happens at the “Big Crunch” at the end of the contraction phase? This is truly “the end of time,” because just as all time, space, matter and energy was compacted into the initial singularity, so all time, space, matter and energy are going to get crushed into the final singularity. That is, the universe comes from nothing and returns to nothing, just a single point in some field that transcends time and space. Does this happen just once? Or is it possible that the universe “bounces” back from the singularity into a new “Big Bang” and a new cycle of expansion and contraction? If that does turn out to be the case, is there any information that gets “saved” during the bounce, in the sense that the state of the system before the “Big Crunch” causes the universe after the “Big Bounce” to evolve in a certain way, whereas another state might cause it to evolve in a different way? We think of causality in terms of time – last week we noted that the Relativistic view of time as relative to the state of motion of the observer, leads us to reevaluate our notion of causality. Here we are expressing the possibility of causality that takes place through a process that transcends time – the singularity. Similarly, the first verse of Bereshit tells us “When Gd began to create… .” Is this “when” supposed to be a temporal when? But this act of creation was before time! I wonder if it’s more of a logical “when,” although even logical sequence, I believe, is rooted in a temporal intuition, which in turn is rooted in our notion of causality. Thus, “Gd said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Gd is the cause, light is the effect, even though this precedes time (division of light and darkness into day and night).

There is more to be said on this idea of a “bouncing universe,” but I will defer it until we consider the other pillar of modern physics, quantum mechanics. And of course, Vedic science has much to say on these topics, which we will also discuss.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayakhel

Vayakhel (” and he assembled”) emphasizes the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle); the materials through Divine Design wise craftspeople to build, pure hearts to donate the materials. The following parshah, Pekudei emphasizes the construction of the Priestly Garments. When both were completed,.God’s Glory filled the Mishkan.

Our pure individualities are the Tabernacle; our good actions are the Priestly Garments. Combine them and we become Aware of Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Glory.

In the previous parshah, Ki Tisa, Moses asked Gd to “Show me your Glory.”  Gd said “I will show you my back but My Face you cannot see for no man can see my Face and live.” This means “I can show you My Subtle Values but in My Transcendent Wholeness all individuals are restored to the Reality that all specifics are roles Gd plays – individuals become All-in-All and their attachment to a single personality is lost.”

The same Hebrew word translated as “Glory” is used in both Vayakhel and Pekudei: “kavod.”  The construction of the Mishkan and the Priestly Garments created a harmonious resonance with Moses and with everyone so that more of the full perception of Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Glory, was possible but Full Awareness of Gd still depended then, as it does now, on the maturity of the soul of the perceiver on the ability of the individual to experience Gd’s Transcendent Wholeness.

Kabbalah is the tradition of looking into Torah and finding deeper levels of meaning; for example, Kabbalah views Gd as “Ein Sof,” Endless, also Beginningless, One, Eternal. It views individual souls as expressions of this Oneness remaining within the Oneness but diminishing progressively and then rising again until the full Reality is experienced: only Gd exists, everyone and everything is an expression of Gd, always within Gd and our individuality is Gd playing a game which Gd eventually (soon! we hope. Now! we hope) lets our individual souls win by returning to our status as Oneness, All-in-All.

From this standpoint, the meticulous design and building of the Mishkhan was a help to experience Gd’s Presence but to return to the Oneness everyone had to also perform the offerings and other actions Gd Prescribed to be performed in the Mishkan and also the other aspects of living that Gd prescribed.

There are many guidelines Gd gives Moses to give us (the traditional version is that there are 613) and some can only be performed when the Temple is standing and we are in it but the basic ones are:
“The Lrd, thy Gd, Is One;” “Love the Lrd Thy Gd with all thy heart, soul and mind,” “Love thy neighbor as thy self (thy Self) Be Still and Know that I Am Gd.”

Through our taking good care of our self and our Self and through our good actions we become spontaneously more appreciation of the beauty of the world within us and around us and the gift of life within us. Thus, we grow to love Gd with all our heart, soul and mind and we grow to appreciate and love the sweetness of being in communities where people appreciate each other, help each other, are kind to each other. We grow in our ability to love our neighbor as ourself and our Self. We grow in the ability to Be Still and Know Wholeness, Gd.

Through appreciation, gratitude, love, good actions, service we are restored to Oneness, the Fullness of Love and Joy, and Gd’s Glory is Fully Present in us as All-in-All of which our individualities are fully restored expressions. In describing the details of building the Mishkhan and the Priestly Garments according to Gd’s Plan these parshiyyot help to inspire us to appreciate the world within us and around us as Mishkan, a Tabernacle, a Temple which we are in the process of building and help us to appreciate our good actions as Priestly Garments. These parshiyyot help us to appreciate Gd’s Glory and Gd’s Design imprinted within us and within all. Our appreciation and our actions bring the Grace that restores us to Full Awareness of Oneness.

Those who are wise guide us as those Gd filled with wisdom created the parts of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which they brought to Moses who assembled them into a Whole. Those who are pure give us Love which is the Fullness of every donation and which unifies the parts of our personalities and assembles them into a Community, The Whole.

We may have a vision of the Whole that allows us to create each part according to the plan, human or divine. But to assemble the parts into a whole, a Whole, we must have harmony with ourself, with our surroundings, with Gd, so that we assemble from a level of Wholeness.

“Moses” is a quality of Wholeness, connectedness, that is within each of us, within everybody.

Through our innocence, our faith, our service, this level of Wholeness becomes more and more functional in our lives; we gain the Support of Nature, of Gd, to complete our tasks in a way that is lasting. Our personalities, bodies, homes become Tabernacles, Temples within which Gd’s Presence is experienced as the Eternal Reality.

Once this is done, Gd’s Presence fills the Tabernacle. Gd’s Presence, of course, Was and Is always there, but the Fully Assembled Mishkan enables those within it to perceive what Is always there. How fortunate we are, to be innocent, to trust, to serve, to be blessed and to live our lives as blessings so that Gd’s Presence becomes more and more fully visible to all of us, to everyone!

How fortunate we are!

Baruch HaShem!