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Parashat Ekev 5783 — 08/05/2023

Parashat Ekev 5783 — 08/05/2023

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.

Devarim 7:12-11:25

Rambam has now completed his examination of Hebrew roots and their uses in Scripture. In the next chapter (I:46) he begins a discussion of how we can come to the knowledge of Gd. Since Gd is completely abstract and Gd’s essence is beyond human comprehension, Rambam begins with an analogy to a ruler of flesh and blood. First, he distinguishes between knowing something as it is (“essence”) vs. knowing what that thing does (“accidents”).

…there is an immense difference between guidance leading to a knowledge of the existence of a thing and an investigation of the true reality of the essence and substance of that thing. The reason is that guidance leading to the knowledge of the existence of a thing can be had even if that should be through the accidents of the thing or through its acts or through a relation – which may be very remote from the thing – existing between the latter and things other than itself.

An “accident” in Rambam’s parlance is anything that can be a characteristic of something, but is not essential to it. For example, I always wonder about police bulletins that tell me what the miscreant is wearing, when they could change clothes in a matter of minutes. The clothes are about as accidental as you can get – they are not connected even to the body, let alone to the essence in any way. Now if we want to know that someone exists, we can use their clothes, so to speak, as a proxy for their body. Even the Invisible Man wore clothes so that he could interact with people, because his clothes give form to his invisible body. We may not see his face, but we can infer his existence from the shape and the movement of his clothes.

Rambam continues with an example:

For instance, if you wish to make known the ruler of a certain region of the earth to one of the people of that ruler’s country, who does not know him, you can inform him about that ruler and draw his attention to the latter’s existence in many different ways. One of them consists in your saying that the ruler is a tall individual who is white in color and gray-haired. Thus you would make him known through his accidents.

These are very non-essential accidents, like clothes or physical characteristics.

Next there are accidents that have to do with the relationship between the object of our knowledge and other objects in its environment (when I say “object” I include people, who are only “objects” for the purpose of this discussion):

You may also say that he is the one whom you see surrounded by a great company of people, who are riding or on foot, with drawn swords around him and banners raised above his head, while trumpets are sounded in front of him; or that he is the one residing in a castle, that is in a certain city of that region of the earth; or that he is the one who ordered this wall to be built or this bridge to be laid; or you may mention similar actions of his and similar relations of his to what is other than he.

Now we are getting closer to who the ruler really is, for we see their reactions to stimuli, in the sense that we see the actions of the environment and the ruler’s reaction to those actions with actions of their own. Once we have a sufficiently large baseline of such action-reaction examples we can try to “reverse-engineer” the processes that are taking place within the ruler that will give us those results. It is as if the object we are investigating is a “black box” where we can observe the inputs and outputs, but not the processes that convert inputs into outputs.

The interesting thing about this kind of “reverse engineering” is that, given a finite number of data points (input-output pairs) there are an infinite number of functions that can produce the set of pairs that we have. The only way to tell the difference between them is to get a new input-output pair and run all the functions we have against that new pair, and then throw out those functions that incorrectly predict the new pair. That will still leave an infinite number of possible functions.

For example, suppose we have two data points: (x1, y1) and (x2, y2) where the x’s are the inputs and the y’s are the outputs. You can convince yourself with a piece of graph paper that there is only one straight line through those two points, but there are an infinite number of circles, for example, that go through the two points (any circle with a diameter at least as big as the distance between the two points can be made to go through the two points). We say the system is underconstrained.

If we have 3 points, there are two possibilities: all the points lie on one line (e.g. (0,0), (1,1) and (2,2)), in which case there are no circles through the 3 points (but there is one line); The three points do not lie on one line in which case there is exactly one circle that goes through the 3 points. You can understand it this way: a circle is defined by 3 pieces of data – the x and y coordinates of the center of the circle and the radius of the circle. Given three points not all on a line, we can calculate the x and y coordinates and radius of the circle (3 equations in 3 unknowns gives us a solution which we can show is unique).

If we have more points, we can’t necessarily fit a circle to the 4 points, but there are other curves that we can fit – we just have to add more parameters. In fact, by adding parameters, we can always find a curve that will fit any number of points. In the words of a former colleague, “Give me three parameters and I can draw an elephant. Give me four and I can wag its tail.” What this means is that “reverse engineering” has some serious limitations. Given any finite number of input-output pairs, we have an infinite number of ways of constructing a system that will reproduce the data set.

Now in practice we do reverse engineer systems all the time, but it usually involves lifting the hood and getting some kind of glimpse at the actual structure of the system. We might analyze a chip to figure out the different components on the chip and their connections. We might look at the input and output patterns and see if they match any patterns of systems that we do know about. But these methods are not inferential, rather they involve direct experience of the system in question.

When the “system” in question is Gd, then virtually all bets are off. It is a bedrock belief in Judaism that we cannot know Gd’s essence, only Gd’s actions, as we say in the liturgical song Anim Zemiros: I shall relate Your glory, though I see You not, I shall allegorize you, I shall describe You though I know You not … Your greatness and Your strength they described the might of Your works / They allegorized you, but not according to Your reality … . Coming from the side of finite mortals, we only have Gd’s interaction with the world to go on, and therefore, as we have discussed, any inference from Gd’s actions is necessarily incomplete. Our level of consciousness, however, is not necessarily finite – higher states of consciousness have an unbounded, eternal and infinite component to them. How this fact changes our way of finding out about Gd we will take up, Gd willing, next week.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Ekev

“Eikev” means “Because.”  This parshah begins with Moses saying “: Because you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform, them the Ld, your Gd, will keep for you the covenant that Gd swore to your forefathers.”  (

This includes Blessing, Loving, Protecting, Preventing illness, Providing manna in the wilderness so that all will know that ”…man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live.” (Deuteronomy, 8:3, translation).

Since everything comes forth from the mouth of Gd – all the diversity and stages of Creation were and are continually created from Gd’s words – this statement needs interpretation.

A good way to look at this is that Gd wants us to humbly open ourselves to the Wholeness that is Gd and not to be lost in fragments like material bread.

This principle allows us to experience and act on all the commandments Gd has given in Torah – not just the Ten, but all 613.

Trying to obey them from the limited level of our individualities, would be hard and, at the moment, impossible since some of the commandments depend on the existence of the Temple. And yet Moses speaks Gd’s word to us in this parshah: obey and be blessed. disobey and be cursed.

Through humility, however, we open our heart to Wholeness, to all the streams, letters, words, stories, commandments that perpetually reside in Wholeness, Gd, One. We go beyond the limited interpretation of Gd’s Words and experience Gd within Them: we are not limited to the Bread of Gd’s Mouth but Experience the Wholeness within which each limited value of Gd Exists.

Moses says (Deuteronomy 11:22) “For if you keep all these Commandments which I command you, to do it, to love the Lord, your Gd, to walk in all Gd’s Ways, and to cleave to Gd…”

“…then all be well, the Ld will drive out the nations before you and the land shall be yours.”

Putting Gd first, loving Gd, we are guided by Gd’s Love to walk in Gd’s Ways and our life is a life in harmony with Gd.

This harmony grows when we humbly prepare ourselves each day with whatever of Torah we can, whether it is letter or spirit, and innocently do our best to live a good life, a holy life, being practical, but not letting our concept of practical be limited to our own material needs, rather letting it serve the purpose of loving Gd, loving Wholeness, not being lost in detail, being charmed by detail only to the point that it serves the growth of Love of Gd, of Wholeness, in our life, and spreads it to all lives.

In this way the appropriate commandments and the appropriate obedience occur to us as they are needed in a joyful, effortless way so that our lives become a blessing and Gd’s Blessings come to us and through us to all around us.

We, in our congregation, do seem to be humble, joyful, loving, blessed so we seem to be substantially following Gd’s commandments as Moses presented them in time 3500 years ago and, as on the deep level of Wholeness, Moses is still presenting them to us, and Gd is still Blessing us and Giving us the simplicity to love, be Loved and to be restored to the Awareness that there is nothing but Wholeness, Gd, One, and we are This One, playing the game of hide-and-seek, playing the role of our individuality and of all individualities, including each of the 613 Commandments, all nations, all souls.

Baruch HaShem