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Parashat Vayetze 5783 — 12/03/2022

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.

Bereishit 28:10-32:3

Continuing his discussion of the differences in intellectual capacity between different people. As in our previous discussion, there is the analogy with the senses and the organs of action – different people have different abilities to lift heavy weights, to see clearly, to hear faint sounds, etc. Furthermore, there are limits beyond which no human being can go, at least without the use of sense-extending instruments (e.g. microscope, telescope). In the same way, there appear to be limits to the human intellect beyond which no human can go, as Rambam writes: … for man’s intellect indubitably has a limit at which it stops. There are therefore things regarding which it has become clear to man that it is impossible to apprehend them. That is, it appears that there are things which are in principle beyond human comprehension.

Rambam does not give a physical example of this phenomenon, because he was not familiar with quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics it is impossible in principle to know the state of a system with complete accuracy. In fact, any physical system has sets of complementary properties (such as position and momentum) that cannot both be known precisely. The better we know one, the less we know about the other. That is, the more precisely we measure, say, position, the less precisely we can measure the momentum, and vice versa. I believe the reason for this is that when we try to measure the position and momentum of a particle, or object, we are making the implicit assumption that the particle is something that can be in one specific place at any time, and that there is a time sequence of places that can be accurately determined to get the momentum of the particle.

Our basic assumption, however, is false. We have known for over a century that “particles” have wave-like qualities, and that they therefore cannot be pinned down to any one location. More recently, we have come to realize that all the particles of nature, from which all the forms and phenomena of nature are constructed, are actually various modes of vibration of an underlying Unified Field, which not only fills all of space and time, but out of which space and time are derived. Thus, trying to restrict a “particle” to a single point position at any point in time is simply doing an injustice to the nature of the “particle.” When we go to measure the position or the velocity of the particle, we are asking nature the wrong question, and the answer we get back is just the best nature can do given the circumstances.

I think the analogy when it comes to mental phenomena can be found in Gödel’s Theorem, which states that for any logical system rich enough to include the counting numbers, there are true statements that cannot be proven true within that system. Now a system of logic includes sequences of predicates and conclusions that connect statements already known to be true (either they are axioms of the system or statements derived from the axioms) to new statements that are then adjudged to be true. Gödel’s Theorem essentially states that there are true statements that cannot be reached by any logical path from already known true statements. Now the workings of logic are supposed to be parallel to the way the intellect works – it is our intellectual capacity that produces systems of logic. If there are truths that logic cannot reach, then it is not too surprising that there may be levels of truth that human intellect cannot reach, as Rambam states.

Incidentally, this idea is not new to Rambam. The Midrash is full of references to the 50 levels of knowledge available, potentially, to human beings. In his life Moshe Rabbeinu accessed 49 levels, but the 50 th was closed to him, as long as he had a human body. (These 49 levels correspond to the 49 days between Pesach and Shavuot, when we are supposed to elevate ourselves progressively to re-enact the Revelation at Mt. Sinai.) However, there is an opinion that when he died, or perhaps shortly before he died, the 50th level did in fact open up to Moshe. This is hinted at in the name of his burial place: Mt. Nebo. Nebo can be broken down into the letter Nun + Bo. Nun represents 50 (its numerical value is 50) and Bo can be interpreted as “in him” (as written: bet-vav) or as “comes” ( bet-vav-aleph, with the weak letter aleph missing). In any event, reaching the 50th level is associated with not living in a human body any more, as it says in Parashat Ki Tisa, “No person can see My Face and live.”

I think that the underlying reason for this is that knowledge of the transcendent is indeed beyond the intellect, because it is knowledge of pure Being or Pure Consciousness, without any object of knowledge. It is Consciousness aware of itself, alone, unified. The intellect, as we have noted, makes distinctions, and the transcendent is beyond distinctions. When we transcend, the intellect must stand at the door and wait.

Even though the intellect cannot plumb the full depth of the transcendent, we can experience the transcendent directly by allowing the mind to settle down until it is completely silent. This is the state of Pure Consciousness, and the mind becomes identified with Pure Consciousness, so that we are experiencing our own Self. This is the purest form of knowledge – it is completely integrative, beyond all analysis, it just uses different tools.

We’ll continue our discussion next time.

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Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Yayetze

“Vayetzei” means “and he left.”
audio reading of Parshah Vayeitzei:
This parshah begins with Jacob’s mother sending him to her brother in Haran. On the way, he has a dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder, Gd above the ladder, telling him He will bless him, make him a great nation, be with him.
http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/3481592/jewish/Vayeitzei-Audio-Recording.htm

The torah tropes (tone patterns) in the recitation, ascending and descending tones, give the joyous feeling of ascending and descending Jacob’s ladder—the Ladder to Full Awareness.

I draw on sources such as chabad.org, kabblahonline.org, and Wikipedia plus my memory and intuition to discuss the Kabbalist view of the dream and of the nature of prayer and also give some questions I have about the parshah which I hope we will explore together as time passes.

The common Kabbalist view of the ladder is that it represents prayer enabling us to ascend from our material world to increasingly unmanifest worlds, and eventually to intimacy with Gd. This view derives particularly from the Zohar, one of the foundational texts of Kabbalah. The Zohar’s view is that it represents the four worlds, stages of manifestation (Atzilut, , Beriyah Yetzira, Asiyah,) ranging from the most unmanifest, most heavenly, to the most manifest, most physical. Prayer is the means through which we ascend to come close to Gd, to join with Gd, Who stands above the worlds, Who is One, within Whom all multiplicity exists as expressions. These four worlds—and a fifth, Adam Kadmon, more subtle still are mentioned in Isaiah, 43:7, and are considered to be stages of materialization within Gd.

  • Asiyah is the physical world, the world of action.
  • Higher than this, is Yetzirah, the world of formation, and Beriyah, the world of creation.
  • Still higher is Atzilut, the world of intimacy.
  • Lurianic Kabbalah precedes Atzilut with Adam Kadmon, (The Primordial), which includes all potential creation in latent form.

How is prayer the means to ascend this ladder and to go beyond the veils with which Ein Sof pretends to hide itself?

One fundamental kabbalist view of prayer, according to livingwisdom.kabbalah.com, is given in Genesis when Gd gives Adam the power to name all beasts and fowls and thus to become master of the power of words and master of the world the words describe.

The prayers in our siddurs, the prayers of our services, are primarily praises of Gd, expressions of gratitude through which we increasingly appreciate Gd in subtle and subtler, more and more complete ways and thus ascend the ladder to be One with Gd, “standing above.”

Types of Jewish Prayer:
List of Jewish prayers and blessings – Wikipedia

I hope that we will use prayer today and every day, to climb the ladder and return to Oneness.

Baruch HaShem

Questions:

  1. What gave Jacob confidence that the dream was not merely a dream but a communication from Gd to him?
  2. Why did he place a stone at his head?
  3. Gd is Omnipresent: why should Jacob be surprised that he is in the place where he slept?
  4. Why does Jacob say, “If” the Lord will be with me? Since he is confident that Gd is present where he is and has told him He will be with him, why does Jacob say “If?”
  5. Since Jacob concluded “Gd is here and I did not know it: this is the gate to heaven”, why did he not look for the gate, see the gate, go through the gate