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Parashat Tetzaveh 5781 — 02/27/2021

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 27:20-30:10

This week I want to finish discussing General Relativity and its applications, specifically the Big Bang, and how that may impact our discussion of the eternity of the universe. Then I would like to consider some more modern approaches and how that might change our view of reality.

Newton envisioned space and time as separate entities, both unbounded, flat, stretching to infinity in all directions, the static “stage” where the action of physics takes place. In Einstein’s Special Relativity space and time are combined into one unitary construct, space-time, but it is still the flat, unbounded stage in which all dynamic systems play out their behavior. With General Relativity, space-time now is curved, much like the surface of the earth is a curved space. The “shortest paths” in the curved space-time are the paths that objects take, and the actual curvature is governed by the distribution of the objects in the space. You can see how matter and space-time are now linked into one system, with feedback loops galore. The kinds of behavior such a system can engender is sometimes very non-intuitive.

One interesting phenomenon that occurs in the gravitational collapse of certain stars (> about 1.4 solar masses) can lead to a runaway situation in which the gravitational collapse of the star causes the star to become so dense that even light cannot escape. This is a black hole. What is actually happening in a black hole is that space-time gets infinitely curved, compressed into a single point, pinched right out of existence so-to-speak. The singularity of space-time is not in space-time, but is transcendental to space-time.

This notion of a singularity comes back in a bigger way when we solve Einstein’s equations for the universe as a whole. In 1922, Soviet physicist Alexander Friedman solved Einstein’s equations for a universe that is uniform in mass density throughout. He showed that such a universe could be expanding, in which case all the galaxies would be receding from one another with speed proportional to their distance apart. Think of a raisin bread dough rising. The raisins, which are stuck in the dough, move apart from one another as the dough rises, and the farther one raisin is from its neighbor, the faster they separate.

There are two theories that are consistent with Friedman’s solution: the Steady-State theory, which requires that matter be continually created everywhere, and the Big Bang theory. In 1926 Hubble found that in fact the galaxies were moving away from one another at a rate proportional to their distance. In 1965 Penzias and Wilson discovered that the universe was bathed in microwave radiation corresponding to a background temperature of about 2.7 K. This decisively decided the matter in favor of the Big Bang theory. You can find the details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background and in articles about the chief players I have mentioned.

Now if the universe is expanding, in the past it must have been smaller. If we project backwards in time the universe becomes more and more compact (and hotter and more dense) until a point is reached where the whole universe is just a single point – a singularity that is beyond space and time, but from which space and time emerge. Where does this singularity exist? Certainly not anywhere in time or space as we know it, because time and space are all rolled up (infinitely curved in fact) in this one point. Somehow space and time emerge from this one point, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This view obviously corresponds more closely to the Biblical account of creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing (no-thing, i.e. the transcendent). In fact, in the first fraction of a second after the Big Bang (a very misleading misnomer) the universe was so dense and hot that there could be no atoms or molecules, only radiation: And Gd said, “Let there be light!” As the universe expanded and cooled, particles “condensed” out of the radiation, and the elements could form, then stars and galaxies, planets, biological life and eventually human consciousness. The sequence, if not the time scale, is actually quite similar to the first chapter in Genesis.

This model is based on some simplifying assumptions. One of the most fascinating is this: in a singularity, all of space and time are rolled up into a single point. But this is a classical concept. In quantum mechanics, there are no point particles; everything is described as a wave. The wave nature of objects leads to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, which states that one cannot specify the position and the state of motion (the momentum, technically) to arbitrary accuracy. This is because a wave is inherently not localized, but that is a discussion for another day. While we still don’t know how to apply quantum mechanics to gravity in detail, the existence of a singularity would seem to contradict the Uncertainty Principle, since the state of space-time is exactly specified.

There have been various solutions proposed for this problem. One is that space-time is not, in fact, continuous, but has a “foam-like” structure at the smallest possible scale of space and time. This is due to the irreducible quantum fluctuations (“zero-point fluctuations”) in any field that prevent us from specifying the state exactly, even if there is nothing “real” there (i.e. no energy in the field). This would rule out the existence of any singularity. In that case, if the universe were to reach a maximum size and then start contracting back to a singularity (in the classical model) it is possible that it would “bounce” off the irreducible minimum size and begin to expand again. Whether or not any “memory” of the previous cycle would carry through is unknown.

More modern unified field theories posit that the underlying “space” in which the unified field exists has many more dimensions than the four with which we are familiar. This leads to the possibility of an infinite number of space-time “slices” through the extra dimensions – parallel universes if you will – at different stages of evolution, all coexisting with no communication between them. Whether there are any testable consequences of these ideas is an active area of research.

In any event, we see that modern physics has given us a much deeper perspective on time than our simple sensory perception. In all events it appears that time itself grows out of some field or some area that is transcendental to time. This would imply that our understanding of time would be dependent on our ability to station our awareness on the transcendental level, which is, of course, eternal and beyond time, as we have discussed. Next week I’d like to discuss what Vedic Science has to say about the issue, and see if we can reconcile Aristotle’s and Rambam’s views.

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Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Tetzaveh

In this parashah, Gd continues giving Moses many instructions to command the children of Israel to do so that He will dwell among them.

The first is that they shall bring pure olive oil to kindle the Eternal Flame continually.

Oil, lamps and light all have deep symbolism that guides us to live in such a way that we will be aware of Gd’s Presence within every aspect of our mind, body, soul, heart and in the world around us, that guide us to experience the Eternal.

Oil, for example, symbolizes the aspect of Gd through which He appears, speaks to us. It is used for anointing kings and priests, making them holy (Whole) so they can serve Gd.

Lamps are containers to hold kindling, such as oil, and they symbolize we human beings who have become pure enough to know that Gd’s Presence is already within us.

Light, for example, symbolizes the actions in which we not only know Gd’s Presence but also act with Gd’s Presence enlivening, purifying, enlightening every action of ours so that they are in accord with Gd’s Will and spread awareness of Gd’s Presence so we are aware of it everywhere and so is everyone else, so is every impulse of Gd, all of what we call Creation, the Universe.

In addition to oil for the lamps, Gd commands Moses to bring Aaron and his sons “near to yourself”: this is raising them close to the level of awareness Moses has: constant awareness of the Presence of Gd.

They are to be brought near and Moses and those who Gd has “filled with the spirit of wisdom” shall make garments for them, garments that Gd describes in great detail. The High Priest was to wear tunic, cloaks, apron, breastplate, turban, gold plate above the turban, belt and pants and these were to made of gold, linen, wool, precious stones. The ordinary priests were to wear tunics, turbans, belts and pants.

The extensive detail suggests deep symbolism, symbolizing different levels of drawing near to Gd and different levels of bringing not only the priests into harmony with Gd but bringing all of Israel and all of Nature into Harmony.

The main point for us that whatever literal garments we wear and whatever garments we wear symbolize our purity, our love, our harmony so we should be guided by our sense of harmony and purity: continue to increase those things which allow us to experience and radiate harmony and joy, Harmony and Joy; and continue to let fall away anything which limits joy and harmony, clouds them.

As we do this, Gd fills us more and more with the spirit of wisdom and we are able to make, not only pure physical materials and the garments but spiritual ones as well — our innocent hearts and minds are the materials and our thoughts and actions are the garments-that enable us to serve Gd with Holiness, to serve as High Priests and priests even while walking, talking, working, playing — all the things we do in our daily life, no matter what our literal profession.

Just by reading this parashah, in Hebrew or in English, or hearing it a bit, a lot or all of it we become Lamps in which Gd’s Presence is apparent and Lights in which Gd’s Will is done—a little, more, a lot, and then All, and we return through our openness and our good actions to the Oneness in which all separations are dissolved and all details are enjoyed as harmonious, joyful, loving expressions within the Oneness which is Gd, our Self, One.

Baruch HaShem