Skip to content

Parashat Bamidbar 5781 — 05/15/2021

Parashat Bamidbar 5781 — 05/15/2021

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.

Bamidbar 1:1-4:20

L’ilui nishmat Immanuel ben Avraham (Emo Baer) on his 2nd Yahrzeit

Two weeks ago we quoted Prof Pines on al-Fārābī:

In that state, which is the state of being endowed with the so-called acquired intellect, man is exceedingly close to the Active Intellect, and, at the same time, his activity is not transitive, it does not go beyond his own self. In fact, man, his act, and the fact that he is accomplishing an act are one and the same. In less recondite terminology this means that man has become an intellect and that consequently (this being an essential quality of all intellects), he as subject is identical both with the act of intellection and with its object. In this state he can cognize without the help of the bodily organs.

I have extended the quote a little bit from two weeks ago. I believe that this passage is a very clear description of the experience of gaining knowledge when Pure Consciousness has become established in the mind of an individual. How so?

To review a bit, we saw that the Pure Consciousness we experience within ourselves is the same Pure Consciousness that is the stuff of the entire manifest creation, both physical and non-physical. Since Pure Consciousness is “pure,” with no object of consciousness, Pure Consciousness has only itself to interact with. Vedic Science asserts that it is this self-interaction that ramifies and becomes creation. That is, all manifest creation is actually nothing other than the virtual dynamics of Consciousness, moving or vibrating within itself. This is similar to the description of creation given by modern Unified Field theories: there is one, all-pervasive Unified Field which is self-interacting, and which expresses itself as all the elementary particles and their interactions of which the universe is structured.

There are several consequences of this understanding. Once Pure Consciousness is established as the innermost nature of the mind and personality, we identify ourselves with it – it is our Self, and that Self is transcendental to the entire world of activity. In this level of consciousness, we do not act at all, because we identify with the silent, unchanging Pure Consciousness that is beyond our individuality. Our individuality acts – our mind thinks, our intellect (modern usage of the term!) decides, our body acts and interacts with the outer world. Indeed, the individual aspects of our personality are part of the outside world, while our inner world is completely detached from it.

I think this is a first level of fulfillment of the concept: his activity is not transitive, it does not go beyond his own self. Our activity is actually not our activity at all, because we are Pure Consciousness in our essence. It is only the individual aspects of our personality that act, and that action is detached from our Self. But at this level of consciousness, where the Self is Pure Consciousness and all activity takes place outside the Self, is only a preliminary and incomplete fulfillment.

When Pure Consciousness is established fully in the mind, the mind is completely expanded and no further growth is possible in that area. However, the senses are still perceiving as they always have, and objects appear to be completely separate from the Self, finite, bounded in space and time. According to Vedic Science, this is an area where further growth is possible. With continued experience of Pure Consciousness as our inward nature, our senses begin to refine, and we begin to perceive finer and finer levels of objective creation, until the finest level of every object of perception is open to the senses. Note that this finest level of the object is still within the realm of boundaries, of creation.

At this point something remarkable takes place. As Maharishi describes the process, the Self inside, which is unbounded, Pure Consciousness, recognizes that just beyond the finest level of the object lies the same Pure Consciousness that it is itself. Now the object is evaluated by the Self, the subject, as being on the same transcendental level as the subject. There is a true unity between subject and object – unity on the level of the transcendent, which is the essential nature of everything in creation, ourselves included. As time progresses, this recognition of the unity between subject and object expands to more and more peripheral levels of focus, until the whole of our perception is one of unbroken unity – the transcendent is all-pervasive, everything is the Self and the Self is the Self of everything. As the Upanishads express it, “I am That [inner value is transcendental], Thou art That [object is transcendental], All this is That [all-pervasive transcendental field].”

Now we can return to our passage. His activity is not transitive, it does not go beyond his own self. In this state of Unity Consciousness there is nothing but the Self, and all activity is seen as nothing other than fluctuations of the Self, taking place within the Self. Even the activity of our personality is just a fluctuation of our Self, interacting with other manifestations of our Self. The entire activity of the cosmos, all the forms and phenomena, the structures and the activities, are fluctuations of our innermost Self, no matter how “out there” they may be.

This also explains the continuation of the passage: …man has become an intellect and that consequently (this being an essential quality of all intellects), he as subject is identical both with the act of intellection and with its object. In this state he can cognize without the help of the bodily organs. In other words (my words of course – I am not trying to put words in Prof. Pines’ mouth, nor Rambam’s nor al-Fārābī’s nor Aristotle’s), if we identify “intellect” with Pure Consciousness, the person in Unity Consciousness is Pure Consciousness (“intellect”), as is everything else. Since that person is Pure Consciousness, they ultimately can know only the Self – the subject and object are both the Self, Pure Consciousness or “intellect.” And since the structure of the object is identical to the structure of our consciousness, there is no need to go outside ourselves to cognize anything we wish to know.

The big question for the medieval philosophers was whether it is possible for a person to reach this state of consciousness. In particular, for Rambam, the question was whether Moshe Rabbeinu could have, or actually did, reach such a state of consciousness. We will let Rambam speak for himself on the issue, when we get to that point in Moreh Nevukim.

Chag Shavuot Same’ach!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Bamidbar “In the Desert, the Wilderness”

The desert/wilderness symbolizes both barrenness and transcendence. Depending on our level of awareness we perceive it either as the opportunity of transcendence or the sorrow of barrenness. Fortunately, even the sorrow is temporary because the relation between Gd and Israel, Gd and human, Wholeness and expression, is such that Gd more and more deeply unfolds the opportunities within the seeming barrenness, eventually revealing to each individual that even within the barrenness there is Gd and that Gd Is all there is, each individual is an expression.

We have a saying, “Gd helps those who help themselves”, not selfishly but as members of a community dedicated to service of Gd, Full Restoration of Awareness. For those experiencing bamidbar as transcendence helping our selves means acting with Love to bring the Transcendent Self into the everyday life of our self and our community.

For those who are experiencing bamidbar as sorrow, acting to create joy in that sorrow, fertility in the barrenness, is the way to reduce the sorrow and reveal the Transcendent within it. We have another saying “Gd is in the details” meaning: “Don’t just look at the Transcendent as an Emptiness, but see the liveliness within it; see it vibrating; hear it singing. And meaning “Look more carefully, more lovingly, into the barrenness and find opportunities for growth and happiness.

When we don’t just pray to Gd for help but act from our own side to fulfill our desires then Gd is more and more revealed as the Source of our desires and our actions and not only is our immediate desire fulfilled but the purpose of all life is fulfilled: the return to experience the Oneness which we Are and which expresses Itself within Itself as Infinite Detail, Infinitely Harmonized.

In this parshah, Gd commands a census — revealing the details of the population of the Children of Israel — at least, of the males of military age, and revealing the detailed opportunity to serve.

We also say, “You count!”  People can get the sad feeling that they don’t matter: they’re just one person in a crowd. With a census it becomes clear that everyone counts, matters. We also say, “Stand up and be counted!”: stand up for what you believe in. The census requires everyone to stand up and acknowledge they are not just individuals, they are part of the Children of Israel, the Community of the World, dedicated not just to their individuality but to Gd.

When Gd gives details or asks for details, He is showing us something of the Details of Gd, of the All-in-All. Gd is Showing us that Gd Is not just an abstract mass of Fullness, Gd has a Structure, just as do our bodies, our communities, our nations, planet, Universe. In the census that took place in Bamidbar, I could not think of any way the number “603,550”—the number of males of military age, excluding the Levites that were counted—connects to the Nature of Gd and I found only one source on the Internet that addresses the issue.

The source looks at the census from the point-of-view of Gematria, a traditional way of interpreting Torah from the standpoint of the symbolism intuited from comparing one word to another through the use of the numerical value that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has.

The author looks at the earlier census Gd commanded and to this one, finds the number 1820 is significant in terms of one aspect of the difference between the censuses, and finds that this number is significant in terms of some of the Names of Gd and also the nature of Creation, of Amen, of the Messiah.

I mention this source, because from the standpoint that Gd is in the details, the author is attempting to attend to the detail of the census, to find meaning in it, and since every aspect of Torah is useful in our life, paying attention to its detail is an action that helps reveal to us the Nature of Gd as All-in-All, One that is All-in-All.

The parshah also describes the separate roles of the three Levite clans and also the spatial orientation of the different tribes in the encampment: Levites, including Moses, Aaron and Aaron’s sons, in the inner circle, the twelve tribes around that in the groups of three tribes for each direction.

Here we have a possible symbolism of Gd not just in terms of numbers but also in terms of space: not that Gd is limited to space that we can perceive with our senses but that Gd is Wholeness with a structure that we can perceive more and more as through our actions we attend to the details of Torah and of our lives as members of families, communities, planet, universe.

We have in Torah: “Gd created Man (Humanity) in His own Image” Genesis 1:27.

Torah is the Liveliness of Gd, One with Gd, and so to look at its structure and meaning helps us to find the way, the ways, in which we are Images of Gd, and to gradually find that we are not merely Images of Gd, but expressions of Gd. We find that Gd fully Acts through us.

Let us continue standing up to be counted, to act in the Service of Gd so that we can continue growing together and Fully Remember and Experience our Oneness.

Baruch HaShem