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Parashat Behar 5782 — 05/21/2022

Parashat Behar 5782 — 05/21/2022

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.

Vayikra 25:1-26:2
Rambam next turns his attention to the word tzur = rock or mountain. The Aramaic equivalent is tor – the tet in Aramaic often replaces a tzaddi in Hebrew. (The English word “tor” means a craggy hill or outcrop of rock, but it appears that it is of Celtic origin and unrelated to Hebrew or Aramaic.) A tzur can also mean something hard, flinty. I wonder if it is related to the root tza’ar, meaning pain or discomfort. Tz’rorot are pebbles or small stones. Tzavar (with a vav in the middle) = “neck” is spelled the same as tzur, except the vav is a consonant in tzavar and a vowel in tzur. I’m not sure what the connection between the two is, if any. Additional, similar roots are tzar = narrow, constricted. The word Mitzraim = Egypt comes from this root: boundaries. Also, to draw (as a picture) is l’tzayyer and form (as in the form of an object) is tzurah, all from the same or similar roots. I believe that the connection is hardness, boundaries, rigidity, constriction. But enough of my speculations, here is what Rambam has to say (Chapter 16):

Rock [tzur] is an equivocal term. It is a term denoting a mountain. Thus: And thou shalt smite the rock. It is also a term denoting a hard stone like flint. Thus: Knives of rock. It is, further, a term denoting the quarry from which quarry-stones are hewn. Thus: Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn. Subsequently, in derivation from the last meaning, the term was used figuratively to designate the root and principle of every thing. It is on this account that after saying: Look unto the rock whence ye were hewn, Scripture continues Look unto Abraham your father, and so on, giving, as it were, an interpretation according to which the rock whence ye were hewn is Abraham your father. Tread therefore in his footsteps, adhere to his religion, and acquire his character, inasmuch as the nature of a quarry ought to be present in what is hewn from it. On account of the last meaning, Gd, may he be exalted, is designated as the Rock, as He is the principle and the efficient cause of all things other than Himself. Accordingly it is said: The Rock, His work is perfect; Of the Rock that begat thee thou wast unmindful;” Their Rock had given them over; And there is no Rock like our Gd, The Rock of Eternity. The verse, And thou shalt stand erect upon the rock means: Rely upon, and be firm in considering, Gd, may He be exalted, as the first principle. This is the entryway through which you shall come to Him, as we have made clear when speaking of His saying [to Moses]: Behold, there is a place by Me.

Rambam identifies the figurative meaning of tzur as the root and principle of every thing. This makes sense in a couple of ways. First of all, whenever we build a building, it has to be built on a sturdy foundation – bedrock preferably. More to the point, the “root and principle” of something is the most basic value that underlies that thing. We can consider this “underlying” in a couple of ways. My pen, for example, is made of plastic – a polymer – which is made up of chains of molecules, which are made up of atoms, which are made up of subatomic particles, all the way to the Unified Field, which is unchanging, but vibrant within itself. It is this unchanging aspect that is rock-like.

Alternatively, we could say that my pen is a particular instance of the class of objects we call “pens,” which are “writing instruments,” which are “means of communication,” etc. This is a hierarchy of abstraction, and the most abstract level of this hierarchy is Pure Being, or Pure Existence. Pure Being is of course unchanging, because it is completely abstract – since there is nothing concrete about it, there is nothing that lies within the realm of change or boundaries. Thus it, too, has a rock-like character.

But I think there is, at least conceptually, a difference between Pure Consciousness and Pure Being. Consciousness is alive, awake. Being is inert – it just is, but doesn’t really do anything. Consciousness is flexible and creative and infinitely dynamic, based on its self-referral nature as consciousness. Pure Being has no such self-referential nature and it is thus inert. Someone once asked Maharishi if they could pray to Being. He replied that it was useless, as Being could not respond or do anything.

The basis of the internal dynamics of Consciousness is its ability to be both the observer and the observed, both subject and object. This is what gives it its infinite flexibility and creativity. Being, on the other hand, can be viewed as purely “objective.” It is more like a rock or stone than Consciousness!

Now of course Pure Being is Pure Consciousness – there is really no difference between them other than our conceptual difference. Pure Being has the nature of Pure Consciousness and thus is every bit as flexible. Yet perhaps this purely conceptual difference has some explanatory power in helping us understand the internal dynamics of Pure Consciousness, at least until such time as we can talk to the Rock directly.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat BeHar

The main thing we can learn from this parshah is to schedule regular periods of rest into our lives and schedule deeper, longer rest also regularly: just as we are to rest every seventh day and the land is to rest every seventh year.

“Behar” means “on the mountain,” literally, Mt. Sinai; symbolically, that level of our awareness when we are able to hear Gd and to express Gd’s Will in our actions in our familiar everyday world.

Also, since Rabbinic tradition derives “Sinai” from “sin-ah,” “hatred,” a reference to the hatred of other nations for the Jews who received the Word of Gd, we might see Mt. Sinai as being the mountain of Love, Invincible to hatred, above which is Gd, freeing the mountain, Moses, and through Torah given to Moses, all of us.

Hatred comes from fear which comes from restrictions and the suffering that goes with living life at a level less than we feel we need, deserve. But contact with Gd, through attunement, through rest, loosens the restrictions, opens the awareness to fuller happiness and ability, and dissolves fear and hatred. The Sabbath and the Sabbatical Year are examples of means to gain this rest and to gain the experience that brings trust and releases doubt and fear.

But even on days other than the Sabbath, we begin the day with prayers, pray afternoon and evening and conclude the day with prayers. These prayers and other spiritual practices we may do can serve as times of rest during the day.

Ideally, our continued prayers, activity, and Sabbaths become integrated and we experience a continuous state of lively rest that pervades every moment of our day: we become perfectly attuned with Gd and are restored to Full Awareness, that Gd is One, that our individual personalities are roles that Gd plays, and we are One with the One, we are All in All, the One and Only “I.”

Baruch HaShem