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Parashat Bo 5784 — 01/20/2024

Parashat Bo 5784 — 01/20/2024

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 10:1-13:16

Rambam continues his discussion of peoples’ incorrect assumption that Gd is composite/corporeal:

If however, such a state of affairs exists with respect to a thing acting by virtue of its nature, it exists all the more with respect to one who acts through will, and again all the more with respect to Him, may He be exalted, Who is above every attributive qualification. We have grasped with regard to Him relations having corresponding diverse notions – for the notion of knowledge is in us other than the notion of power, and the latter other than the notion of will. Yet how can we regard as a necessary consequence of this the subsistence in Him of diverse notions that are essential to Him, so that there would subsist in Him something by virtue of which He knows as well as something by virtue of which He wills and something by virtue of which He has power, for this is the meaning of the attributes whose existence is asserted by the people in question? Some of them state this clearly, enumerating the notions that are superadded to the essence. Others belonging to them do not state this clearly; however it is quite clear in the belief, even if it is not expressed in comprehensible language. This is the case when some of them assert that He possesses power because of His essence, possesses knowledge because of His essence, is living because of His essence, possesses will because of His essence.

Rambam now moves to another level of consideration. It is one thing to talk about fire, which by its very nature is hot and that heat does various things. On a higher level is something which acts through will – that is, primarily, human beings who have free will, but of course also includes Gd, Whose Will is not constrained by anything the way a human being’s is. Rambam then goes on to point out that will, knowledge and power in human beings are distinct qualities, and we tend to project that distinction upon Gd, either explicitly or implicitly. But that is not correct, as he will go on to show.

Rambam gives as an example of something unitary that produces many different effects. The rational faculty is one “…to which no multiplicity is posited.” But using our rational faculty we can sew, do woodworking, learn geometry and govern a city. All these proceed from the rational faculty, which just expresses itself in different ways. Therefore, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine a unitary Gd from Whose Essence all the multiplicity of creation flows, and from which Gd interacts with the world He has created. Rambam continues:

Every attribute that is found in the books of the deity, may He be exalted, is therefore an attribute of His action and not an attribute of His essence, or it is indicative of absolute perfection.

I think the point here is that all the different actions that we read about in Scripture are considered to emanate from Gd’s essence, but to not indicate any kind of bifurcation of His essence. His essence remains unitary, while His actions are diverse (as in the example of the human rational faculty), and His diverse attributes are attributes of His action, thus preserving the unitary nature of Gd’s essence. Rambam goes on to say that this is a subtle point and is missed by many who read Scripture too literally.

The Rabbis taught that Gd has attributes – in fact, if you ever make it to the last verse of the Pesach song Echad Mi Yode’a (“Who Knows 1?) it is the number 13: Who knows 13, I know 13, 13 are the Divine Attributes. The “13 Attributes of Mercy” are in verses 34:6-7 of Shemot / Exodus, and are part of the conversation in which Moses wins forgiveness for the people after the sin of the golden calf. The part that is actually proclaimed as the “13 Attributes” contains 18 words, and it takes some interpretation to come up with exactly 13 actual attributes, but Gd promises that recitation of this passage can bring forgiveness (if accompanied by sincere repentance). Consequently, they form the centerpiece of the penitential prayers said on fast days and during the penitential period between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur. Here is an interesting article about the 13 Attributes in which the author shows that the Attributes apply to the relationship between Gd and people on earth.

The main attributes that are discussed in the Rabbinic literature are the Midat haRachamim (Attribute of Mercy) and the Midat haDin (Attribute of Strict Justice). Of course one man’s mercy may be another man’s strict justice – consider the plagues of Egypt which were very harsh on the Egyptians, but were merciful to the Jews, who were liberated. But certainly these attributes, like all the others, do not indicate that Gd’s essence is composite – if the same actions can express these two opposite attributes, then certainly the same essence, out of which that action comes, can also contain both attributes as an unbroken, unified whole, just like the rational faculty can produce a carpenter and a scientist, as we saw above.

Rambam now goes on to give a beautiful description of the self-referral nature of consciousness as applied to Gd (and again, this is my reading based on what I understand of Vedic Science, not an assertion of what Rambam “really meant”):

Now you know that the notion of knowledge in reference to Him, may He be exalted, is identical with the notion of life, for everyone who apprehends his own essence possesses both life and knowledge by virtue of the same thing. For we wished to signify by “knowledge” the apprehension of one’s own essence. Now the essence that apprehends is undoubtedly the same as the essence that is apprehended. For in our opinion He is not composed of two things, the thing that apprehends and another thing that does not apprehend, as man is composed of a soul that apprehends and of a body that does not apprehend. Accordingly, inasmuch as our saying “possessing knowledge” is intended to signify “he who apprehends his own essence,” life and knowledge form in this case one notion.

“Apprehension of one’s own essence” means the Self knowing itself, as we experience when we transcend. This knowing, or apprehension, means that the Self, Pure Consciousness, takes on the roles of Observer and Observed, while of course remaining one and the same thing, as Rambam states: “For in our opinion He is not composed of two things, the thing that apprehends [Observer] and another thing that does not apprehend [Observed]…” Nowadays we would describe the distinction between Self-as-Observer and Self-as-Object of Observation as a “virtual” distinction. It is this virtual distinction that, according to Vedic Science, gives rise to all of multiplicity. Rambam puts it this way:

…we, the community of those who profess the Unity by virtue of a knowledge of the truth – just as we do not say that there is in His essence a superadded notion by virtue of which He has created the heavens, and another one by virtue of which He has created the elements, and a third one by virtue of which He has created the intellects – so we do not say that there is in Him a superadded notion by virtue of which He possesses power, and another by virtue of which He possesses will, and a third one by virtue of which He knows the things created by Him. His essence is, on the contrary, one and simple, having no notion that is superadded to it in any respect. This essence has created everything that it has created and knows it, …

That is, Gd’s creative power is indistinguishable from His Will, and all is His essence. So Will, Power, Observer, Observed, Knowledge, are all Gd knowing Himself by virtue of His self-referral nature. All creation is therefore Gd’s internal, virtual dynamics based on Gd’s eternal self-knowledge.

Rambam will next go on to consider how Moshe Rabbeinu expresses these ideas in Torah.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Bo

“Bo” means “come” or “go.”  After seven plagues, the Lrd tells Moses, “Come to Pharaoh, tell him to let my people go but I have hardened his heart so he will not and I will visit three more plagues upon him and his people so they will know that I am the Lrd.” (paraphrasing).

We see Gd, Who is Totality, playing the roles of Moses and Aaron but also of Pharaoh and Pharaoh’s people. As Moses and Aaron, He worships Wholeness; as Pharaoh, he worships partial values and refuses to open Himself to Wholeness.

This is a reminder to us, that Gd is All: Gd is our friend, Gd is our opponent, Gd is the neutrals, Gd is All.

It is a reminder to place Wholeness first in our lives and to draw upon Universal Love so we ARE this Love and it flows freely through us to transform restrictions, opponents, troubles into Wholeness, friends and Blessings.

Pharaoh refuses to let Israelites go and three more plagues are visited upon him and all Egypt.

With the plague of the death of the first born and the death of his first-born son Pharaoh finally drives the Children of Israel out of Egypt to worship the Lrd. They take with them their children, flocks and wealth the Egyptians gave them, wealth they infuse with Wholeness.

Literally, “first born” refers to the first-born child; symbolically, it is whatever is our most precious desire, our link between our present status and the future status we hope to achieve.
Our religion guides us to cherish most a first-born that can never die, making our most precious desire the desire to be restored to full awareness of Oneness, One with the One, One with Gd, Who Is All There Is, Unborn and Undying.

And our religion guides us to “worship Gd with all our heart and all our soul” and “love our neighbor as our Self”, and thus to free ourselves from enslavement to limited values of life, which were the values of Pharaoh’s Egypt/Mitzraim/ Restrictions, and to gently become fully aware of the Wholeness within which all limits are no longer experienced as limits but are experienced as expressions of the Wholeness within which they exist, flow, flourish.

This parshah reminds us to keep our priorities in order and to free ourselves from restrictions so we have time to worship the Lrd, and thus to transform restrictions into Expressions of the Lrd, of Wholeness, and that includes restoring our experience of our restricted self to Full Awareness, One with the One.

Baruch HaShem