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Parashat Chayei Sarah 5784 — 11/11/2023

Parashat Chayei Sarah 5784 — 11/11/2023

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 23:1-25:18

I was asked to speak with a member of the Fairfield community about the relationship between Jewish practice and Maharishi’s teaching. I promised them I’d write something up, but didn’t realize how long it would be. Here is part II. 

Some thoughts about Jewish practice and Vedic Science — Part 2

Hebrew Language

Torah, the Prophets and the Writings are all written overwhelmingly in Hebrew (parts of Daniel are in Aramaic). The Talmud explicitly states that when Gd speaks, it is in Hebrew, as that is the language of the blueprint of creation. As noted above, creation is Gd speaking to himself. Thus, when we read the Torah in Hebrew, we are, as it were, participating in the mechanics of creation – speaking out the words is like imitatio Dei.

In addition to that, certain combinations of words and phrases may have the effect of stimulating certain laws of nature to act in particularly favorable ways. Thus, the middle 13 blessings of the Shemoneh Esrei (Amida) contain requests – for sustenance, for purification of society, etc. It may be that as we recite those words on the background of settled awareness, we enliven the specific laws of nature that arrange our sustenance, or purify society, or bring healing or prosperity or whatever. The important thing is that the thought arises out of Pure Consciousness within us, but the fact that the thought is expressed in the Hebrew language is also a factor. As an aside, it is permissible to pray in any established language as one learns Hebrew, but the goal is to transition into 100% Hebrew prayer. In another language the mind may be on the meaning of the prayer, which is a positive thing, but the sound value is not present.

The same consideration holds when reciting Psalms. Psalms have traditionally been recited in time of trouble or stress, and they arouse the heart to seek Gd’s compassion, for oneself, or for the community, or for someone who is suffering. Again, this arousal is more easily stimulated when Psalms are recited in Hebrew than in, say, English. In English, they are beautiful poetry (especially if they have been translated well), but in Hebrew they are more than just poems, if recited from the basis of Pure Consciousness. People speak about “storming the heavens” with Psalms, and in fact, it may be that reading them sets up some sort of vibration on a very subtle level that “moves the needle” in the situation. Even if the person being prayed for is unaware that Psalms or prayers are being said on their behalf, if the vibrations of those recitations have an objective effect, then it should positively influence the condition. This is similar to having a group of 10,000 people doing the TM-Sidhi program together and creating a more peaceful environment, whether the population of the world is consciously aware of what is going on.

The question arises, how can both Sanskrit and Hebrew be the “language of nature”? The two languages are very different, the scripts are different, everything is different. I don’t know the answer to this, but I’ll relate a discussion I had with my colleague at MIU, Prof. Doug White in 1977. I argued that Sanskrit and Hebrew, both being Scriptural languages, should be related to one another. Doug, being a linguist, argued that they were from two very different language families. I knew this, having studied some linguistics myself as an undergraduate (which at the time was not so very far in the past). Nevertheless, I thought that at some level there had to be a relationship, because after all, there is just one “language of nature.” A few weeks after our return to MIU Doug sent me an article from an archaeology journal. Apparently a previously unknown Hittite inscription had been found in Anatolia, which caused linguists to rethink the phonology of proto-Indo-European (the language family of Sanskrit). It was almost identical to proto-Semitic (the language family of Hebrew).

My guess is that just as the Torah we have is a projection of the “Supernal Torah” to a more concrete plane of existence and a more degraded time, so the language of Torah may be a projection of the actual “language of nature.” I don’t have anything specific to back this up – it would probably take a lifetime of study of Hebrew and Sanskrit both to come up with the details. Maybe next lifetime. In any event, based on the above, I would suggest that someone who wishes to become a more observant Jew should start learning Hebrew at a comfortable pace

Doing Gd’s Will

Maharishi has equated living life in accord with natural law and living life in accord with Gd’s Will. Any action we take comes from the level of our consciousness. If our consciousness is completely expanded our thoughts are structured by all the laws of nature and therefore our actions, which are the projection of those thoughts, fit in with the evolutionary tendencies of nature. This would manifest as a society where relationships are ideal, our interactions with the environment are nourishing for both the individual and the environment.

If we look at the laws of the Torah, we find a prescription for creating such an ideal society, one based on mutual love and trust between people, as well as devotion to Gd. These lessons are conveyed by precept and by example. The Oral Torah, as embodied in the Mishnah, elaborates and explains, and in some cases fills in vital details, to the often extremely terse Torah text. Torah in its most expanded sense, including both Written Torah (Scripture), Oral Torah (Talmud) and Rabbinic literature (codes of law, commentaries, etc.), is a huge compendium of legal material, homiletics, legends, medical knowledge (some of it consistent with modern, Western medicine), etc. A true “operating manual for planet earth.” Or, in more traditional terms, a delineation of Gd’s Will that we can follow so we don’t stray into harmful behavior.

The difficulty is, as Maharishi says, “Knowledge in the books remains in the books – it’s never there when you need it.” The idea of Torah study is to create a state of knowledge where we don’t actually need the books to act properly; rather, we have the fruit of all the knowledge in all those books available on the level of our awareness, so that we can spontaneously intuit and do Gd’s Will. This level of awareness is called da’at Torah which I would translate as “Torah consciousness.” Some great Rabbis, who have spent decades dealing with people’s questions, trying to find precedents in the Talmud or in the writings of later Rabbis, and generally aligning themselves with the collective wisdom of Jewish tradition, are said to possess da’at Torah.

My suggestion here is that regularly contacting Transcendental Consciousness, the level of the Supernal Torah, is another, and probably more efficient, way to achieve this state. There is tremendous wisdom and spiritual insight in our tradition, but it is, in the end, a human tradition based on a Divine text. The Torah itself anticipates situations where the collective wisdom of the people can err, and prescribes the particular sacrifice that is to be brought in such a case. If we are living 25% natural law it is hard to see how any institution can be perfect. On the other hand, according to this suggestion, once Transcendental Consciousness is permanently established in our awareness, we will have reached a state of da’at Torah (and we will be coming closer to this state day by day as we practice TM). Enough people on this path will lead quickly to the ideal community that Torah envisions.

Our tradition tells us that our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’akov “kept the entire Torah before it was given, even the Rabbinic mitzvot.” The comment-ators debate what this means, pointing out that there appear to be some glaring exceptions (Ya’akov married two sisters, which is explicitly forbidden by Torah law). The answer that they seem to come up with is that they were able to intuit what right action was at every moment and go in that direction. Since the Torah had not been given yet, if their intuition deviated from Torah law, they could follow their own intuition, as Torah law was not yet binding. (Don’t try this at home.) Once the Torah was given however, nobody has the authority to oppose it.

Again, I think we can understand this idea by positing that the forefathers’ consciousness was fully expanded, in touch with the Supernal Torah or Pure Consciousness, and were therefore able to act in accord with natural law. Once the procedures of contacting Pure Consciousness were either lost, or lost currency among the people, then the ability to intuit right action was more or less lost, rules had to be given and followed, and only the very spiritually elite were able to rise to the level of da’at Torah.

I will try to finish this up next week.  (Same thing I said last week…)


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Chayei Sarah
After Sarah passes, with Gd’s Presence in her as it was and in Abraham, Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to look for a spouse for his son, Isaac.

What qualities would we want in a servant who we send to an unfamiliar world to select a spouse for our beloved child?

What strategy would the servant use to select exactly the right spouse?

Eliezer’s name means “Help of my Gd”: Eliezer is servant of Gd first, Abraham second.

This is the perfect quality we want in a servant: the servant will act according to Gd’s Will and our desire will be fulfilled in alignment with Gd’s Will.

Abraham, therefore, trusts not only Eliezer’s loyalty but his competence—his competence on zeroing in on the right bride and his judgment in making sure she really is the right one.

Eliezer’s strategy is not to stay within his limited ability but to ask Gd for guidance. As he approaches a well in the country to which he is sent he prays in his heart that Gd will bring a woman to the well who will offer to give him not only a drink from her pitcher that he asks for but also that she will offer to provide water for his camels also, even without his asking. Eliezar values generosity as a sign of love and appropriateness.

Before he even finishes this prayer, a woman appears who fulfills his request.

This a sign of considerable purity in Eliezer and also in the woman, who is Rebekah and who becomes Isaac’s wife.

Rebekah leads Eliezer to her family and Eliezer explains his mission: to find a bride for his master Abraham’s son, Isaac.

“Will you marry him?” his family asks.

“Yes, I will,” Rebekah replies, a sign not only of generosity but of her own judgment that Eliezer is connecting her with the love that Gd intends for her, a marriage that will enable her to be not only a good and happy wife, but a good servant of Gd.

“Will you leave tomorrow?” Eliezer asks.

“Yes, I will,” Rebekah replies, a sign of trust.

And when Rebekah meets Isaac, they love each other and Isaac is comforted for the loss of his mother, proof that Eliezer was a good and competent servant, one who fulfilled his master’s wishes, one to whom Gd responds even before the wish of his heart is completely stated.

In our lives we do our best “to love Gd with all our heart and soul” and “to love our neighbor as our self” so that we are good servants of Gd and, therefore, also of ourselves, our families, our communities and also we are trusting recipients of Gd’s messages and increasingly can act as Gd’s messengers and servants.

We do our best to be trustworthy, competent, loving, generous and to welcome in the Shekinah, Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Bride. We do this not only on Shabbat but every moment so that, more and more, Gd’s Presence lives in us. And we seek to restore ourselves and to be restored to the Oneness, within which the duality of Gd and us exists. This is the marriage of the self to the Self and the marriage of the Self to the Self. This is Eliezer finding Rebekah as a bride for Isaac.

Not only the meaning of this parshah helps us in this delightful activity but even more fundamentally, the sound.

Here is Rabbi Michael Slavin, from the Chabad Brooklyn central synagogue, where the Lubavitcher Rebbe presided, reading “Chayei Sarah”:

Chayei Sarah Audio Recording