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Parashat Ki Tisa 5781 — 03/06/2021

Parashat Ki Tisa 5781 — 03/06/2021

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 30:11-34:35

Time is a conception to measure eternity. Indian historians base their conception of time on eternal Being; for them eternity is the basic field of time. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita IV:1
When Existence becomes conscious, Intelligence becomes intelligent. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, SCI Course Lesson 8
When Gd began to create Heaven and earth – now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of Gd hovered over the waters – Gd said, “Let there be light” and there was light. Genesis Chapter 1

Vedic Science’s specialty is knowledge of the transcendent. The transcendent, as we have analyzed, is devoid of any objects, any “things,” any boundaries. Since there are no objects within the transcendent, there can be no change or motion, and it is through change and motion that we get our perception of time. So, the very notion of time, let alone its measurement, is something that is only relevant to the created world. In this sense it is almost tautological to say that the universe (i.e. creation) is not eternal – eternity by definition belongs to the object-less world of no-thingness, the transcendent. This of course fits well with the idea that the universe began at a point at which time itself was created. Physics, of course, cannot probe what was “before” this point, or “where” the expansion took place from, because those questions are questions about the realm that is transcendental to space and time.

In a continuation of the first quote above, Maharishi goes on to describe the cycles of time that are used to describe eternity, from the largest cycle (which is on the order of 10^23 years) to smaller cycles (e.g. a Kalpa which is about 4 x 10^9 years – according to physics the life of our universe would be about 15 Kalpas) etc. Of course, since eternity has no boundaries, there are an infinite number of such cycles. If the universe is itself finite, then given an infinite amount of time it will eventually return to every possible configuration and infinite number of times. In the words of another Yogi, it would be “déjà vu all over again.” This can be a profoundly disheartening thought – that there is never any progress, only endless repetition of the same mistakes, the same suffering. Fortunately, the universe may not be finite, and therefore there may be room instead for endless progress, as we shall discuss.

The question is, I think, not whether we have an infinite amount of time to play with, but where does time come from in the first place. Maharishi describes the basic process of creation – the creation of duality from Unity, in the second quote. Unity is pure Existence, which has an objective quality to it. Maharishi has described it as being inert. However, pure Existence also has the characteristic of Consciousness. Since it has the characteristic of Consciousness, but it is alone with itself, it can only be conscious of itself. It is this Self-consciousness, assuming the roles of both Observer and Observed, that creates a kind of virtual duality within pure Existence. Since Existence is pure Unity, not made up of parts, we have to say that this duality is virtual. This implies of course that everything that comes out of this Unity is also virtual – it is the fluctuation of pure Existence within itself. Just as the waves on the ocean’s surface are not separate from the ocean, so creation, including time, is not separate from eternity.

Now Maharishi says, “When Existence becomes conscious…” and Torah says, “When Gd began to create…” If this creation does not take place within time, but on a level that is transcendental to time, what is the meaning of “When” in both expressions? “When” always implies a sequence, and I believe our notion of sequence is rooted in our conception of time. On the other hand, Maharishi has discussed that the Veda records the sequential development of manifest creation from pure Existence/Consciousness. That is, the sounds of the Veda are in a particular sequence. We, who are time-bound, experience this as a temporal sequence, as we listen to the Vedas being recited, for example. But on the Veda’s own level there is no time. On the level of Pure Existence, the process of creation is an eternal one, as we say in our liturgy: …Who renews every day in His Goodness the work of Creation.

I wish I could draw a clear line under this topic, but it is really beyond me, and perhaps it is beyond any kind of linear expression such as is language. Certainly, when the mind is steeped in eternity and we “hold infinity in the palm of our hand and eternity in an hour,” (William Blake) these paradoxes do not even arise. Creation is an infinite, ongoing process where an infinite number of worlds are constantly in flux and all possibilities are always lively. Just as time is not something that simply stretches infinitely into the past and the future, so I don’t believe that saying the universe is eternal means that its existence simply stretches infinitely into the past and the future. Eternity is one level, and creation is another level, and it is up to us to transcend the one and experience the other.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Ki Tisa

“Ki Tisa” means “when you take.”  The parshah begins with “The Lrd spoke to Moses saying, ‘When you take the sum of the Children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lrd an atonement for his soul when they are counted so there will be no plague among them when they are counted.’”

This brings us several important points about our drawing on Torah as a help in our return to Oneness, Teshuvah.

The first is that taking a census is a way of revealing that a community is not just a mass of people: each one matters, each one is to be known.

The second is that taking is not just something that Moses was commanded to do so that he would know the community in detail but also something that showed to every member of community that they mattered.

The third is that this principle of knowing the details of the community applies to knowing anything, anyone, including knowing Gd — and it applies not only to Moses but to everyone at all times.

Fourth is that, having shown they matter to Gd, they need to show that Gd matters to them: they need to make a donation as “an atonement for their soul,” a donation to dissolve any impurity that clouds their soul so they can experience “at-Onement,” Oneness with Gd. The donation in this parshah is a half-shekel and this is symbolic of our relation with Gd: we do our part and Gd does the rest. It is extremely kind of Gd to suggest to us that we are doing half and Gd is doing half. The reality, of course, is that we do our maximum and it is only a tiny drop of the Unbounded Doing that Gd does.

If impurities are not dissolved, then they will distort our perception of Gd’s Presence and the Eternal Blessing that is Gd will be experienced as a plague. This is a particularly apt concern in this time when Covid-19 spread for almost a year as does a plague. Our donation at this time is to take very good care of our health: get good rest, good food, wash hands (see for guidelines and information). As always donations to charity with an open heart help us to stay pure and get purer.

Fifth is that the half-shekel will go to provide oil.

In the previous parshah, we presented the view that the oil intended to provide fuel for the Eternal Flame is by our Sages considered symbolic of wisdom and that wisdom and eternity belong to Gd so the Eternal Flame is symbolic of Gd.

The oil people bring will be enhanced by the “art of the perfumer” with various spices and will be used in anointing the Tabernacle, the Ark, the priests and various parts of the Tabernacle. This anointing oil will be holy and everything anointed becomes holy as does everyone who touches the holy objects. “Holy” means “Whole,”  Teshuvah, Full Restoration of the Awareness of One beyond the duality of Gd and individual.

One way to look at this is that the enhancing brings out qualities in the pure oil that were latent without the enhancement. This is like the census that revealed details within the community. My guess is that not only were these qualities perceivable in the anointing oil but they also began to be perceivable in the un-enhanced oil used in the Eternal Flame and in Gd’s Presence in the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting. These qualities would be not only that of fragrance but of visibility, audibility, touch-ability. Gd would be Concrete and Detailed: The reality that Gd is All and Everyone; Everything would be perceivable in the Eternal Flame and everywhere. Our ancestors would be gaining Omniscience, they would be making significant progress to complete Teshuvah, complete restoration of the Awareness that all is One, beyond the duality of Gd and person. Gd and things.

The fact that enhancement of the oil and the enhancement of perception was needed is suggested by the fact that in this parshah we are also told that when Moses came down from listening to Gd at the top of Mt. Sinai, he found the people worshiping the Golden Calf, dancing around it. Despite hearing Gd’s voice, and seeing Gd in flame and smoke, our ancestors needed something concrete to trust in.

To make Gd Concrete in our lives, we need to offer not only abstract wisdom, symbolized by pure oil, but also something we ourselves create, not something to worship instead of Gd, like the Golden Calf created by Aaron from vessels brought by our ancestors, but something to enhance our worship of Gd, to make it personal, like the enhancements of the pure oil with the spices and the art of the perfumer. Living our daily life with such creativity. Gd becomes more perceivable to us, and we do not need a Golden Calf or any material object to substitute for Gd: we perceive Gd by Direct Experience sufficiently to trust that Gd is Real, Almighty, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omni-Joyful. Omni-Compassionate, Omni-Loving and to realize that we are Gd in disguise, playing the important roles of our individual lives

The cheerful respect and competence that that our Congregation displays at each service suggests we are doing well in our lives to be pure, loving, generous, simple and our making our relationship with Gd, concrete and personal. This makes me very happy.

Baruch HaShem