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Parashat Mishpatim 5782 — 01/29/2022

Parashat Mishpatim 5782 — 01/29/2022

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.

Shemot 21:1-24:18
I would like to add one point to our discussion from last week. Rambam emphasized that before one can hope to apprehend Gd, to whatever extent is humanly possible, one must prepare oneself. If one seeks intellectual apprehension, then, as Rambam says, we need to master logic and the premises on which logic works, as well as the sciences (which meant something very different in the 12th century than it does today).

If we want to have experiential apprehension, then we likewise must prepare our mind and our senses to respond to finer and more subtle impulses of existence and consciousness. This we do in an effortless way through Vedic science and its associated technologies, such as the TM program. This preparation, which includes alternating experience of the silent, transcendent basis of all activity, and expressed activity, also has the effect of purifying the nervous system (by releasing deep-rooted stresses) and refining the character, thoughts and behavior. Ultimately, both experiential and intellectual apprehension find their fulfillment in Pure Consciousness, which transcends both. Just as an aside, the simultaneous development of the power of our thoughts and actions, along with the refinement of our character, almost insulates us from the dangers of misuse of power. I say almost, because the synchronization may not be perfect. It therefore behooves us all to be careful in our interaction with others to be kind and uplifting.

In Chapters 6 and 7, Rambam takes up the figurative use of family relations. Here is Chapter 6 in its entirety:

Man [ish] and woman [ishshah] are terms that at first were given the meaning of a human male and a human female. Afterwards they were used figuratively to designate any male or female among the other species of living beings. Thus it says: Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the man and his woman. It is as if it said male and female. Thereupon the term woman was used figuratively to designate any object apt for, and fashioned with a view to being in, conjunction with some other object. Thus it says: The five curtains should be coupled together, a woman to her sister. Hereby it has been made clear to you that the terms sister [achoth] and brother [ach] are likewise used equivocally with figurative meaning just as with man and woman.

Some notes on language. Hebrew has perfectly good words for masculine (zachar) and feminine (nekeva). Thus (Gen. 1:27), male (zachar) and female (un’keva) created He them. Also, in the story of Noach, we find (Gen 6:19) And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female (zachar un’keva yihyu). Yet a few verses later (Gen 7:2) we find: Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, each with his mate; and of the beasts that are not clean two [and two], each with his mate (ish v’ishto, see Rambam supra). The translation (Machon Mamre, captures the difference nicely – ish v’ishto connotes a mating, a pairing of opposite values.

Hebrew, unlike English, is a gendered language – every noun is either masculine or feminine. In general, paired body parts are feminine (testicles are the only counterexample I know of, perhaps because they come together in one package) while single parts of the body are masculine (including rechem = womb and nartik = vagina [also “sheath” as for a sword]). Thus, eyes, ears, hands and feet are feminine, while nose, mouth, head and belly-button are masculine. Besides the obvious anatomical connection, it is not clear to me what, if any, this relationship might represent, but I’d like to suggest an approach based on Vedic Science.

The difference between 1 and 2 is absolutely fundamental in creation. One is Unity, which excludes multiplicity. Two represents distinction, the most basic level of bifurcation of unity. While mathematically the two are in sequence, they are actually the two poles of existence – eternity and temporality, unity and diversity, unchanging and changing, unboundedness and a single point, silence and activity. The most fundamental “first step” in creation is going from 1 to 2.

According to Maharishi’s Vedic Science the movement from 1 to 2 takes place on the basis of the fact that the nature of the unified basis of creation is consciousness. If the unified basis of creation is Consciousness, what is this Pure Consciousness conscious of? Since it is all that there is, it can only be conscious of Itself. There is simply nothing outside itself to be conscious of. Therefore Pure Consciousness takes on the role of observer and the role of the object of observation. But this is a virtual or incipient duality within the structure of Pure Consciousness. (Since in any type of perception there is a process of observation, Pure Consciousness actually has a threefold structure: it is observer, observed and process of observation.) Based on this duality (observer/observed) and the relationship between the two poles (process of observation), all of multiplicity can ramify. All of creation is the virtual flow of Consciousness within Itself. Consciousness is the only reality, and all the activity that we see around us (and in which we, as individuals, participate) is nothing but the internal dynamics of Consciousness – Consciousness moving within itself.

Turning to Jewish esoteric tradition, among the seven “lower” sefirot in Kabbalah, the first two are Chesed (“kindness,” associated with Avraham) and Gevurah (“strength,” associated with Yitzchak). Chesed is pictured as an infinite flow, while Gevurah is pictured as the boundaries which give form and channel Chesed. Chesed, left unchanneled, becomes a destructive flood. Channeled properly by Gevurah, Chesed becomes a life-giving river. Chesed is the masculine side, while Gevurah is the feminine side, giving form to the formless – the relation to human and animal biology is clear. Chesed is Unity, the Oneness of life. Gevurah, on the other hand, is boundaries, which of course are associated with multiplicity. So we have an association between Unity, 1 and the masculine side, and Diversity, 2 and the feminine side. Perhaps this is the origin of our physical form, which reflects the basic structure of creation, and is itself reflected in our language.

Next week we’ll move on briefly to consider the rest of this chapter (ach and achot) and then Chapter 7, where we look at the relationship between parents and children.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Mishpatim

“Mishpatim” means “laws”. In this parshah, Gd gives many laws: The most important is “And you shall worship the Lord, your Gd, and He will bless your food and your drink, and I will remove illness from your midst.”

How are we to know that we are doing well in our worship?

Joy in eating and drinking is a sign that we are doing well and illness is a sign that we are lax in our worship.

Gd gives 53 laws in this parshah — 30 positive mitzvot and 23 prohibitions.

Moses tells the laws to the people and they say, “All that the Lrd has commanded we will do”!

These 53 mitzvot are details in our worship of Gd — so worship is not just saying a blessing, praising Gd, but acting in daily life, in and out of formal services, according to Gd’s Will — as best we can. The mitzvot in this parshah illustrate in many ways how we can worship Gd by “loving our neighbor as ourself”— as our Self.

Our ancestors heard Gd speak on Mt Sinai/Mount Horeb (there is disagreement as to whether this is one place or two separate places, whether the Ten Utterances/Words/Commandments were given out on Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb) and they heard Him speak through Moses which He does also in this parshah. This is a sign that despite such faults as worshiping the Golden Calf, our ancestors were quite good in their worship. They must have been doing quite well, generally, in performing the mitzvot — doing what should be done, avoiding what should not.

Some of these laws though clearly moral seem very secular: laws about slaves, homicide, insults, assault, crops. Only a few of the laws pertain directly to duty to Gd.

How are we to know in our time that in our daily life we are worshiping Gd and not just taking care of our individual selves, families, property?

Most of the mitzvot in this parshah are things that good people everywhere learn from their parents and their culture but also there are specific details for which regular reading of Torah and studying Torah can be helpful so that we become more and more attentive to the details of a good life, a life of worship. An example is offering first fruits to Gd. Unless we’re farmers or gardeners we have to think about what this means in our life. It could be symbolic of offering some part of any money we receive to Gd or to charity. It could mean that we need to align with what we know of what Gd wants. the first fruit of any thought we think.

Worshiping Gd is an ongoing learning experience: Comfort in our life is a sign that happiness is growing, Joy is growing. Comfort is a sign that we are learning how to be natural, unstrained, to act in harmony with Life, with Gd’s Will. And definitely when comfort rises to be Joy in our life we have a sign we are getting better, we are learning. We are becoming increasingly aware that Joy is Gd and by helping others to be comfortable, unstrained, we are sharing Joy, sharing Gd, Loving Gd. We are growing in our ability to know our Self – The Self – and to share this with others: we are growing in our ability to “Love Gd with all our heart, all our soul and all our might” and in our ability to “Love thy neighbor as thyself [Thy Self].”

Opening ourselves to comfort, Joy and Love is opening our awareness to Totality, the Primordial Oneness within which everything and everyone exists as an impulse, a flow — as ripples are the ocean flowing within itself.

Because this is Reality, our growing sense of Gd in this way is a real taste and by devoting our self through comfort and kindness to Gd and to our neighbor. we commit ourselves innocently to develop Full Comfort, Full Kindness : Oneness with Gd. The mitzvot in this parshah help us to do this.

Through this commitment, our ancestors worshiped and we worship. Whatever words we recite in service and in prayer raise our awareness to deeper and deeper Tastes of Gd and innocently dedicate ourselves only to One and to nothing less. Whatever acts we perform outside of formal religious service are still service, acts dedicated to Totality.

We settle for no partial value: We accept nothing less than Totality – Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omni-Joyful, Omni-Loving, Totality, All-in-All, nothing left out.

Through this commitment we worship and through this commitment we grow in appreciating every aspect of life as truly Gd, we grow in our ability to love every detail of life as our Self, we grow in our ability to “love Gd with all our heart and soul”. We grow in fulfillment, restoring awareness of Oneness within our self and everywhere and we grow in the extent to which this Fulfillment is shared, experienced by everyone and every thing, every where and every when.

This is a life worth living. The various laws of parshat Mishpatim, some seeming secular and some clearly sacred, are aids in living this life and finding that Fulfillment always Is, never is missing, always Is.

Baruch HaShem