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Parashat Noach 5781 — 10/24/2020

Parashat Noach 5781 — 10/24/2020

Bereshit 6:9-11:32

Beginning with Bereishit 5781 (17 October 2020) we have 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 will be describing the project.  The next four parshiyyot, Noach through Chayei Sarah, we will lay out a foundational understanding of Vedic Science, to the degree I am capable of doing so.  Beginning with Toledot we will start examining Moreh Nevukim.

I appear as strange in India as I do in the West. Maharishi

The Veda and the Vedic literature have been around for thousands of years. Throughout that time many have tried to understand the Veda purely on an intellectual level. Great saints, men and women of highly elevated consciousness and perception, have seen that there is a much deeper structure to the Veda. During the 250 years of British colonial rule over India, interest in the Veda grew in the West and there were attempts to translate the Vedic texts into European languages. Unfortunately, along with attempting to translate the words, the concepts also got translated into Western philosophical and religious concepts, ideas that at best distorted and at worst completely misrepresented the structure and meaning of the Veda. (This misunderstanding and degradation of knowledge had been going on for centuries before the British of course.) The result was, and is, a disconnect between the individual and the transcendent, the source of all individuality, on both a theoretical and a practical level. This disconnect led to conflict and suffering throughout the world.

It was this state of suffering that Maharishi stepped up to tackle. He began with the practical side, teaching a simple, effortless technique by which one can re-establish one’s connection with the transcendent. With growing numbers of people having deeper and deeper experience of the transcendent, he was able to develop a comprehensive view of the Vedic literature, and expounded it as a record of the highest experiences of the transcendent Unity which lies at the basis, not only of our individuality, but of the entire creation, the entire realm of diversity. This understanding, and the practical technology that goes along with it, is Vedic Science. In the next few posts I will try to delineate as clearly as I can the basic principles of Vedic Science. With that, we can plunge into Moreh Nevukim and see how Vedic Science can shine a new light on this great Jewish classic.

The word “Veda” means knowledge, in much the same way that the word “science” means knowledge. In the Western languages science has come to mean a body of knowledge that is gained through repeatable experiment using the objective means of gaining knowledge – i.e. measurement. Measurement means comparison of an object with some standard – e.g. the standard kilogram in Paris for mass, or the wavelength of a certain spectral line of a particular kind of atom in the case of length. Comparison with a standard means that we are dealing with finite objects; since the standard is finite, that which is to be compared with it (and assigned a number – so and so many kg, etc) must also be finite.

The Veda similarly is knowledge that is amenable to verification by direct experience. However, the Veda includes within its range the infinite, transcendent realm that is the basis of all finite existences. It does so by dealing with consciousness directly, on the level of human experience. Human beings are capable of experiencing an unbounded state of consciousness, called transcendental consciousness, which is beyond time, space, thought and perception. From this transcendental level come our thoughts, our emotions, and, eventually, our actions. Vedic science asserts that transcendental consciousness is also the “stuff” of objective creation as well as our subjective life. Thus, the subjective realm and the objective realm have the same source and, as we shall see, the same mechanics of expression. I might point out here that modern physics has been hinting at a deep interconnection between the subjective and objective worlds for the last hundred years or so, making some of these ancient concepts more intelligible to modern thinkers.

To motivate this idea of a transcendental basis of creation I would like to turn to a powerful analogy in modern physics. We have known for over a century that creation is made up of layers. On the surface we have ordinary concrete objects that we deal with all the time – objects about the size of a human being. This is the level of classical physics, where objects behave according to Newton’s Laws of Motion. We also know that the objects of our common experience have deeper layers – the molecular layer, atomic layer, layer of subatomic particles. If we try to apply Newton’s Laws to these deeper layers, they simply don’t work. At these subtler layers, “particles” don’t behave like proper particles. Rather, they display characteristic of waves, like diffraction and coherence. As we know from our everyday experience, waves are spread out – they can’t be restricted to a particular place and time as a particle can, they are dynamic entities.

Once it was established that particles were in fact waves, the question arose what they were waves of. There was already one example of waves that sometimes behaved like waves and sometimes as particles, and this was the photon. The photon we already knew was a wave of the electromagnetic field. Waves of the electromagnetic field are variously waves of visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, x-rays, radio waves, microwaves, etc., depending on their wavelengths. Planck had postulated in 1900 that electromagnetic energy came in packets, or quanta. In 1905, Einstein was able to explain the photoelectric effect by asserting that photons were real “particles” that could interact with other particles (this is the research that was cited by the Nobel Committee in awarding Einstein the Nobel Prize, not his work on Relativity). This idea, that particles are packets of energy of vibration of underlying fields, was developed through the 1960’s and 70’s and is still an area of active research. It is called Quantum Field Theory, and so far, it is the most accurate theory ever developed by physics to explain the subtle structure of the physical world.

Next week we will take physics one step further and then return to our discussion of Vedic science – promise!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Noach

In Parshat Noach, our world begins again after Gd destroys its population, all but those in the Ark.

In Beresheit, many say Creation begins; others say, the separation of Heaven and earth begins; I say it is not the beginning, it is not a new creation. It is another joyful cycle in the infinitely rapidly cycling that is the vibration of Torah, the Liveliness of Gd. Torah and Gd are One.

It is not that there is even a new Creation, Gd is eternally complete: all is already accomplished in Gd. The Whole of Gd is in every point of Gd and at every point, every moment, cycling infinitely rapidly, Gd reveals Unity separating into Heaven and Earth, Subtle and Gross and returning to Unity. All of Torah is always taking place in an infinitesimal instant and also in eons of Cosmic Time.

In Parshat Noach, we see the story of how the diversity of the Gross is dissolved into the Ocean of Subtlety and yet an Ark with the seeds of diversity remains to reveal that the Wholeness is always there, diverse and also unified. Parshat Noach inspires us to be aware that we can experience this Wholeness. It begins by describing Noah as righteous, perfect in his generations, walking with Gd. Since all but Noah’s family were destroyed in the Flood, we are all descendants of Noah and have the potential to be perfect although clearly neither today, throughout Torah, and throughout history do we see more than a few people fulfilling this potential.

We can also be inspired and yet wonder when, as the parshah says later, ““… in the image of Gd He made man. “ Genesis 9:6

Since there is nothing but Gd, to say that He made man in His own Image means that we have the potential to remember Gd is us, and we can rise to a level where we are perfectly comfortable playing our roles in Gd’s play: especially by favoring those thoughts and actions that do the positive mitzvot Torah ordains and avoid the negative ones.

And yet we can wonder “what is keeping us from realizing this full potential?” I have no answer to this question nor have I seen any that satisfies me: some say it is our karma, the fruit of past actions, that keeps us limited. Since all our past actions are based on thoughts that Gd created in our minds and our decisions are based on Gd guiding us, whose karma is karma? Gd is the Actor and the karma is Gd’s Karma. Gd is hardly limited by Gd’s actions, past, present, future. Why are we limited? Gd can free us at any time: why doesn’t Gd do this.

I very much wish I knew.

Nonetheless, even in this state of massive ignorance compared to the Omniscience of Gd, I experience life as joyful, blissful with a lot of teshuvah, return to Oneness, already taking place and it seems to me that many in our congregation and community can say the same.

So, life is fun, even in our state of ignorance, and we enjoy the safety of a bit of an ark that helps us flourish in the flood of ignorance and misinformation that is so common to our world.

This parshah tells us a cause of this ignorance, misinformation and misunderstandings: in their vanity, descendants of Noah sought to build a tower that would reach the heavens. Prior to this attempt, they were a single people, speaking a single language. To prevent them from wasting time with their project, (which could never succeed since a gross building made of gross materials can never reach the subtle realm: heaven is not in the sky, it is in the delicate loving feelings that are primordial vibrations of Gd) Gd limited their understanding so they were divided into 70 different nations, each speaking a different language. This separation continues in our times but we see a rise of Love, loving Wholeness, loving details and through deeper and finer levels of feeling, of Love, we are learning to link the diversity of life with the Unity. We are learning to create the effect that the tower was intended to create but without the vanity: we are learning to experience the subtle and to experience Gd. The Wholeness, in which all levels of subtlety and coarseness are but Joyful Vibrations of Gd Knowing Gd.

The parshah ends with Terah, taking his family, including Abraham and Sara (at this time, Abram and Sarai) toward Canaan, which will be the Promised Land. The family does not enter Canaan, they settle on the way, in Haran. “Haran” means “mountain,” “Canaan” means “synchronicity.” We are getting a taste of the fruit of Torah, the last parshah, V’Zot Haberacha, in which Gd has Moses ascend a mountain from which he can see Canaan. From this mountain, Abraham and Sara have the possibility for experiencing the synchronicity that unites the diversity of the separate nations, languages.

The next parshah, Lech Lecha, means “Go forth, your self” or, as those with a bit of experience of the self as Self, can read, “Go to your Self.”  Go to the Promised Land outside you by revealing to your self, the Promised Land within you, the Self.

Since Gd will later speak with Abraham as he did with Noah, we see in the ending of this parshah a foretaste of this return of perfection to our world, to humanity. A world in which we can synchronize diversity and create unity, common language, common experience, while delighting in and creating ever more and more delightful diversity, expressions of Unity.

We see signs of this in our community; not that I know either that we have members to whom Gd speaks or that I know that we don’t but I do feel that we are definitely dedicating our lives toward right action, service and a return to Wholeness, Oneness. We are definitely learning to cherish each other and to meet, by Zoom or in person, on the level of fine feeling, of Love.

Baruch HaShem