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Parashat Noach 5782 — 10/09/2021

Parashat Noach 5782 — 10/09/2021

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.

Bereshit 6:9-11:32
After his Epistle Dedicatory, Rambam introduces the first part of the Guide:

The first purpose of this Treatise is to explain the meanings of certain terms occurring in books of prophecy… It is not the purpose of this Treatise to make its totality understandable to the vulgar or to beginners in speculation, nor to teach those who have not engaged in any study other than the science of the Law – I mean the legalistic study of the Law. For the purpose of this Treatise and of all those like it is the science of Law in its true sense. Or rather its purpose is to give indications to a religious man for whom the validity of our Law has become established in his soul and has become actual in his belief – such a man being perfect in his religion and character, and having studied the sciences of the philosophers and come to know what they signify. The human intellect having drawn him on and led him to dwell within its province, he must have felt distressed by the externals of the Law and by the meanings of the above-mentioned equivocal, derivative or amphibolous terms, as he continued to understand them by himself or was made to understand them by others.

Here Rambam seems to be raising an interesting and fundamental issue concerning the “meaning” of Scripture. In particular, if a particular expression in Scripture appears to be counter to logic or philosophical certainty, how is it to be understood? Rambam’s answer is, in part, that Scripture cannot be taken as literally true, because it is inconsistent for it to teach, for example, that Gd is one, unified and transcendental to creation, and yet describe Him as having emotions and body parts (“the hand of Gd,” “Gd heard/saw/smelled). In Prof. Ivry’s words:

Maimonides thus intends the Guide to be a lexicological as well as philosophical study, the former intended to pave the way for the latter. His study of the multiple usages a term may convey, and of the parabolic or allegorical interpretations scriptural pronouncements may harbor, legitimates the philosophical inquiries he wishes to pursue. …
The first introduction, then, alerts the reader to what will be an exegetical tour de force that will transform the Bible into a philosophical text.

Rambam’s basic position is that truth is truth, and logical truth, derived from self-evident axioms (we’ll get into the idea of “self-evident” later) is the highest form of truth, as it is built into the very nature of reality. Therefore, if Scripture appears to be illogical there are two possibilities: (a) it really is illogical and is therefore not true, a possibility Rambam is not prepared to accept or (b) we are not understanding Scripture correctly (a situation Rambam sets out to correct).

When we read a book there is an intellectual component of understanding, and, if the author is good, a strong emotional component of understanding. All this is, of course, on the level of the meaning of the words. In the Western intellectual tradition, meaning is the only thing that is considered germane to understanding, except perhaps in the case of poetry, in which various poetic devices (rhyme, meter, alliteration, etc.) may also convey meaning, often emotional meaning, but the structure of the sounds of the words rather than (just) their meanings. However, when talking about Gd, the transcendent reality underlying all creation, all these devices fall short.

Scripture, according to Vedic Science, works very differently. Scripture is the actual record of the cognitions of seers (rishis in the case of the Veda) who were able to perceive within their own unbounded awareness, the actual impulses of intelligence that structure the entire manifest creation. Vedic Science posits that Pure Consciousness is the ultimate “stuff” of creation, and that in fact creation is internal to Pure Consciousness, it is the internal dynamics of Pure Consciousness. These dynamics are set in “motion” by the fact that Pure Consciousness is conscious of itself (there is nothing else for it to be conscious of!). In assuming the roles of both Observer and Observed, a virtual polarity is created within the unified structure of Pure Consciousness. If duality within Unity seems like a contradiction in terms, it is, from the level of duality. That’s why I call it a “virtual” duality, to convey the flavor that what appears as duality on one level is actually unified on a deeper level.

From this virtual duality comes a series of vibrations within Pure Consciousness, which form the basic structure of creation, both physical and non-physical. These vibrations have their own inner logic and dynamics, and according to Vedic Science the dynamics of the internal vibrations of Pure Consciousness map onto the phonology, grammar and semantics of Vedic Sanskrit. This means that the Veda is to be understood purely as a sequence of sounds. The “meaning” of the Veda is not in the translation of the words, but in the stimulation, within the hearer, on his or her level of Pure Consciousness, the fundamental vibrations of creation.

Now the Zohar makes the same fundamental point about creation’s coming from with Gd, albeit in theistic terms. But there is a very close correspondence between Vedic Science’s description of the Veda as the fundamental sounds of creation and their expression as Vedic Sanskrit, and our own tradition’s description of Torah as the fundamental sounds of creation and their expression as Biblical Hebrew. To be sure, the Zohar identifies the Torah that we have as a projection on our earthly plane of a “Supernal Torah” in heaven, written with black fire on white fire. So, I think it is indeed likely that our Torah will need to be understood intellectually, on the level of meaning, as well as on the level of sound. And this, I think, will be Rambam’s agenda – to take the translation (Torah) of something that is fundamentally untranslatable and incomprehensible from any finite level of consciousness (Supernal Torah) and elucidate the method of reading Torah so as to give an insight into the Supernal Torah, which is the ultimate Truth.

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Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Noach
“Noach” means “rest” as in “Be Still and Know that I Am Gd” (Psalm 46:10). To Noach whose stillness allowed him to hear Gd’s Words and to follow them, Gd gave the task of keeping life on Earth alive while most of it was destroyed.

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

In Bereshit, 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 ever 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, nor throughout history do we see more than a few people fulfilling this potential.

We can also be inspired by remembering that not only are we descendants of righteous Noah but also as Bereshit says ““… 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?” My answer is simply that whenever Gd wants to Reveal to us that we are Gd playing the roles of us, Gd will do it and, in the meantime, everything we experience is a clue in the puzzle and we need to keep guessing and acting, refining our guesses with each result we experience from our actions..

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 of Joy and kind actions that helps us flourish in the flood of ignorance and misinformation that is so common to our world.

This parshah tells us one thing we should do to avoid falling more deeply into ignorance. Do not think that any action of ours can reach Gd. Only Gd Knows Gd and only Gd’s Grace can reveal Gd within us. Forgetting this, 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, is often translated as “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 diverse 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