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Parashat Noach 5783 — 10/29/2022

Parashat Noach 5783 — 10/29/2022

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.

Bereishit 6:9-11:32
Before we leave the “foot” and step on to the next word, Rambam adds a bit of a coda on a subject of which he promises to treat later. Here is his teaser:

Now as for its dictum: And there was under His feet, as it were, a work of the whiteness of sapphire stone. The interpretation of Onqelos is, as you know, as follows. He considers that the third person suffix, “His,” in the words “His feet” refers to Gd’s throne; accordingly he translates: And under the throne of His glory. Understand this and admire how far Onqelos was from belief in the corporeality of Gd and from everything that leads to it even though it be by the longest way. For he does not say: And under His throne. For should the term throne have been referred to Gd in the sense that has been explained above, this would have entailed the consequence that He would have been conceived of as sitting upon a body and thus would have entailed the belief in corporeality. Accordingly [Onqelos] referred the term throne to His glory, I mean to the Indwelling, which is a created light.

As for us, it certainly is incumbent upon me in accordance with the purpose of this Treatise to interpret something of this parable. I shall accordingly say that when it says, under His feet, it intends to signify: He being the cause and because of Him, as we have already explained. For what they [RAR: the Kohanim and elders – this is right at the time of the giving of the 10 Commandments] apprehended was the true reality of first matter, which derives from Him, may He be exalted, He being the cause of its existence. Consider its dictum: As it were, a work of the whiteness of sapphire stone. If the intended signification had been the color, it would have said: As it were, the whiteness of sapphire stone. The word work was added, because Matter, as you know, is always receptive and passive, if one considers its essence, and is not active except by accident. Form, on the other hand, is in its essence always active, as has been made clear in the books on natural science, and is passive only by accident. That is why Scripture applied to the first matter the expression: as it were, a work. As for the whiteness of sapphire stone, the expression is intended to signify transparency and not a white color. For the whiteness of a crystal is not due to a white color, but solely to its transparency. And, as has been demonstrated in the books on natural science, transparency is not a color, for if it were a color, it would not let all the colors be seen behind it and would not receive all of them. Now a transparent body receives all the colors in succession just because it lacks a color of its own. In this it resembles the first matter, which in respect of its true reality lacks all forms and on this account is capable of receiving all forms in succession. Accordingly their apprehension had as its object the first matter and the relation of the latter to Gd, inasmuch as it is the first among the things He has created that necessitates generation and corruption; and Gd is its creator ex nihilo. A disquisition on this notion will come further on.

Rambam first takes care of business, noting how careful Onqelos is to avoid any hint of corporeality when dealing with Gd. Thus while dealing with Gd’s feet, he also deals with Gd’s Throne, turning it into the Throne of Gd’s Glory, which is a created thing and therefore may have a body, even if that body is much subtler than material bodies. And indeed, Gd’s throne is generally called the Throne of Glory (Kisei haKavod). One prominent exception is after the dust-up with Amalek (Ex. 17:16) where it says ki yad al kes Kah / For a hand is on the Throne of Gd. Here, both the word for Throne and the Name of Gd are abbreviated: Kes instead of Kisei and Y-K instead of Y-K-V-K. This is a difficult verse to translate, not the least because of the abbreviations, but whatever Kes is, it is associated directly with Gd and also with a “hand,” although it is not clear exactly whose (Whose?) hand is on the Kes. On the other hand, Gd’s full Name is not used either, so perhaps Torah is hinting at exactly what Onqelos makes explicit – Gd’s Throne is not a seat that a corporeal Gd sits on.

Rambam now goes on to analyze the actual content of the verse he has just quoted only to illustrate the usage of one particular word. This is uncharacteristic of him, at least so far in his section on individual words / roots. I don’t know why he does this here, or whether he will continue to do so in the few lexical chapters remaining in Part I. Perhaps it is just a teaser to keep us going (although I doubt it – people who need teasers are generally not working their way through Rambam’s Guide).

For what apprehended was the true reality of first matter, which derives from Him, may He be exalted, He being the cause of its existence. Rambam here speaks of “first matter.” Ramban, about a century later, uses the Greek word hyle. Wikipedia defines hyle thus:

In philosophy, hyle (/ˈhaɪliː/; from Ancient Greek: ὕλη) refers to matter or stuff. It can also be the material cause underlying a change in Aristotelian philosophy. The Greeks originally had no word for matter in general, as opposed to raw material suitable for some specific purpose or other, so Aristotle adapted the word for “wood” to this purpose. The idea that everything physical is made of the same basic substance holds up well under modern science, although it may be thought of more in terms of energy or matter/energy.

This idea of a basic “substance” that has no form does indeed comport well with modern physics, where the ultimate “stuff” of the physical universe appears to be a Unified Field, whose vibrations make up all of space, time, matter and energy. The patterns of vibration of this Unified Field are the various forms of creation – the elementary particles and their interactions and all the forms and phenomena that are created from those particles, in other words, everything. The Unified Field is purely abstract, yet everything concrete is a pattern of activity of this purely abstract entity.

From the side of Vedic Science, the ultimate Unified Field, the “stuff” of all things, is Consciousness. Consciousness is the Self-referral aspect of pure Being, which is the abstract basis of all beings. Being is totally abstract – it is where we get to by starting with any existent being and abstracting away all its properties. Since Being has the property of consciousness, it is conscious of itself, thereby assuming the roles of Observer (Consciousness, Self) and Observed (Being, Objectivity). As we have discussed, this virtual duality gives rise to all the forms and phenomena of creation. So, we might want to say that Being is the hyle, and on the basis of its Self-referral activity it takes on various forms.

It appears to me that Rambam (presumably based on Aristotle) holds that forms are extrinsic to matter. Matter takes on one form or another, or a series of forms if it is going through a transformation. It seems to me though, both from the point of view of modern physics and of Vedic science, there is just one basic “stuff” of creation, and even though it is a unified whole and not made of parts, the forms and phenomena that we see are just the internal, virtual dynamics of that “stuff.” However, Rambam has promised us that “A disquisition on this notion will come further on,” so perhaps it’ll be prudent to wait till then to take this any further.


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

In Bereishit, 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, into Subtle and Gross and returning to Unity. All of Torah is always taking place in an infinitesimal instant and also timelessly and in Infinite Cosmic Time.

In Parashat 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.

Parashat 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 Bereishit says ““… in the image of Gd He made man. “ Genesis 9:6
Since there is nothing but Gd, to say that Gd made man in Gd’s own Image means that we have the potential to remember we are roles Gd Plays, and we can rise to a level where we are perfectly comfortable playing our roles in Gd’s Play. We can do this by favoring those thoughts and actions that do the positive mitzvot Torah ordains and avoiding 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. 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 floods of ignorance, misinformation and selfishness that are so common in 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. Through kindness, we are experiencing 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 learn-ing 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 Lechah, 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. We are seeing a foretaste of 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 dedicating our lives toward right action, service and a return to Wholeness, Oneness. We are learning to cherish each other and to meet, by Zoom or in person, on the level of fine feeling, of


Baruch HaShem