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Parashat Reeh 5783 — 08/12/2023

Parashat Re’eh 5783 — 08/12/2023

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.

Devarim 11:26-16:17
In the current chapter (I:46) Rambam is discussing the ways we can learn about other things, and how these ways might apply to gaining knowledge about Gd, Who is, of course, not a “thing.” Last week we began by considering some external ways of gaining knowledge of a system – that is, trying to infer something about the internal structure and dynamics of a system by considering its interaction with other systems external to itself. For example, if a dog barks only when it sees another dog, I might conclude that the dog is generally pretty mellow, but something about other dogs disturbs its equilibrium. I might arrange different circumstances to test if my guess was correct, or to get a deeper insight into what, exactly, is setting the dog off (controlled experiments), but I can never determine with certainty what the dog is “thinking.”

Rambam now goes on to consider a subtler way of getting information about the existence and characteristics of someone or something:

You may, however, indicate his existence through circumstances that are of a more hidden nature than those that have been mentioned. For instance, if someone asks you, Has this country a ruler? you shall answer him, Yes, undoubtedly. And if he asks you, What proof is there for this? you shall tell him, This proof is to be found in the fact that while this money-changer is, as you see, a weak and small man and this great amount of dinars is placed before him, this other big, strong, and poor individual is standing in front of him and asking him to give him as alms a carob-grain and that the money-changer does not do this, but reprimands him and drives him off by means of words. For, but for his fear of the ruler, the poor man would have been quick to kill him or to drive him away and to take the wealth that is in his possession. Accordingly, this is a proof of the fact that this city has a king.

This is a more subtle level of interaction between the putative king and his subjects. It is not a direct interaction, but rather an interaction by means of laws governing behavior and specifying the sanctions imposed on those whose behavior is deficient. To go back to our physics analogy, this kind of all-pervasive influence of the monarch can be likened to a field, rather than a direct interaction. How does this work? Consider a ball of positive electrical charge. If I take a second ball of positive electrical charge and place it some distance from the first ball, the second ball is repelled. If the second ball is negatively charged it is attracted to the first. The strength of the attraction or repulsion is given by the magnitudes of the two charges and the distance between them.

It is inconvenient to have to specify both charges, creating a single concrete interaction for every individual instance. In addition, the idea of objects’ exerting forces on one another without any physical contact (“action-at-a-distance”) was, at first, very troubling. The idea therefore developed that there was a “field” around each charged particle, a kind of abstract force, a force per unit charge. If a second charge were placed in this “electric field,” it responded by feeling the force of the charge that was producing the field. At first, this was thought to be a mathematical trick, having no “real” component to it.

As physics progressed, other fields were recognized, and in the late 1800’s it was recognized that the electric field and magnetic fields could interact, and in fact could interact in a way that created traveling waves – these waves are light, infrared, ultraviolet, etc. These waves carry energy and momentum – that is, they are real things that have their own internal dynamics and can interact with other objects or fields in their environment. What started out as a mathematical abstraction has actually been shown to be a real phenomenon.

Now let us return to our analogy. Why does the large, poor man not steal what he needs from the smaller, rich man? If the king were present with his soldiers, the poor man wouldn’t think of doing anything, because the consequences would come with one of the soldier’s terrible swift sword. This is like the original situation with the two charged particles. The force was there, very concretely. In the case that Rambam brings however, the king is nowhere to be seen! Nevertheless, there’s an abstract influence that the king exerts through the system of laws. This corresponds to the idea of a field. It’s an abstract influence that the king exerts – when there is a particular illegal action it becomes concrete: police appear and arrest the perpetrator, attorneys argue the case in court, and, if warranted, punishment is administered. The abstract influence of the law has become a concrete punishment.

What Rambam is alluding to here is sometimes called the “argument from design.” We see order and rule-based behavior everywhere we look (other than sometimes where humans, with our free will, are involved). All this order bespeaks a system of laws, which we call natural law or the laws of nature. This is like the king who has a set of civil and criminal laws, and those laws govern the structure of the universe. From the very existence of the order we infer that there is a system of laws, and from the existence of the system of laws we infer the existence of a lawgiver. In the kingdom, it’s the king. In the universe, it’s Gd.

There are many arguments for and against the argument from design, an examination of which is way beyond the scope of our consideration here. You can click the link above to start your own investigation. I will mention that some argue that systems can be self-organizing and that very orderly structures can arise spontaneously, and may be contingent on the particular path the system has taken to get into its current state. This is an argument against a teleological view of life, where progress towards a defined end (e.g. man at the top of the evolutionary tree) is directed and inevitable. That is not the argument from design. Even one making this argument will agree that the universe is run by laws of nature – systems self-organize on the basis of these kinds of laws. The whole of life depends on regularity in nature, which keep the crops growing and species reproducing, etc., so unless one wants to abandon science altogether, the argument from orderly behavior cannot be dismissed altogether. Rambam would argue that orderliness and laws of nature lead to Gd, but to follow that thread you’ll have to come back next week!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Re’eh

“Re’eh” means “See!” or “Behold!”

This is not ordinary seeing. This means “see deeply,” see into the level of life in which Gd’s commandments exist as One with Gd, not just the level at which we might hear them spoken or read them in a text. Moses speaks this word to make sure our ancestors and we see this Wholeness and experience this Wholeness as our Self. So that we naturally choose to follow these commandments and are naturally Blessed rather than Cursed, as they and we would be if we are not open to the Wholeness but only to fragmented aspects of Life and therefore are unable to obey the commandments, even if we wish to.

This “See!” also resonates with the last part of the parshah, in which Moses says that three times a year (at Passover, Shavuot, and Succoth,) we should appear before the Lrd – be Seen by the Lrd – in the place which He has chosen – appear in the Temple, so we may bring offerings and be seen there. When we See! In the way Gd and Moses want us to see then when we are Seen by Gd, Gd’s Sight flows through our eyes and we see ourselves as Gd Sees us.

And what is to be seen? The blessing if we hearken to the commandments of the Lord and the curse if we disobey them. When we hearken, we see deeply, we are naturally in tune with Gd, Gd’s Torah, Gd’s commandments and we naturally act in the Glow, Joy and Love of the Blessing.

Imagine Moses speaking with the Voice of Gd to our ancestors: how much the Blessing must have filled them and how unappetizing must have been the Curse.

This was a good preparation for Moses to give our ancestors as they were about to enter into Canaan, the Promised Land. It is a good level of Being that everyone – at any time and in any place – should innocently seek to experience before beginning the day, any day, every day. It is a good level of Being that everyone should innocently tune in to every moment of every day. Innocently. Innocently, meaning, “naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly.” Gd gives everyone guidance, through Torah, through teachers, through hints, to help everyone tune in and live the Wholeness that spontaneously acts Rightly.

Temple where Gd chooses to put his Name [big mystery].

Maimonides writes: “The location of the Altar [in the Holy Temple] is very exactly defined… It is a commonly-held tradition that the place where David and Solomon built the Altar on the threshing floor of Arona (sic: Arauna), is the very place where Abraham built an altar and bound Isaac upon it; this is where Noah built [an altar] when he came out from the Ark; this is where Cain and Abel brought their offerings; this is where Adam the First Man offered a korban when he was created — and it is from [the earth of] this place that he was created….” from

But why Adam was created from earth on this spot?

There is a tradition that Torah is Gd’s Name, the primordial vibration of Gd, Omnipresent, AllPervading. All places are Holy.

Why did God choose to especially emphasize the power of His Name in a particular place, and why Jerusalem and why the Temple Mount? I’ve looked for answers on the Internet and could not find any.

Perhaps it is a “chok,” a decree of Gd’s that passes understanding. But even so, we can have the fun of attempting to understand and getting closer to Gd through our attempt. There is Gd’s statement, “Man is made in Gd’s Image” and from this standpoint perhaps our planet is also made in Gd’s image, whatever that may mean, and Jerusalem might correspond to the heart or the brain or the navel or the womb of the physiology of our planet; the Temple Mount may correspond to the central portion of one of these. Perhaps it is in this place that we can Hear Name, See His Name and use His Name to call on Him to thank Him, to pray to Him, to ask for forgiveness from Him.

Just as the Mishkan, the Ark in the Wilderness, and the Temples were places where it was easier for people to perceive His Presence, even though His Presence is everywhere, so also the physical location of the Temple likely is a place where people can most easily call on Him, not only perceive Him, but communicate with Him: to speak and also to listen and to See! Not only to speak but to hear and to listen, to see, to Behold!

Irrespective of the details of the physical Temple in Jerusalem, we know that our body and soul are Temples that we need to keep Holy so that Gd’s Presence is in our awareness at all times and in all places.

Just as “Man (humanity) is made in Gd’s image,” so also, we are made in Jerusalem’s image, in the Temple’s Image and we can find Jerusalem within ourselves: our mind, our feelings, our physiology, our soul. And thus, we can See and Hear Gd’s Name, Gd’s Presence – Totality – and restore to ourselves and to the world the reality that all there is Primordial Oneness, within which the duality of Gd and us is experienced as the Play of One. This is Seeing! Hearing! Healing! Holiness! Fulfillment!

Re’eh also warns to beware of false prophets or any others who entice idolatry – this would certainly bring the curse! “Idolatry” means not just worshiping statues of deities but worshiping fragments of Wholeness. Every action we do must be oriented naturally, spontaneously, effortlessly to increase the experience of Wholeness in our life and in all lives. Otherwise, it is oriented to a splinter of reality, a fragment and it is idolatry.

On the Blessing side, Re’eh tells us of Tithing, Charity, the Sabbatical Year in which all loans are forgiven, all slaves freed. This tells us that even on the ordinary level of life, no matter what place on Earth we are, by being good human beings, “loving our neighbor as ourself” we can attune to Gd and enjoy the Blessing – the Blessing is in our good actions, not something we need to wait to inherit.

Similarly, Moses speaks of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals: Passover, Shavuot, Sukkoth: Go to the Temple to appear with offerings before the Lrd.

This would certainly be good but we can also find Jerusalem in our heart and make special offerings with our open heart at these special times of year.

Re’eh begins with See! and concludes with: Appear so that you may be seen.

In every generation, especially ours today, we need to live our lives so that every moment we Behold! and every moment we Appear! with offerings, offerings to give back the Blessings we receive and restore ourselves and everyone and everything to Full Awareness: One and Only One! Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omni-Loving, Omni-Joyfully, All-in-All – One!

Baruch HaShem