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Parashat Shelach 5782 — 06/25/2022

Parashat Shelach 5782 — 06/25/2022

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.

Bamidbar 13:1-15:41
Next on Rambam’s agenda is the root “to fill” (malle). He writes (Chapter 19):

To fill (malle). This is an equivocal term applied by people speaking the Hebrew language to a body’s entering and filling up another body. Thus, And she filled her pitcher; An omerful for each. This usage is frequent. The term is likewise applied to the coming to an end and completion of a measurable period of time. Thus: And her days were fulfilled; And forty days were fulfilled for him. The term is also employed to signify the achievement of perfection in virtue and of the latter’s ultimate end. Thus: And full with the blessing of the Lord; Them hath He filled with wisdom of heart; He was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill. In this sense it is said: The whole earth is full of His glory; the meaning of this verse being that the whole earth bears witness to His perfection, that is, indicates it. Similar is its dictum: And the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Every mention of filling that you will find referring to Gd is used in this sense, and not in the sense of there being a body filling a place. However, if you wish to consider that the glory of the Lord is the created light that is designated as glory in every passage and that filled the tabernacle, there is no harm in it.

It appears that Rambam is giving us a two-step approach from the ordinary, physical use of the word to fill, to the completely abstract use of the word as related to Gd. The intermediate stage is what Rambam called the “created light,” and since it is something in creation it can fill another body, for example the Tabernacle (Mishkan) or the Tent of Meeting. Nonetheless, it is light, not any material substance, so it does not fill the Mishkan the way water or sand might.

This “created light” incidentally is not electromagnetic in nature. It refers to the light that was created with Gd’s first utterance: “Let there be light.” This light is the pure vibration at the very subtlest level of relative creation, and our Sages tell us that Gd “hid it away for the righteous in the World-to-Come.” What does this mean? I think it works like this. As our mind settles down, e.g. during TM practice, we experience progressively subtler levels of consciousness until we transcend thought altogether and experience Pure Consciousness. Just before transcending many people report either hearing an undifferentiated hum or perceiving an undifferentiated light – this is the finest level of vibration of Pure Consciousness, right at the doorstep of the infinite.

I believe this light is the “light of the seven days of creation.” It would make sense, as it is the first sprouting of relative existence from Pure Existence/Pure Consciousness. Interestingly in the verse prior to Gd’s saying “let there be light,” we are told that “the spirit of Gd hovered over the face of the waters.” The verb translated as “hovered” is m’rachefet, and it is used again in Deut. 32:11 – As an eagle that stirreth up her nest, hovereth over her young… . When an eagle hovers over its nest it is not a placid magic carpet ride. It’s more like a Chinook helicopter hovering over a dusty landing spot – there’s a lot getting stirred up. Water is a common metaphor for Pure Being/Pure Consciousness – the unbounded ocean, transcendental to all its waves, stretches on forever. So the picture we have is the spirit of Gd stirring up waves on the surface of the ocean of Being. Perhaps it is this first stirring of creation caused by the relationship between “the spirit of Gd” and the “waters” that Gd was referring to when He said, “Let there be light!”

Why was it hidden? The Midrash says that Gd didn’t want this light to be available to those who were not fully righteous, so He hid it away. But consider – in order to access this light, which exists at the subtlest level of creation, one would have to have one’s awareness stationed at that level, and in order for that to happen, the nervous system has to be free of stress and strain. When one lives an unrighteous life, violating Gd’s Will / laws of nature, one creates stress and strain in the environment and in one’s own nervous system. The wicked essentially hide the light from themselves by their behavior.

The Midrash goes on to say that this light is stored up for the righteous in the world-to-come. The righteous, who are free of stress and strain will naturally have their awareness permanently stationed in Pure Consciousness (“World-to-Come” = state of perfection) and therefore will naturally be able to enjoy, and use, this light.

It appears that the major difference between the Vedic view, as I understand it and have tried to present it here, and the Jewish view, is that Judaism views Gd and the subtle spiritual levels as something external to the individual (I won’t say objective here), while Vedic science looks at them from the point of view of consciousness, as internal to the individual. I would suggest that the difference is similar to what I would call a Gd’s-eye view as opposed to a creature’s-eye view. From our point of view, Gd is Gd and we are but mortal men, so there is separation; Gd is, as it were “outside” us and we need to be filled with His light. From Gd’s point of view, nothing is outside Gd, nothing is separate from Gd, Gd fills every nook and cranny of creation, because creation is nothing other than Gd displaying His creativity to Himself.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Shelach

This parashah begins with Gd telling Moses “Shelach Lecha.”  Send for thyself spies to explore the Land of Canaan. Literally, “Shelach Lechah” means “send for thyself” (Gd tells Moses spies are not necessary to enter the Promised Land but, if he wishes, he may “send for himself”) but we can take it to mean “go to thy Self,” the Universal, Unlimited state of our awareness. This view implies that people should experience the state of awareness in which transcendent and detail are experienced as expressions of the Single Whole are integrated — the Self is experienced as integrating the desert in which they were with Infinite Lushness. Canaan (“Synchronicity”) symbolizes the state of awareness in which the barrenness of material existence is raised to All-Pervading Love and Joy and the individual and the community restored to Wholeness, Oneness. At this level, everyone is Inside, no one is outside and so spies cannot exist.

When we look at the parashah this way, we can infer that of the twelve “men of distinction” who were sent to spy on Canaan, Caleb and Joshua saw the land of Canaan from the perspective of their Universal Self –  (Torah says Caleb saw it with a different spirit than the other spies): Therefore, they naturally, spontaneously perceived the land as Gd declared it: a land of Integration which was given to the Children of Israel, a land which they could easily enter with Gd’s protection.

The other ten leaders of the tribes did not perceive from this level: they perceived from the restricted level of the surface of awareness, the boundaries; they perceived as if they were still slaves in Egypt (“Mitzraim”: restrictions) and so they perceived themselves and the Children of Israel as being weak, unable to prevail against the might of the people of the land.

It is commonly said (Zohar and Midrash, according to Rav Yehuda Berg of the Kabbalah Center) that the spies gave a false report and that they did so because they were afraid to lose their distinction; they were afraid to enter a land without restrictions, in which everyone would be a person of distinction. But perhaps the logic I present above — which seems consistent with what Torah says — is valid. They perceived from the level of restrictions and so they did not have the unrestricted Holiness needed to enter the Holy Land.

From this standpoint, the sending of spies into Canaan was a test of the people’s readiness, holiness, to enter the Promised Land. They failed the test and so Gd chose to delay the entrance until all those who lacked holiness had passed away and the rising generation and newborns would have sufficient holiness to enter Canaan.

We can also look at this symbolically: One example is that the twelve tribes may represent the twelve pairs of ribs connected to the backbone (Jacob, the father). The failure of the tribes was equivalent to being unable to draw nourishment from the backbone: i.e., they had no backbone and therefore were afraid, no matter what Gd said to Moses. The forty years waiting was the time it took to re-connect the ribs to the backbone, to have direct experience of the integrated, whole Self of their father, Jacob, and of Gd, the Supreme Father, and so to regain the nourishment needed to be confident, to trust in Gd.

The parashah ends with Gd saying, “I am the Lrd, your Gd, who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your Gd. I am the Lrd, your Gd.”

And this echoes with Gd’s words earlier in Torah, “Be thou holy for I am holy.”

It is our opportunity through our spiritual practice, especially our daily routines, to deepen our experience of the transcendent inside and outside our individual personalities, and to integrate them both into our daily life, thus becoming Holy as Gd is Holy and to experience every place as Holy Land, the Land of Canaan, the place of Freedom, the Promised Land: then the Promised Land is wherever we are, around us, inside us, everywhere.

Baruch HaShem