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Parashat Shemini 5781 — 04/10/2021

Parashat Shemini 5781 — 04/10/2021

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.

Vayikra 9:1-11:47

Now that Pesach is behind us, I would like to return to the topic of hashgachah pratit / Divine Providence. In previous posts we noted that Prof. Pines identified two ends of a spectrum of ideas about Providence. The Epicurean believed that there was no Providence at all, and all forms and phenomena in nature were essentially just random. Nature has no teleology, no goal, no point towards which it is striving. As we pointed out, this is the position taken by many so-called “scientific atheists” today. I might add that it is no wonder that Epicures is associated (rightly or wrongly) with the “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” philosophy that, if widely adopted, will enervate any civilization.

On the other side is the Stoic approach which holds that everything is hashgachah pratit – that is, nothing happens unless Gd specifically ordains it. There is some Rabbinic backing for this idea: A man does not stub his toe unless it was decreed in Heaven (Chullin 7b). Besides portraying Gd as the ultimate micromanager, this view has implications for our notion of free will. If Gd has written the script and we are just players, unable to change the script in any way, then the whole concept of responsibility for our actions goes out the window. There would be no point in Torah, mitzvot, there would be no growth through meeting moral challenges.

An intermediate position affirms that nature runs according to Providence, but individuals are free to act as they will; that is, our will is not constrained by Providence. The first part isn’t too difficult to understand – Gd ordained the laws of nature and that is how nature operates. If Gd wants to create some miraculous circumstance (splitting the sea, making the sun stand still, etc.) He can ordain that it be so. It also leaves individuals free will.

Rambam, apparently following Aristotle here, adds a subtlety – the degree of Divine Providence depends on the level of intellectual development of the individual. As I pointed out earlier, I don’t believe that “intellectual” here means what it has come to mean nowadays. Rather, I think intellectual development means development of consciousness, and it is here that Vedic Science has something of great significance to add.

According to Vedic Science there is a Unified Field, identified with the Pure Consciousness that we can experience directly by allowing the mind to settle down to its least excited state, from which arises all the multiplicity of creation, in the same way that an unbounded ocean rises in waves. There is a direct correspondence between the structure of human consciousness and the cosmos, and in fact, at the most fundamental level, the two are the same.

Stresses and strains in the human nervous system make it stiff and unable to respond fluidly to subtle perceptions and subtle impulses of creation. In this case, every perception clouds over or obscures the experience of Pure Consciousness. We are left with limited perception – we can’t see the whole picture, and consequently our actions and their ramifications are based on this limited perception. Action that is based on such limited perception can only be partially successful, and is likely to be quite harmful, our best intentions notwithstanding. An example can be found by considering the environmental damage our industrialized society does – industrialization has brought us to a higher standard of living and a longer average life span, and in some ways broadened our perspectives by letting us connect (over the internet) with diverse people with diverse experiences and perspectives. On the other hand, it has brought new diseases, environmental destruction, and the ability to kill one another more efficiently.

The less stress, the broader the awareness and the more likely that our actions will have fewer negative consequences. If the nervous system is completely free of stress, Pure Consciousness is maintained in the awareness on a continuous basis, the nervous system is completely flexible, perception, and therefore action, are in accord with all the laws of nature, which are structured in the internal dynamics of Pure Consciousness. The same intelligence that runs the whole cosmos is established in our awareness, and is therefore at the basis of our action.

Now let us try to tie this framework into the idea of hashgachah pratit. Generally, when we think of Divine Providence we think of a Gd “out there” Who is watching over us, guiding our action so that we cause no harm to ourselves or to others (or to the environment). We tend to think of Divine Providence when we are saved from some imminent danger, or when we are steered away from making some big mistake in our lives. I believe this is clearly explained by the concept of action in accord with the laws of nature.

If we act in accord with the laws of nature, that is, in accord with the evolutionary direction of cosmic life, then we are swimming along with the stream of life. We are pushed forward by the current, so to speak, On the other hand, if we try to swim against the current, by violating laws of nature – acting in a harmful way – we are going to be fighting a losing battle against the cosmos, and the result will be stress and strain and suffering. We further noted that the degree to which our actions are in accord with the laws of nature is a function of the breadth of our consciousness, and that in turn is driven by the purity of our body and nervous system.

Now consider what Rambam says: …Maimonides’ view that the human individual’s share in divine providence is proportionate to his intellectual powers and that providence does not watch over the nonrational animals. Now the intellect is that which decides – the Hebrew word for intellect, binah, is related to bein, “between.” To make a decision as to what action to take, we need accurate perception of the current situation, and we need to be able to see all the ramifications of each possible choice. Clearly, this is an “intellectual capacity” that is beyond anyone in ordinary waking state of consciousness. The entire universe reacts to every action of ours in an incredibly interconnected web of causality.

The solution is to bring the conscious mind into contact with transcendental Pure Consciousness, which is the level from which nature effortlessly governs the entire cosmos. It is the level which Maharishi calls the “cosmic computer” – moving every piece of the universe in exactly the right way to further the growth of the whole. With repeated experience of Pure Consciousness, it begins to suffuse the nature of the individual mind more and more. Spontaneously, we begin to act as if we had the “cosmic computer” at our fingertips. When we are acting from this level, naturally nature supports that action – it is as if we are now sitting back and letting Gd drive our chariot. At this level, we have complete hashgachah pratit because we have given over ownership of our action to Gd.

I don’t want to put words in Rambam’s mouth, but it seems to me that by “intellectual powers” he means something more akin to this kind of development of the ability to act correctly, than to our modern idea of the intellectual life being that of sitting around and thinking about things (although that is a valuable pursuit). If I am correct, then in a natural way our intuitive concept of hashgachah pratit would in fact correlate with the level of “intellectual powers” = “development of consciousness.”

As far as the animals go, they are part of nature. Since they don’t have the capacity to make moral choices, the whole concept of hashgachah pratit does not really apply to them. Their action is always in accord with nature. When Shakespeare says, “There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow,” I don’t think he’s talking about Gd’s watching over the sparrow – rather he means there’s a special providence for us, and the fall of the sparrow, like the rest of nature, is part of that providence. We have left a number of questions unanswered. What happens to the free will of a person whose consciousness is fully expanded? For that matter, how much free will does a person who is bound by a stressed nervous system and a narrow awareness have?! Do the laws of nature admit to only one ideal path of evolution? Does Gd micromanage the universe, so that nothing at all happens unless He makes it happen directly? In the interests of moving forward I will leave these questions, for the moment, as “an exercise for the reader” – we will return to them when Rambam discusses hashgachah pratit towards the end of Moreh Nevukim.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Counting the Omer

An omer was a measure of volume in Biblical times. On the second day of Passover an omer of barley, the first harvest, was brought as an offering.

From the second night of Passover to Shavuot, 50 days, Devarim 16:9-10 commands us to count the Omer. Gathering info and thoughts from Wikipedia,, My Jewish Learning and other sources I’ve learned that this is viewed as a strategy of spiritual refinement, one that prepares us for the giving of the Torah which is said to have taken place on Shavuout. 50 is seven weeks plus one day. We can look at each week as representing the seven days of Creation and as we progress to the seventh week we are experiencing increasingly deep insight into the stages/limbs of Creation. On the 50th day we go beyond the knowable to experience Unity with Gd, the Unknowable experience through Unity.

There is also a Kabbalistic tradition to look at each week as representing a fundamental emotional quality of Gd. These qualities are: Chesed (Love), Gevurah (Strength), Tiferet (Beauty), Netzach (Victory), Hod (Glory), Yesod (Foundation) and Malchut (Kingdom). Each week we enliven one of these qualities in our awareness and within that week each day we enliven all seven. On the 50th day, we have risen to be beyond these qualities and, ideally, to be in Unity with the One with no second of which they are expressions.

Here is some information on the Omer counting from

Let us make each moment and each day count and join together as One.

Baruch HaShem