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Parashat Shoftim 5782 — 09/03/2022

Parashat Shoftim 5782 — 09/03/2022

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.

Devarim 16:18-21:9
Last week we began a discussion of the Rabbinic principle Torah speaks in the language of human beings. Rambam invokes this principle to explain why we use all kinds of anthropomorphic language to describe Gd, when Gd is unbounded, eternal, unchanging and beyond all description. There are two ways we can gain knowledge of something. We can learn about it, through language, and we can experience it directly, subjectively. In the case of objects, our language can define it, specify its parts and their interactions, and teach us how it fits in with its environment. We can experience the object through our senses (perhaps extended by measuring instruments).

None of this works for Gd, Who is not an object that can be measured and analyzed and defined. Torah is neither a scientific text nor a philosophy treatise. On one level it is a law book, a code of conduct, which, if followed faithfully, allows us to live a life of spiritual and material abundance. It is also a history book, telling us of the history of Gd’s interactions with people, and especially with the Jewish people. This needs to be written in a language we can understand, even when it appears to be describing Gd’s actions or characteristics. Hence the dictum, Torah speaks in the language of human beings.

By the same token, since Torah purports to be the “blueprint of creation,” every feature of it, every nuance, every strange locution, must be significant and convey meaning. Yet if, in the way it is usually understood, some expressions in Torah are just idiomatic Hebrew, then we often come to a point where we can’t interpret those expressions as anything other than a linguistic framework.

We began to reconcile Torah speaks in the language of man and omnisignificance, by considering the phenomenon of Vedic cognition. In Vedic Science, the experience of Pure Consciousness grows from an experience of absolute silence to an experience where the entire universe, and all the infinite possible universes exist within Pure Consciousness, which is a vibrating, pulsing field of life. Vedic rishis (seers) are able to see / hear the patterns of vibrations within their own Pure Consciousness as the sounds of human speech, and the Veda is the record of these sounds.

There is a similar concept in Torah. In the last verse of parashat Naso (Num 7:89) Torah states:

When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with [Gd], he would hear the Voice addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the Ark between the two cherubim; thus [Gd] spoke to him.

The word used for “addressing” is midaber from the root d-b-r which means to speak. However, it is an incorrect grammatical form. “He was addressing…” would be m’daber, with a schwa (semivowel) rather than an “i.” Rashi comments:

Midaber is the same as mitdaber (it is the Hitpael [=reflexive] form with assimilated t) – “He heard the Voice uttering itself.” It is out of reverence for the Most High Gd that Scripture speaks thus: “The Voice was speaking to itself,” and Moses would listen in on his own. [My bold]

In other words, Gd was speaking to himself, and apparently He was speaking Hebrew. Now we’ve encountered Gd speaking right from Gen 1:1 – Gd created the world with 10 utterances according to the Rabbis. But before there was any creation, to whom could Gd speak, if not to Himself?  Apparently, even after creation, Gd only speaks to Himself, because all of creation is within Gd, and therefore there is still nobody else to talk to except Himself. Even when Gd speaks, or communicates, with created beings, that communication too is internal.

We thus see that the giving of the Torah appears to be a very similar process to that of Vedic cognition. Moshe Rabbeinu was apparently on a high enough level that he was able to see / hear / cognize the fundamental vibrations within Gd (“Gd’s speech”) and to write it down in the sequence of sounds of human speech, in our case, of the Hebrew language. And indeed, the Zohar tells us that the phonetics, grammar, syntax and vocabulary of Hebrew are isomorphic to the fundamental vibrational modes of creation.

Here I think we can see how omnisignificance and language of humankind can be reconciled. If Torah (or Veda) is a cognition of the basic structure of creation, then every bit of it is significant. It’s an integrated structure where each part depends on all the other parts, and if any part is removed the whole structure is in danger of crashing down. On the other hand, Torah (Veda) can be read as human language. Torah speaks in the language of humankind then can be taken to mean that the virtual structure within Pure Consciousness is the same as the structure of human language, in particular Hebrew (Sanskrit). This is hardly surprising, since our Pure Consciousness is the same Pure Consciousness that is the basic transcendental layer of creation. What we cognize in our own consciousness is a perfect map, or record, or the structure of creation, so it is natural that it can be expressed as human language. On the level of the transcendent there is no conflict between omnisignificance and language of humankind – in fact, they can be seen as two different ways of expressing the same reality.

To summarize, I think Torah speaks in the language of man has three levels of meaning:

  1. Talmudic – the expression is just idiomatic Hebrew; the oddity of the locution has no intrinsic meaning
  2. Rambam – Torah only has the language of man to describe Gd and His actions to us, inadequate as it may be.
  3. Vedic/Kabbalistic – The structure of the universe at its most refined level is the structure of Consciousness, which is the Self of every person. Thus the language of nature is naturally the language of humankind.

But, you ask, Hebrew and Sanskrit are very different languages – how could they both be the language of nature? We will deal with that question next week.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Shoftim

Parashat Shoftim has the theme of “Justice,” and illustrates through this the discussion of appointment and behavior of judges and kings, the need for witnesses to prevent violations of Torah law and witnesses to attest that a crime has been committed. In discussing Gd’s Judgment given on Rosh HaShana, Rebbetzin Tziporah Gottlieb said something very lovely, in a recent webinar: “Gd Judges us to see what we need” – judgment is not a matter of punishment or reward: it is a matter of determining (so to speak – Gd always knows, no need to make a special point of determining on a particular occasion) on Rosh HaShanah, the Head of the Year, what we need. Gd gives us Justice, what we need.

“Justice” means that which will bring us to Full Attunement with Gd: only in perfect attunement can we act completely justly – but good intentions and good actions from innocent hearts can move us in the right direction.

“Shoftim” means “judges” and this parshah speaks about judges, kings and prophets, people who might be sufficiently attuned to Gd that they can serve as intermediaries between us and Gd to know what we need and to guide us to act more and more justly until our hearts are completely pure, our souls are just and we are “Holy, as Gd is Holy.”

In this parshah, Moses tells us that in Horeb, Mt Sinai (Exodus says “Sinai”, Deuteronomy says “Horeb”) our ancestors heard Gd’s voice and bid Moses to go on the mountain and speak with Gd, lest they die. Gd tells Moses they have said well: an intermediary is needed.

And Moses speaks of judges, kings and prophets who will be appointed and will arise: intermediaries who will guide us when we are still not pure enough to be completely at ease in Gd’s Presence, to “love Gd with all our heart, all our soul and might” which includes perceiving Gd everywhere and so “loving our neighbor as ourselves” – which requires us to know our self as Self, One, and to Love our neighbors as expressions of our Self, within our Self.

Fortunately, there can be a situation and come a time when we do not need intermediaries, when we know Gd directly: In Jeremiah 31:33-34, Gd says we will all know Him: no intermediary is necessary. “

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother saying ‘Know G d,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jeremiah 31:33)! (translation from “Modern Times”, by Jacob Immanuel Shochet, posted on

Joy is rising in our world, though the headlines may not seem to show it. Soon we will be pure enough, our world will be pure enough, open enough to Gd, to Love, so that the fear of Gd’s voice which existed at Sinai/Hebron will no longer rise.

“Justice” seems a bit of an austere word: Think of it as “Love”, as in “Love Gd above all else” and “Love Thy neighbor as thy self [Self]” and it feels better. Where there is Love, there is no blemish, no violation – there is Perfect Attunement, Justice.

“Shoftim” means “judges” and the commandment to establish judges indicates that people are not able to act completely in harmony with Gd’s Will, so there will be disagreements.

The appointment of judges also suggests that there are some people, the judges, who are able to act at least to a good degree in accord with Gd’s Will – promising help to those a bit out of tune to get into tune and participate in a harmonious society.

Judges will be appointed in every generation and they will administer justice without bias and they will teach Torah law and people must follow, not deviating. Teaching Torah law means not just teaching the 10 utterances, the 613 commandments, for people to memorize and follow: it means teaching harmony with Torah, which is harmony with Gd, teshuvah, return to Oneness. It means teaching people to realize they are impulses of Gd, characters in a story Gd, One, tells within Himself/Herself/The Self.

In our time, we do not seem to have the judges Gd wants, so it is our responsi-bility to grow pure enough to create an atmosphere so pure that judges aren’t needed. But fortunately, we are growing in the ability to spontaneously Love and to create the world so pure that the Rabbinical Court will be a place for Torah recitation, singing, dancing in the Joy of Oneness – no disagreements to resolve, no needs to diagnose and prescribe paths to satisfaction.

Shoftim repeats the law against idolatry and adds a law against sorcery: both involve putting trust in a partial value not in the Wholeness that is Gd. Our Beth Shalom community is growing in Wholeness so that we are guiding our life more and more within Wholeness, in Fulfillment, so there is less chance we will get drawn into fragments of Life.

Shoftim talks about kings: they are like judges in their power and Gd commands them to be humble, not to think themselves better than others, and each king is commanded to write a copy of the Torah Scroll for himself, to keep it with him always. (Greatness comes from humility, because humility is the awareness that the individual is only great through connection to Wholeness, Gd, the Self.) What is commanded for a king can certainly be useful for anyone. Learning to create our own Torah scroll in the way that the trained sofers, Torah scribes, do would be a wonderful experience in attuning ourselves to Torah on the level of meaning, language, words, but also on the level of letters, the level of the way body, mind, feeling, ink, pen and parchment interact to produce letters, words, spaces, words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, all of Torah in written form. This delightful action can help reveal to us the Torah that is not words on paper but the Liveliness of Gd, One with Gd.

To become a Torah scribe requires considerable training and Torah scrolls created by them are quite expensive so for most of us, we will probably have to substitute reading the Torah, reciting Torah, and keeping a printed copy of Torah by our bedside or some other place that is convenient. But, now and again, we can copy the words by hand, the best we can and rise through this Joy.

Torah is on the Internet in many places and so anytime we are near a computer, we can take a few minutes now and again to dip into Torah and return to our other activity with some fine refreshment.

In a deeper sense, “writing our own Torah” means experiencing Torah as fundamental vibrations of Consciousness, of Gd – experiencing this within our own consciousness. Writing and reading Torah in our everyday world can help this experience to grow.

Shoftim describes the creating of cities of refuge: Here we see justice in another form – places where someone who accidentally killed will be safe from retribution. Better to rise in purity so that our world rises with us and there are no accidents, much fewer accidental killings, and no need for cities of refuge.

Symbolically, “cities of refuge” are places within our own awareness where stressful thoughts, memories, anticipations do not arise – A Transcendental realm within our awareness.

Unblemished offerings:

These symbolize the purity that justice is – unblemished. Since the real offering is not the physical offering, or even the prayers that we offer today as a substitute for the physical offerings: the real offering is our self. So, we offer ourselves to Gd as the Mi Shebeirach prayer says: “Give us the courage to make our lives a blessing.”


As an example of standards of evidence, two adults witnessing someone about to break Torah law were required to warn him. In a world, where all live in Canaan, the Promised Land, fully realized Synchronicity/Integration, this might not even be necessary for small children. But even when it is, in a world where everyone experiences “The World is My Family” anyone seeing any child in danger of breaking a law would certainly unhesitatingly, lovingly warn the child. Symbolically, two adults mean both our waking state self and our Transcendental Self. A child is a thought rising that wants to blossom into action.

Rules of war:

Peace terms are to be offered before attacking a city. In a world where everyone is in harmony with Gd, with One, wars will not arise. Similarly, wars will not arise within our mind regarding different choices, interpretations.

No Wanton Destruction:

For example, no cutting down a fruit tree that is bearing fruit in order to use its wood to build a house. A harmonious world shows us exactly the appropriate materials and tools at exactly the right time. A harmonious mind bears fruit for action and the action leads to not merely a wooden house, but to The Home of Fulfillment.


When a dead body is found without witnesses to the murder: the whole community is held responsible; it is the community’s lack of attunement to Torah, to Gd, that led to the crime. With each of us becoming more and more attuned, the community becomes attuned, murder does not occur. Similarly, no useless thoughts, dead thoughts, arise in our mind: we think from the Source of Thought and every thought that arises is Live.

These specific examples of justice depend on our attunement to Wholeness, to Oneness, and this depends greatly on the justice, the purity, of our daily routine. When our daily routine is healthy, we see things as they are, act appropriately in a spontaneous way.

Shoftim is an aspect of Torah that gives specific examples of the qualities of judges and specific examples of ways to ensure that justice is done. Through our reading, reciting, hearing, writing this passage we can move to the Universal Justice that is Love, Joy, Harmony, Oneness, Wholeness, Gd, Self.

How nice!

Baruch HaShem