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Parashat Tetzaveh 5783 — 03/04/2023

Parashat Tetzaveh 5783 — 03/04/2023

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.

Shemot 27:20-30:10

The fourth reason Rambam states for the necessity of having studies preliminary to “divine science” is that people’s natural aptitudes vary:

For it has been explained, or rather demonstrated, that the moral virtues are a preparation for the rational virtues, it being impossible to achieve true, rational acts – I mean perfect rationality – unless it be by a man thoroughly trained with respect to his morals and endowed with the qualities of tranquility and quiet.

If “divine science” is a science, what does a person’s moral quality have to do with their ability to study and master it? Put another way, science generally tells us how to do something, while moral development tells us what we should be doing. Where shall those twain meet? From a different angle: we generally associate science with the intellect, and the intellect is that which analyzes, takes things apart. We associate moral development with the heart, with the quality of love, and love is that which integrates and harmonizes, that brings disparate items together. Furthermore, what does ones moral qualities have to do with one’s ability to act rationally? One can plan a Holocaust in a perfectly efficient, rational way.

I think these questions lend credence to the idea that “divine science” is not quite like the other sciences we are used to. I think it is more like Vedic Science, which gives us knowledge of the transcendent – Pure Consciousness. The primary way we gain knowledge in science is through the senses (perhaps enhanced by various instruments – telescopes, microscopes and the like). The objective world, however, is material and inert. Morality is not a category that applies to objective science. As we noted earlier, if the most moral person in the world steps off a cliff, down he goes.

Vedic Science is not like that. Vedic Science is the study of consciousness, and the primary route to study consciousness is through one’s own consciousness. While this “study” is internal and directly experiential, it also eventually encompasses objective science as well. That is because transcendental Pure Consciousness is the basis of the entire creation, both physical and mental, objective and subjective. As such, it actually unites physical and spiritual, scientific and moral, intellectual and emotional. And this assertion is backed up by psychological research – regular practice of the TM Technique gives rise to sharper intellect and more open heart, better perception and better moral reasoning.

Rambam asserts that moral development is prerequisite to “divine science.” One can argue for or against this view, but ultimately, on a practical level there is no difference. How so? It is certainly true that in order to experience Pure Consciousness and the processes by which it appears to manifest, one needs a completely purified nervous system, and one that has been cultured to perceive Pure Consciousness not only as the basis of one’s own existence and internal reality, but also as the basis of all external reality as well. How do we get the nervous system so purified? By allowing the mind to settle down and experience Pure Consciousness in a natural and effortless manner. So on one level “divine science” is what purifies the nervous system, and then the purified nervous system allows us to go more and more deeply into divine science. It’s a cycle of evolution, and trying to figure out which comes first is a real chicken-and-egg problem. Very interesting, but of no practical value. Regular meditation leads to the fulfillment of both knowledge and experience.

Rambam continues:

There are, moreover, many people who have received from their first natural disposition a complexion of temperament with which perfection is in no way compatible. Such is the case of one whose heart is naturally exceedingly hot; for he cannot refrain from anger, even if he subject his soul to very stringent training. This is also the case of one whose testicles have a hot and humid temperament and are of a strong constitution and in whom the seminal vessels abundantly generate semen. For it is unlikely that such a man, even if he subject his soul to the most severe training, should be chaste. Similarly you can find among people rash and reckless folk whose movements, being very agitated and disordered, indicate a corruption of the complexion and a poor quality of the temperament, of which it is impossible to give an account. Perfection can never be perceived in such people. And to make an effort for their benefit in this matter is pure ignorance on the part of him who makes the effort. For this science, as you know, is not like the science of medicine or the science of geometry, and not everyone has the disposition required for it in the various respects we have mentioned. It is accordingly indubitable that preparatory moral training should be carried out before beginning with this science, so that man should be in a state of extreme uprightness and perfection; For the perverse is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret with the righteous (Prov. 3:32).

Rambam paints a bleak picture for many people. Character traits are definitely difficult to change. R. Yisrael Salanter (1810-1883), who began the “Mussar Movement” (Mussar is pointing out where someone’s behavior can be improved) in the 19 th century, opined, “It takes a lifetime to change one character trait.” Now bad behavior, as we have discussed, is behavior that violates natural law, taken in its broadest sense as the force in creation that drives it towards its perfection, perfectly harmonious functioning of all its parts. All behavior comes from thought and the quality of our thought depends on the breadth of our awareness. When we take any action, it is impossible for the intellect to compute all the ramifyca-tions of that action across the universe until the end of time. Nature, of course, has no trouble doing those computations instantly and spontaneously, and when the source of creation and nature is established in our awareness, our action makes use of the full computing ability of nature.

The trick then, is to establish Pure Consciousness in our awareness, and, as we have often discussed, the simplest way to do this is to allow the mind to settle down and experience Pure Consciousness, even if only briefly, over and over again. This process purifies the nervous system and cultures the mind to maintain Pure Consciousness even during sleeping, dreaming, and perhaps most important, waking state, when we are acting in the world. When this happens, all the stresses and strains lodged in the nervous system, stiffening it and making it reactive rather than supple and responsive, and naturally thrown off, and all the negative patterns of behavior (lust, anger, etc.) simply fall away. This prepares us to study divine science in all its depth.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Tetzaveh

In this parashah, Gd continues giving Moses many instructions to command the children of Israel to do so that He will dwell among them.

The first is that they shall bring pure olive oil to kindle the Eternal Flame continually.

Oil, lamps and light all have deep symbolism that guides us to live in such a way that we will be aware of Gd’s Presence within every aspect of our mind, body, soul, heart and in the world around us, that guide us to experience the Eternal.

Oil, for example, symbolizes the aspect of Gd through which He appears, speaks to us. It is used for anointing kings and priests, making them holy (Whole) so they can serve Gd.

Lamps are containers to hold kindling, such as oil, and they symbolize we human beings who have become pure enough to know that Gd’s Presence is already within us.

Light, for example, symbolizes the actions in which we not only know Gd’s Presence but also act with Gd’s Presence enlivening, purifying, enlightening every action of ours so that they are in accord with Gd’s Will and spread awareness of Gd’s Presence so we are aware of it everywhere and so is everyone else, so is every impulse of Gd, all of what we call Creation, the Universe.

In addition to oil for the lamps, Gd commands Moses to bring Aaron and his sons “near to yourself”: this is raising them close to the level of awareness Moses has: constant awareness of the Presence of Gd.

They are to be brought near and Moses and those who Gd has “filled with the spirit of wisdom” shall make garments for them, garments that Gd describes in great detail. The High Priest was to wear tunic, cloaks, apron, breastplate, turban, gold plate above the turban, belt and pants and these were to made of gold, linen, wool, precious stones. The ordinary priests were to wear tunics, turbans, belts and pants.

The extensive detail suggests deep symbolism, symbolizing different levels of drawing near to Gd and different levels of bringing not only the priests into harmony with Gd but bringing all of Israel and all life into Harmony.

The main point for us is that whatever literal garments we wear and whatever actions we do, thoughts we think, feelings we have clothe our souls so we should be guided by our sense of harmony and purity: continue to increase those things which allow us to experience and radiate harmony and joy, Harmony and Joy; and continue to let fall away anything which limits joy and harmony, clouds them.

As we do this, Gd fills us more and more with the spirit of wisdom and we are able to make, not only pure physical materials and the garments but spiritual ones as well — our innocent hearts and minds are the materials and our thoughts and actions are the garments that enable us to serve Gd with Holiness, to serve as High Priests and priests even while walking, talking, working, playing — all the things we do in our daily life, no matter what our literal profession.

Just by reading this parashah, in Hebrew or in English, or hearing it a bit, a lot or all of it we become Lamps in which Gd’s Presence is apparent and Lights in which Gd’s Will is done—a little, more, a lot, and then All, and we return through our openness and our good actions to the Oneness in which all separations are dissolved and all details are enjoyed as harmonious, joyful, loving expressions within the Oneness which is Gd, our Self, One.

Baruch HaShem