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Parashat Toledot 5782 — 11/06/2021

Parashat Toledot 5782 — 11/06/2021

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.

Bereshit 25:19-28:9
Last week we began to discuss part of Rambam’s introduction to part I of the Guide in which he discusses the different levels of insight into the ultimate reality that we find among the population. He wrote:

We are like someone in a very dark night over whom lightning flashes time and time again. Among us there is one for whom the lightning flashes time and time again, so that he is always, as it were, in unceasing light. Thus, night appears to him as day. … Among them there is one to whom the lightning flashes only once in the whole of his night; that is the rank of those of whom it is said: they prophesied, but they did so no more. There are others between whose lightning flashes there are greater or shorter intervals. Thereafter comes he who does not attain a degree in which his darkness is illumined by any lightning flash. … It is in accord with these states that the degrees of the perfect vary.

What do we mean by this “flash of lightning” analogy, and how can we explain it? First, I should mention that the analogy of a lightning flash of insight is used in Kabbalah to describe the sefirah of Chochmah (“wisdom”). On the other side is the sefirah of Binah (“understanding / intellect”). Chochmah is insight that comes all at once, the “Aha!” moment during any creative process where everything seems to fall into place. Binah represents the process of working out the details in a more pedestrian way – that is, going through the steps to transform one’s vision into a reality, from something purely subjective to something objective, something that can communicate our insight to others through whatever medium (e.g. art, music, literature, mathematics, etc.). The combination of Chochmah and Binah gives De’ah (“knowledge”) which is full of both direct cognition (insight) and clear intellectual understanding of the underlying structure. (The acronym for these three sefirot is ChaBaD and was adopted by the Lubavitch Chasidim for their movement.)

Now the question is, how do we turn ourselves into people for whom the lightning flashes often, or preferably, continually. We read in Tanakh that there were “schools of prophets” where the members trained themselves to receive prophecy, so there must have been some techniques that allowed people to gain insight into deeper levels of reality. Rambam will discuss his insights into prophecy later in the Guide, but in the mean time I’d like to relate an experience that I had that may give us some understanding of the phenomenon.

When I was working on my dissertation, I was banging my head against the problem from every angle I could think of, and not making much progress. One day I was soaking in the bathtub, not thinking about the problem at all. In fact, I wasn’t thinking about anything, just letting my mind drift aimlessly. (I had been practicing the TM technique for about 3½ years at this time.) All of a sudden, in a point inside myself, the entire solution to the problem was just there. I knew the basic answer and exactly what I had to do to work it out and prove it. It took 3 weeks of elaborating the idea on paper and on the computer (an IBM 7090 with a dumb terminal in our office!) and the dissertation was done (except for the editing and a few minor changes). Reflecting, I realized that it was specifically when I stopped thinking about the problem that the solution came. All the work leading up to that point was necessary of course – there had to be grist for the mill of my mind to work on, but then my mind had to be turned loose to do its work of organizing everything I had been stuffing into it. This is the Chochmah component.

Afterwards, the three weeks of running computer programs and writing up the results (in the days before spreadsheets and other neat electronic tools) were the Binah aspect. The result was De’ah / knowledge that people could use to analyze similar types of experiments. And on the level of my own awareness, the process of elaboration and concretization of the initial insight solidified the knowledge within me.

How then does this “lightning” work? Here’s what I think is happening. Transcendental Pure Consciousness is, like the Unified Field of physics, the ultimate basis of all creation. It is both the “stuff” of creation and it is also the laws of nature by which it expresses itself. And of course, Pure Consciousness is at the basis of our own existence as well. When the mind settles down and becomes Pure Consciousness, the answers to all questions about creation are actually a part of our awareness. This is the Chochmah aspect I believe. Then, when the mind becomes active again, those aspects of the internal, virtual structure of Pure Consciousness that are relevant to the question we had been pondering are lively and resonate in our minds. This allows us to work out the details, holding a roadmap (remember those?) so to speak.

The TM technique is a practical and systematic way to allow the mind to settle down towards the transcendent, but this kind of settling can take place any time the mind is disengaged from the outside world – for example when gently rocking on a boat in a calm lake, or soaking in a hot bath, or even driving, when traffic conditions don’t take a lot of attention. So, without the TM technique and regular, daily transcending, the periods of “lightning” will come more or less frequently depending on the purity of the person’s nervous system. A more pure nervous system can settle down more easily than one with more stress and impurity. With the ability to transcend regularly, the experience of Pure Consciousness becomes permanently established in the mind, along with waking, dreaming and sleeping states of consciousness, as we discussed in our initial few essays. In this case, the illumination is constant, because contact with Pure Consciousness is constant. And, unfortunately, there are those whose state of arousal is constant, and never see any light. Vedic Science, by providing techniques by which virtually everyone can learn to transcend, democratizes prophecy, so to speak. It allows anyone to experience the ultimate reality directly, and to live in its light eternally.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Toledot

“Toldot” means “generations, descendants.”  More basic than the literal meaning is the meaning “stages of evolution.” We will look at this parshah from this point of view.

The parshah begins with “and these are the generations of Isaac” and tells the story of Isaac’s sons, Jacob and Esau from whom generations will be born, and of Gd’s promise to Isaac that if Isaac will follow Gd, as did Isaac’s father Abraham, then his descendants will be multiplied “like the stars of the heavens” and the land and all nations will be blessed by Isaac’s descendants. “Heaven” symbolizes “Wholeness” and “stars” symbolize the details of Wholeness, the details through which Heaven sends its grace to human and all beings. Similarly, “land” symbolizes “Wholeness” and “nations” symbolizes the details of Wholeness.

On the surface of this parshah, we see competition, deception, favoritism: Isaac and Rebecca do not seem to have been good parents, skilled and effective in raising two sons to be whole, complete.

It’s common to say that Esau, “a man of the fields”, symbolizes the outer field of life, the physical, while Jacob, “a quiet person, sitting in tents”, symbolizes the inner field of life, the spiritual.

Often people see a battle taking place between these two people and these two aspects of life, but life, to be Life, needs to have both physical and spiritual and they need to be integrated.

A great blessing came to me in understanding a step in how this integration takes place when I heard Dr. Doug Birx, well-known to many in our congregation, giving a quote from Maharishi, also well-known to many in our congregation.

Maharishi commented that Ananda, Total Joy, is everyone’s birthright.

Looking at the story of Jacob asking Esau to sell him his birthright for some porridge he was making, it occurred to me that Jacob, symbolizing the Spiritual aspect of Life, was asking Esau, symbolizing the Physical aspect of Life, to end his famished state by surrendering his commitment to the Physical Alone, and opening himself to the spiritual porridge Jacob was cooking.

Porridge seems to have a bubbly quality to it and cooking it seems to me to be equivalent to revealing that Ananda/Joy/Unified Field/Gd, has a texture: it is not just flat, it has a bubbly quality.

So rather than Jacob cheating Esau, acting cruelly, Jacob was actually enlivening the Joy in Esau, ending his famishment, by taking from him his false birthright in the Physical, and giving him his real birthright, in Ananda, Gd.

Similarly, when Toldot tells us that Esau, the man of the fields, was Isaac’s favorite we can see that Isaac was unable to integrate the spiritual with the physical and so he was not able to live with Wholeness, the integration of the spiritual and the material. We can see this very clearly when Toldot also tells us that Isaac became blind: what greater blindness than to be unaware of Wholeness.

For Rebecca to deceive Isaac by dressing Jacob so that he seemed like the hairy Esau might seem like favoritism on Rebecca’s part but Esau had already sold his physical birthright to Jacob and so what Rebecca was doing was creating an integration of spirituality with materiality, an integration that would raise the generations to increasing higher levels of integration.

Later in Torah we see a very high step in this integration and Restoration of Awareness to Jacob’s descendants when at Mt. Sinai, all of the nation of Israel hears Gd speak, something that I have not seen reported in any other scripture, amazingly enough.

Still, hearing Gd speak from a distance is an experience of the duality between Gd and humanity: Full Restoration of Awareness means going beyond this duality and experiencing the Oneness which is All.

Toldot reminds us that we need to live balanced, integrated lives, making sure that our material needs are nourished by our spiritual development so that we go beyond duality of any kind and experience duality and all multiplicity within the Oneness that is our real Nature: The All-in-All.

Reading, reciting, hearing, discussing Torah, the Siddur (prayerbook) and their supplements and commentaries and acting with their Wisdom is an excellent way to do this.

Getting together with our community, with our World Family, is an excellent way to do this; excellent ways to increase our Joy and Wholeness by sharing, by integrating the multiplicity of life so that we experience the Wholeness with its details.

Let’s continue easily, gently, innocently doing this.

Baruch HaShem