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Parashat Va’era 5782 — 01/01/2022

Parashat Va’era 5782 — 01/01/2022

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.

Shemot 6.2-9:35
Rambam has some explanatory points about the different qualities of intellect that I think are worth perusing before we go on to the (very brief) third chapter. He writes:

Accordingly when man was in his most perfect and excellent state, in accordance with his inborn disposition and possessed of his intellectual cognitions – because of which it is said of him: Thou hast made him but little lower than Elohim – he had no faculty that was engaged in any way in the consideration of generally accepted things, and he did not apprehend them. So among these generally accepted things even that which is most manifestly bad, namely, uncovering the genitals, was not bad according to him, and he did not apprehend that it was bad. However, when he disobeyed and inclined toward his desires of the imagination and the pleasures of his corporeal senses – inasmuch as it is said: that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes – he was punished by being deprived of that intellectual apprehension. He therefore disobeyed the commandment that was imposed upon him on account of his intellect and, becoming endowed with the faculty of apprehending generally accepted things, he became absorbed in judging things to be bad or fine. Then he knew how great his loss was, what he had been deprived of, and upon what a state he had entered. Hence it is said: And ye shall be like Elohim knowing good and evil; and not: knowing the false and the true, or apprehending the false and the true. With regard to what is of necessity, there is no good and evil at all, but only the false and the true. Reflect on the dictum: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. It is not said: And the eyes of them both were opened and they saw. For what was seen previously was exactly that which was seen afterwards. There had been no membrane over the eye that was now removed, but rather he entered upon another state in which he considered as bad things that he had not seen in that light before. Know moreover that this expression, I mean, to open, refers only to uncovering mental vision and in no respect is applied to the circumstance that the sense of sight has been newly acquired. Thus: And Gd opened her eyes; Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, Opening the ears, he heareth not – a verse that is analogous to its dictum, That have eyes to see and see not.

It appears that Rambam is returning to his main theme of understanding the anthropomorphic terms in Scripture in a subtler way, as terms that apply to something incorporeal. His main thrust, of course, is to show that Gd is incorporeal, but here he uses the same analysis to show that various terms can, or must, be understood as referring to subtler realities than we might otherwise take them to mean.

Rambam’s challenger, who is reading Scripture on a more superficial level, argued that Adam and Eve were “punished” for seeking to gain intellectual knowledge (by eating the Tree of Knowledge) – by being given intellectual knowledge! But in fact, as Rambam points out, the sin was caused by Adam and Eve’s directing their gazes downward towards the “desires of the imagination and the pleasures of his corporeal senses.” In other words, if the attention is turned outward towards the world of differences (the material world), then we wind up making distinctions between “good” and “bad,” as those are the categories that apply to the world of differences. Good and bad apply to our relationship to things.  Things that promote our evolution are “good” (even when they are uncomfortable or painful) and vice versa. As far as things are in themselves, they just are. We can make statements about things and they will be more or less true depending on how they correspond to the reality of that thing.

The difference between “good” and “bad” as opposed to “true” or “false” is that the former is subjective and moral and relates to our character, while the latter is objective and material and relates to our knowledge. There is an interesting teaching from Rav Kook on last week’s parashah that relates to this dichotomy.

When Moses first encounters Gd at the burning bush, he “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at Gd.” The Rabbis of the Talmud argue whether this was a praiseworthy thing or not. (Quotations are from a summary of the discussion by R. Chanan Morrison, from the web site

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Korcha noted that, later on, Gd would inform Moses, “You will not see My face” (Ex. 33:23). In effect, Gd told Moses: “When I wanted [at the burning bush], you did not want. Now that you want, I do not want.” Moses had missed an extraordinary opportunity when he turned away from the burning bush. Because of his failure to strive for greater enlightenment, at Mount Sinai he would only merit a lesser prophetic vision.
Rabbi Yochanan, on the other hand, argued that Moses’ action was praiseworthy. As reward for humbly hiding his face, Moses merited that his face would shine with a brilliant light as he descended from Mount Sinai (Ex. 34:29).

Rav Kook relates this to two different ways of evaluating human perfection. One, espoused by Rambam, is that we must perfect the intellect – to gain perfect knowledge of Gd to the extent humanly possible. In this quest humility has no place – we go for knowledge no matter what. This corresponds to R. Yehoshua ben Korcha’s position, and to the “higher” kind of intellect of the philosopher, who deals with abstractions and turns away from the manifest world, with all its ambiguities.

The other, espoused by the Rabbeinu Bachya ibn Paquda, author of Chovot haLevavot (“Duties of the Heart”), is that we must perfect our character traits and our ethical behavior. The most important character trait one can develop is humility! This corresponds to R. Yochanan’s position. Now our character traits are founded on the basis of being able to distinguish Good and Evil. There is nothing essentially true or false about standing up to a terrorist, for example, or a corrupt government, or any other kind of evil and oppression. Rambam may consider this a lower type of intellect, but in truth it is harder to choose the right path in all the complexity of the real world than to contemplate abstractions in an ivory tower.

The answer to this conundrum is to recognize that there is actually no conflict between the two types of development. Development of the moral sense and development of the ability to perceive reality as it is are both sustained and enhanced by the repeated experience of Transcendental Consciousness and the stabilization of Transcendental Consciousness in the awareness even while engaged in the activity of waking, dreaming and sleep states of consciousness. For example, the experience of Transcendental Consciousness leads to global brain wave coherence, and this coherence is correlated both with better academic performance and better moral reasoning. As we rise to higher states of consciousness our actions are more and more in tune with natural law, and therefore produce harmonious and life-supporting influences in our environment. At the same time, we find more and more knowledge is inside our own pure consciousness. We can have our Truth and put it into action in the moral sphere as well.

Happy Secular New Year!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Va’eira

“Va’eira” means “I appeared.” Gd answers Moses’ complaint that Pharaoh has not listened to his message from Gd: let my people go. Gd tells Moses that He is appearing to Moses in Full Strength to deliver the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He will make them a great nation.

Exodus 6:2 “Gd spoke to Moses and He said to him, ‘I Am the Lord.’”
Exodus 6:31 “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with [the Name] Almighty Gd but [with] My name YHVH, I did not become known to them.”

As “Elohim” Gd speaks to Moses. He tells him He is “Yud-He-Waw-He.”  He then tells Moses that he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “EL ShaDaI” but as “Yud-He-Waw-He” He did not become known by them (Rashi’s commentary).

We’ll look at YHVH as describing four different levels through which Gd, Totality, Appears within HimSelf, within Gd. These levels range from Maximum Abstraction to Maximum Concreteness — the four worlds of Kabbalah: Beriyah, Atzilut, Yetzirah and Asiyah; from this point of view Gd is telling Moses that He is giving him the whole range (manifest, at least) of existence and this should give Moses confidence that although Pharaoh and the Children of Israel have not listened to Moses so far, they WILL listen because now Gd is giving him Total Support so Moses should do as Gd commands — tell Pharoah to free Gd’s people.

There seems to be a hierarchy through which Gd is recognized by humans and it seems that neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob recognized the Full Wholeness within which the Hierarchy exists — they did not experience complete Oneness, despite Torah telling us that Abraham was “given every blessing.”  Something seems to have been left out of their awareness but that seems to be given to Moses — at least, Gd is presenting Gd to Moses from all levels of Hierarchy, and from the Wholeness within which they are increasingly “manifest” expressions.

In the rest of the Parshah, Gd tells Moses that He will bring about 10 plagues through Moses and Aaron, hardening Pharoah’s heart each time so that Pharaoh, who has denied Gd as One, will come to recognize that Gd is One, within whom all the Egyptian deities are but small expressions. These plagues occur and Pharaoh says He will let the Israelites go but Gd hardens his heart and he changes his mind.

We might look at the physiological symbolism of Gd, Moses, Pharoah, Egypt and Promised Land from many angles. Dr.Tony Nader, whose books on Human Physiology and Ramayan in Human Physiology are familiar to many Beth Shalom congregants, presents a model which we might adapt to Torah for those people, places, things and events for which I have as yet found no Kabbalistic physiological representation.

For example, Gd would be the Total Physiology but also at every level of physiology He would be the Totality but especially the Central Governing Aspect. Canaan, the Promised Land, would correspond to a healthy physiology; Egypt would correspond to a stressed physiology. Pharaoh particularly would correspond to a stressor of the whole physiology.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg in his book “Body, Mind and Soul”: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease and Healing says that all disease results from a lack of gratitude. From this angle, the slavery in Egypt resulted from our ancestor’s losing the ability to be aware of Gd as the Source of All Goodness. The return to freedom results from returning to recognition of Gd as the Source of All and from increasingly living their lives with a desire to attune to Him in gratitude—not as a mood but as the natural reality which occurs as we respect others, are kind to them, grateful to them, and through our respect for them, respect Gd, Gd’s Kindness and are grateful to Gd. Our gratitude rises to the level where we “Love Gd with all our heart, all our soul, all our might.”

In present times and in any time, our return to freedom occurs the same way.

Torah study — listening, reciting, thinking about and acting in accord with – is a good tool to bring us into alignment with Gd and naturally to good health, good relations with others.

Prayer, especially the prayers of our siddur which generally do not ask Gd for help but praise Gd for His Qualities, beyond our ability to know intellectually as an Object of our awareness: He is only Known to Himself and only be rising to the Level of Oneness with Gd can we experience our individual human self as an Expression of Gd and thus bring Full Knowing into our awareness which has become Awareness.

I continue to be very encouraged with the great friendliness, love and joy that I experience in so much of our Fairfield residents and very strongly in our Beth Shalom Congregation. I am very confident that the spiritual exile, the illness of our planet, the enslavement in the restrictions of limited awareness, is ending and that we are participating in ending it and I am confident that many of us are coming very close to Gd and will return to One Fully, comfortably and soon. We will experience One beyond the duality of Gd and creation—no plagues needed!

Baruch HaShem!