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Parashat VaEra 5783 — 01/21/2023

Parashat VaEra 5783 — 01/21/2023

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 6:2-9:35
Rambam now considers the third difficulty of starting our education with “divine science.”

The third cause lies in the length of the preliminaries. For man has in his nature a desire to seek the ends; and he often finds preliminaries tedious and refuses to engage in them. Know, however, that if an end could be achieved without the preliminaries that precede it, the latter would not be preliminaries, but pure distractions and futilities. Now if you would awaken a man – even though he were the dullest of all people – as one awakens a sleeping individual, and if you were to ask him whether he desired at that moment to have knowledge of the heavenly spheres, namely, what their number is and what their configuration, and what is contained in them, and what the angels are, and how the world as a whole was created, and what its end is in view of the arrangement of its various parts with one another, and what the soul is, and how it is created in time in the body, and whether the human soul can be separated from the body, and, if it can, in what manner and through what instrument and with what distinction in view, and if you put the same question to him with regard to other subjects of research of this kind, he would undoubtedly answer you in the affirmative. He would have a natural desire to know these things as they are in truth, but he would wish this desire to be allayed, and the knowledge of all this to be achieved by means of one or two words that you would say to him. If, however, you would lay upon him the obligation to abandon | his occupation for a week’s time until he should understand all this, he would not do it, but would be satisfied with deceptive imaginings through which his soul would be set at ease.

Rambam begins by pointing out that we’d all really like to have all knowledge (and all power and prosperity) without any work or effort on our part, and that if we were offered total knowledge, but were told we’d have to work for it, we’d probably just turn it down, preferring half-truths and bromides with no effort. This is something we know – people are lazy. I can’t be bothered to even make a resolution to go to the gym, let alone actually keep it. And I do need to lose some weight. Yet, as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

In the case of gaining knowledge, the “pain” is getting the preliminary knowledge one needs in order to understand the field we are interested in learning. For example, to be a medical doctor one needs knowledge of organic chemistry. Organic chemistry has its charms I suppose, but it involves a lot of memorization of nomenclature and rules, without which nothing makes any sense. Organic chemistry is a major reason I am a physicist and not a physician. If you are going to be able to understand how the human body works, and how to diagnose and treat disorders using Western medicine, you have to understand Organic Chemistry. There is simply no way around it.

In the same way, it is impossible to understand the structure of the universe, both gross and subtle, without the proper mental preparation. We have long believed that the structure of reality must be derivable from a set of first principles, including, for example, principles of logic and mathematics. For example, Einstein long held that all the constants of nature, including the speed of light and the gravitational constant, should be derivable from the properties of the natural numbers (the counting numbers and zero: 0, 1, 2, 3 …). It is well known that the counting numbers can be derived from a few, simple postulates (Peano’s postulates), and that the rational, irrational and complex number systems can be built up from the natural numbers. Perhaps Einstein was right, but if so, one has a lot of preliminaries to go through before one can begin to understand the physical universe. The metaphysical universe has greater subtlety, and much of it is beyond the purview of objective science. Therefore, its preliminaries must also be subtle, but equally necessary if we are to understand creation in its totality.

All of this consideration assumes that we are approaching knowledge via knowledge of the pieces that make up that totality. In that case, knowledge of the pieces is preliminary, and we conceive of the totality as made up of the pieces and their interactions. (It is the interactions, by the way, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.) When our perception of reality is that the parts are the primary reality and the whole is an emergent property, such an approach makes perfect sense. Since, as created beings, we begin our journey from the world of parts (Olam haPirud, the world of separation), we seemingly have no choice. Thus, preliminaries are necessary.

There is another approach we should consider. In Vedic Science, wholeness is primary, and the parts are expressions of that wholeness, in the same way that individual waves are expressions of the unbounded ocean. In this case, wholeness is its own preliminary, and knowledge of the parts and their interactions flows from knowledge of wholeness. But what does it mean to say that “wholeness is its own preliminary”?

I think we can answer this question by noting that wholeness is consciousness. Pure Consciousness is the wholeness from which all manifestation comes and to which all manifestation moves to find its fulfillment. Since it is consciousness, Pure Consciousness can be experienced directly by a conscious being of sufficient complexity – i.e. a human being. When we transcend, we activate this very process of Pure Consciousness experiencing itself, and as Pure Consciousness gets more and more established in our awareness, we gain inner knowledge of wholeness. When our perception gets refined enough, we cognize the mechanics by which Pure Consciousness expresses itself as manifest creation. Our knowledge of wholeness is then preliminary to our knowledge of the parts. By knowledge, I mean the kind of inner knowledge from cognition, rather than discursive, intellectual and analytical knowledge. This knowledge is interior to Pure Consciousness itself. In the words of the Upanishads, “Know That by knowing which all things are known” (Mundaka Upanishad).

One might still argue that knowledge of the parts is still preliminary to knowledge of the whole, since in the process of transcending one must start at the surface level of thought and perceive the thought in its finer and finer (but still relative / partial) states. The same is true as perception grows – at first, we only experience the surface level of the object, as we have always done, then we perceive progressively finer values until we recognize Pure Consciousness as the fundamental essence of the object. As Maharishi once said, “We transcend through the Relative.” In essence, however, transcending is direct knowledge of wholeness, the goal of all knowledge, and the basis of all the branches of knowledge.

Is this what Rambam actually meant in his discussion of the preliminaries to divine science? I don’t make that claim, nor do I think it likely, but we will continue looking at his discussion next week.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Va’eira

“Va’eira” means “appeared.” Gd answers Moses’ complaint that Pharaoh has not listened to his message from Gd: let my people go. Gd tells Moses that Gd is appearing to Moses in Full Strength to deliver the promise Gd made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that Gd will make them a great nation.
Exodus 6:2 – “Gd spoke to Moses and He said to him, “I Am the Lrd.”
Exodus 6:31 – I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with [the Name] Almighty Gd but [with] My name YKVK, I did not become known to them.”

As “Elokim” Gd speaks to Moses. Gd tells Moses Gd is “YudKeWawKe.”  Gd then tells Moses that Gd appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as “Kel ShaKai” but as “YudKeWawKe.”

Gd did not become known by them (Rashi’s commentary).

One way to look at YKVK is that the four letters describe four different levels through which Gd, Totality, Appears 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 Gd 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 Pharaoh 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 Gd will bring about 10 plagues through Moses and Aaron, hardening Pharaoh’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 Israelite go but Gd hardens his heart again and he changes his mind.

We might look at the physiological symbolism of Gd, Moses, Pharaoh, Egypt and Promised Land from many angles. Dr.Tony Nader, who is presenting his paradigm, “Consciousness is All there is,” through books, podcasts and social media Dr Nader presents the Biblical phrase, “Man is made in Gd’s image” through books on Veda and physiology and Ramayana and physiology.

From this standpoint, the total physiology would represent Gd and Cannan, the Promised Land, would present a healthy physiology whereas Egypt would represent an unhealthy one.

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 gratitude and thereby losing the ability to be aware of Gd as the All-in-All. The return to freedom results from becoming increasingly grateful for what we have and thereby returning to recognition of Gd as All-in-All. Increasingly living our lives in gratitude occurs naturally when we respect others, are kind to them, grateful to them, and through our respect and gratitude to them, respect and are grateful to Gd. Through “loving our neighbor as ourself”, we rise to the level where we “Love Gd with all our heart, all our soul, all our might”. and through this love know Gd and know our individualities and all individualities as expressions of Gd within Gd.

In present times and in any time, our return to freedom occurs this 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, gratitude.

Prayers are helpful – innocent prayers of our hearts and definitely the prayers of our siddurs (prayer books) which generally do not ask Gd for help but praise Gd for Gd’s Qualities, beyond our ability to know: only Gd knows Gd.

Through our innocent respect, gratitude, kindness, love we become healthier and become aware that we and all the details of the manifest reality are expressions of Gd within Gd.

I continue to be very encouraged with the great friendliness, love and joy that I experience in so many people I meet. 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. I am confident that many of us are coming very close to Gd and are helping all to return to Gd: Fully, comfortably, and soon. We will experience One beyond the duality of Gd and creation – no plagues needed!

Baruch HaShem!