Skip to content

Parashat Vayeshev 5781 — 12/12/2020

Parashat Vayeshev 5781 — 12/12/2020

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.

Bereishit 37:1-40:23

Over the past two weeks we have been discussing Rambam’s plan for the Guide.  We established that he wrote it for someone whose grasp of the first rungs of the ladder of knowledge, logic and mathematics, was sound, but who was not sufficiently adept at natural science to proceed to his real goal, the study of divine science. Instead, Rambam is going to rely on Scripture – that is, revealed wisdom – to supply the support that is lacking in his student.

We further saw that by “natural science” Rambam means Ma’aseh Bereishit (the Work of the Beginning) and by divine science he means Ma’aseh Merkava (the work of the Chariot). Both of these are deep Kabbalistic topics, and may only be divulged by a teacher to a select few students of sufficient maturity.

Now since a book is a very public thing, Rambam has to tread very carefully and teach in a way that initiates would recognize and learn from, while the rest of the people might go away scratching their heads, but at least those heads would stay above water. In other words, there are places where he is deliberately obscure.  We see, in any event, that the common portrayal of Rambam as purely a rationalist who has no time for mystical speculation appears to be very far from the truth. In fact, it appears that for Rambam there is a smooth gradation from the material world of objects and forces to subtler and subtler levels of creation, to the celestial realm, closest to Gd. This view of course comports very well with the explanation of reality given by modern physics.

And I think this leads us back to Rambam’s insistence that what we know from observation and reason cannot contradict Scripture. The process of creation starts with the virtual duality created within Gd as He takes on the role of both Observer and Observed. This dialogue, as it were, within Gd’s nature, sets up a vibration which breaks down in a systematic way into the various forms and phenomena, subtle to gross. As physics tells us, all forms and phenomena are just vibrations of the Unified Field, interacting with itself, and these vibrations are governed by very specific laws. Divine science, then, would be the elucidation of these laws of nature on the subtlest, celestial level of creation. Gd, of course, has absolute free will; nature and all its laws are within Gd, Gd is not bound by them.

Observation too, from the point of view of the human being, can have many levels, gross and subtle. Our ordinary sense impressions are typically of the gross surface level of macroscopic objects. As our perception becomes progressively more refined, we can appreciate subtler and subtler levels of creation, and eventually perceive the transcendental pervading all of its expressions. In this state of consciousness, we can actually observe the progressive emergence of creation from within the transcendent itself. Stated another way, we can perceive the virtual fluctuations within the transcendent as the Self-interaction of the transcendent with itself. And this perception can be expressed as the sounds of human speech.

In this view, Scripture actually is observation – it is observation of the subtlest values of the process of creation from the transcendent, and the expression of those mechanics as a sequence of sounds, the sounds of Torah. Since Torah is an expression of the laws of creation and evolution, albeit not a mathematical one as we might expect from a modern science text, it cannot contradict the findings of the science of our day, or of any day, to the extent that those scientific results are solidly founded. And, of course, provided that we really understand what Torah is and what it is telling us. The full realization of the nature of Torah is only available to one who can station their awareness on the transcendental level and observe Torah being generated from the undifferentiated, pure  transcendent. On this level, logic, mathematics, scientific observation and Scriptural authority merge into one another, and we discover Pure Knowledge within ourselves. We become Torah on the level of our awareness, and we embody and instantiate Torah in our thought, speech and action.

I will reiterate here that I am not claiming that this view was Rambam’s intent in writing the Guide. This is something that we will have to form an opinion on as we go more deeply into the book itself.

Next week, Gd willing, I want to look at some of the influences we may discern in the Rambam, that may have helped shape his thinking about the nature of Scripture and of creation.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayeshev

All of Torah is a means to return our awareness to the reality of One without a Second, the One and only “I.”  Each parshah has its particular way of doing this.

What is the particular contribution Parshat Vayeshev makes to our awareness being restored to One?

It shows us how to connect relative harmony, wholeness, with relative discord, fragmented, restricted awareness.

“Vayeshev” means “and he lived”: This parshah begins with telling us that “Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojourning, the land of Canaan.”  “Canaan” seems to derive from the Hebrew “kana,” to be brought into synchronicity. Being brought into synchronicity with One in its details is certainly restoration of our awareness being restored to One.

“Living” is a stable experience, not just a momentary flash but an experience that continues day to day, year to year. It implies that the experience of conflict due to duality has been resolved and the difficulties that Jacob experienced with his uncle Laban and his brother Esau are now over and he is living peacefully in a land where he is synchronized and the land is synchronized: all works harmoniously.

And yet this peace and harmony are upset when Jacob gives preferential treatment to his son Joseph and more deeply when Joseph angers his brothers by telling them and his father two dreams that seem to indicate he will dominate over them.

Yet Gd’s hand is in this as Joseph tells his brothers when his ability to dream and to interpret dreams have led him to become de facto ruler of Egypt (Mitzraim: restrictions) and his brothers and father have left Canaan, the land of harmony, to obtain food from Egypt, the land of restrictions, after Joseph has arranged for Egypt to store up food during the seven full years that he predicts will be followed by seven years of famine.

One way to look at this is that when our land of harmony is of limited scope, its harmony can be easily broken by misbehavior, and then we find ourselves not living, but sojourning, struggling in a land of restrictions, a superficial world that nonetheless allows us to survive, even though not in the harmony we had previously enjoyed.

We learn from Joseph and this parshah that it is very important that we always act open-heartedly to extend the range of harmony we enjoy, and that we do not mind and fully forgive the seeming offenses of others.

Then we extend the range of Canaan, of harmony, to include the realm of Egypt/Mitzraim, restrictions, and harmony prevails, Jacob is Israel “one who prevails over Gd (in Gd’s limited role, the role of Gd the Great and Creation the small), and our souls and our world return to awareness of the Oneness that Is Always All There Is.

Today! Let this happen today and let it last unendingly!

Baruch HaShem