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Parshiyyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5781 — 04/24/2021

Parshiyyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5781 — 04/24/2021

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.

Acharei Mot: Vayikra 16:1-18:30

Kedoshim: Vayikra 19:1-20:27

To continue our discussion of al-Fārābī’s influence on Rambam I would like to turn to Prof. Pines. He writes [my comments in square brackets]:

Averroes [Spanish-Muslim philosopher, 1126-1198] in his Great Commentary on [Aristotle’s] De anima [On the Soul] is concerned with a different, though related, complex of ideas expounded in this work of al-Fārābī. These ideas, which Averroes regards as wholly unacceptable, are based upon the contention of Alexander of Aphrodisias that the hylic, i.e., the potential, intellect is a faculty subject to generation and corruption that subsists in the human individual. al-Fārābī infers from this premise that this intellect is unable to cognize abstract forms, i.e., forms separate from matter. For an Aristotelian principle lays down that the intellect becomes identical with that which it cognizes, and such identity is inconceivable in the case of these forms and the lowly kind of intellect that is postulated by al-Fārābī. Hence, according to al-Fārābī, man cannot be united with the separate intellect or, to be more precise, with the Active Intellect. The Active Intellect functions with regard to man solely as an efficient cause and by no means as a form with which man can be invested. Man’s end is merely speculative perfection. The last statement apparently means that man can have discursive science, but not that intuitive knowledge which, according to Greek and Arabic philosophers, is the highest form of knowledge.

There is a lot of talk about intellect, or perhaps different levels of intellect here, so we’ll try to understand what Aristotle and the medieval philosophers meant by the term. Let’s start with hyle (also written hule). Here’s what Eve has to say about it:

Hule is something like matter. The term for potential is dunamis. For Aristotle, a basic framework for understanding both nature and metaphysics is potentiality (dunamis) and actuality (energeia or entelecheia). Related is the distinction between matter and form, where matter is what has the potential to become something more definite, to have form. But the terms matter and form are relative: earth is matter for the tree (ignore the simplicity of that), and the tree is matter for a house. … Potentiality and actuality is also more complicated than a simple duo. Here’s the illustration: a child potentially knows mathematics, just by virtue of being a human (this is the first level of potentiality); but a mathematician who is sleeping also potentially knows mathematics – potentially because currently asleep, not actually thinking about math. This is the second level of potentiality or the first level of actuality, because it is the actualization of that first, basic, unformed potential that the child has. But then there is the mathematician who is actually thinking about and contemplating her mathematical knowledge. This is the second, fullest level of actuality in this context.

So it appears that hyle is matter in the abstract. Now we know from physics that matter has many layers – there is the surface layer of macroscopic objects, which are made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms, then subatomic particles. As physics has progressed, we have recognized that all particles are fluctuations of underlying fields, and, more recently, that all the fields that we perceive as particles are actually just different modes of behavior of one, underlying unified field. It would seem that this unified field is the most abstract value of matter. It is completely formless, yet its internal dynamics give rise to all the forms and phenomena in the cosmos. In some sense it is pure Existence, the objective “side” of Pure Consciousness.

Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194, Catalonia – 1270, Israel) identified hyle with the very first creation, that which Gd created ex nihilo (yesh me’ayin in Hebrew – note that the word ayin = “nothing” can also be translated “no-thing,” i.e. the unbounded, or Pure Existence). He describes it as “having no substance (mamash) but the power to bring forth (ko’ach hamamtzi)” and asserts that this is what is referred to in the first chapter of Bereshit (Genesis) as bohu (“unformed” is the usual translation). Interestingly, Ramban says that there is no Hebrew word for this (bohu being an approximation).

Interestingly, Maharishi describes a very similar process taking place at the sprouting of the world of multiplicity from the primal Unity that is at the basis of life. The first two letters of Rig Veda are A and Ka (the Ka changes to Ga in context, but the root of the letter is Ka). A is spoken with the mouth open, modeling unboundedness, open in all directions of space and time and transcendental to all boundaries. Ka is a stop. It represents the point value of creation – that which has no extent at all, the infinitesimal as opposed to the infinite. The Ka represents objective creation, full of boundaries. Now as the Veda is heard the A “collapses” as it were into Ka – infinity contracts itself into a point. It is then the interaction between the infinite and the point that ramifies into all the multiple forms and phenomena we see in creation.

The Kabbalists describe the same process as tzimtzum – Gd’s contracting Himself as it were to “leave space” for finite values to exist. Gd then radiates the divine light into the void He has left and it is the breaking up and ramification of this light, the interaction, as it were, between infinite Gd and the infinitesimal finite, that gives rise to creation.

It would seem from these various sources that we can tentatively identify the hyle as being right on the boundary between unbounded, Pure Existence, and the expressions of that Pure Existence in the manifest creation. It is “matter” in the sense that it is created, but it is also formless, as it is still completely abstract, prior to any specific form. And it is full of creative potential, as it can become anything. Am I correct? I don’t know. Between the time I started writing this and right now there’s been a shift in my perspective. This is why it’s called re-search – you search, you think you’ve found, you re-evaluate, then you go out and search some more.

Next week, Gd willing, we’ll start to consider the various levels of intellect.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshiyyot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
In Parashat Acharei Mot, Gd commands that only the High Priest may enter the Holy of Holies and he may only do that once a year, on Yom Kippur.

This raises the question: May only the High Priest experience the Full Presence of Gd? And may he only experience that once a year?

Compare this commandment with the commandment in the next parashah, Kedoshim, in which Gd says, “Be thou Holy, for I Am Holy.”

This commandment says that we, all of us, must always be Holy, not just the High Priest and not just once a year.

Looking at the commandment in Acharei Mot from this point of view, we can see that, although the Tabernacle and all its details, including the Holy of Holies and the actions of the priests and the High Priest, were specifically designed by Gd to assist us in being aware of His Presence, it is possible for us to be fully aware of His Presence wherever we are and whoever we are.

The 10 Commandments/Statements/Utterances/Words give us very clear guidance for our behavior so that we can act and be Holy. Particularly, the commandment/statement/utterance, “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy Gd, with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy might” and, very close to it, the commandment which appears in Parashat Kedoshim, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” To me and to probably all of our congregation the guidance to love Gd has resulted in our doing our best to live our life routinely and moment-to-moment in an innocent, non-straining way that allows our Nature, which is Joy and Love, to be more and more deeply experienced and more and more deeply expressed in every feeling, thought and action.

Living this way, we are becoming increasingly aware of Gd – Totality – as all there is and therefore our love becomes more and more, Love, the same Love that Gd Is; and Joy, the same Joy that Gd is. Thus, our love is naturally directed to Gd, without our having to think about it, no matter where our attention may be. Our love is not a mood, it is a natural experience of Gd as Love. Naturally we experience our individuality as a flow of Gd’s Love. Naturally we experience more and more of the Wholeness and Unite more fully with Gd. Naturally we more and more fully remember, fully experience, that we are an Expression of Gd — Gd is all there is.

The guidance to love our neighbor as our selves, naturally results in our doing our best to know our selves more and more fully as Self, the One Self and thus, to love our selves more and more fully, to increase in our love for every aspect of existence, every individual expression of Gd, flowing within Gd, including our neighbors.

Although it will be nice, great, wonderful! when the Temple is rebuilt and we have its assistance in being aware of Gd’s Presence, Kedoshim commands us all that we should be Holy, in and out of the Temple, whatever our status in the community.

Through our desires to love Gd, to love our neighbor, to be Holy and through the actions we take to fulfill these desires we in our community are becoming increasingly aware of Gd’s Presence as Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omni-Joyful, Omni-Loving and our behavior becomes increasingly naturally loving and Loving. Naturally our behavior sings as the angels sing: “Holy, Holy, Holy!”. Naturally, we become, more and more completely united with Gd, One.
Thank You, Gd!
Baruch HaShem