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Parshiyyot Behar-Bechukotai 5783 — 05/13/2023

Parshiyyot Behar-Bechukotai 5783 — 05/13/2023

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.

BeHar: Vayikra 25:1-26:2

Bechukotai: Vayikra 26:3-27:34

Last week we began discussing the word “heart,” and noted that in Rambam’s time the heart was considered the seat of thought, rather than the seat of emotions. Rambam now goes on to look at another aspect of thought:

It is also a term signifying opinion. Thus: All the rest of Israel were of one heart to make David king (I Chron 12:39) – that is, they were of one opinion. A similar meaning is to be found in the dictum: But fools die for want of heart (Prov 10:21) – which is intended to signify: through the deficiency of their opinion. And in the same way this meaning is to be found in the dictum: My heart shall not turn away so long as I live (Job 27:6) – the meaning of which is: my opinion shall not turn away from, and shall not let go of, this matter. For the beginning of this passage reads: My righteousness I hold fast and will not let it go; My heart shall not turn away so long as I live (Lo yecheref l’vavi miyamai) . [RAR: Rambam justifies his translation of yecheref as turn away – Mechon Mamre translates as reproach me.] In my opinion it is with reference to this meaning of yeheraph that the expression shiphhah neherephet le-“ish” [a handmaid betrothed to a man] is to be explained – [the term “neherephet”] being akin to an Arabic word, namely, “munharifa” [turned away] – that is, one who turns from being possessed as a slave to being possessed as a wife.

In our day, the word ”opinion” has come to mean an idea that we hold to be true, regardless of facts or reasoning. As the former Senator from NY, Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously quipped, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” This is a form of anti-intellectualism that is pernicious to society in many ways. It leads to science denial and political perversion, and it leads to the prioritization of feelings over objective reality – indeed it can lead to a denial of the existence of objective reality altogether. It can lead to the gaslighting of entire nations, the perversion of its government, and the oppression of the many by the few. This is clearly not what Rambam means by “opinion.”

Before continuing, I would like to clarify the statement that prioritizing subjective feelings over objective reality is pernicious. According to Vedic Science, Pure Consciousness is all that there is. It lies at the basis of our subjective life, and it lies at the basis of our objective existence, and indeed, of all objective existence. Everything is a pattern of vibration of Pure Consciousness and Pure Consciousness is the Unity, the Wholeness, that underlies all diversity, both subjective and objective. This is certainly true, but we need to understand the level at which it is true.

The reason that Pure Consciousness can be the basis of creation is specifically that it is conscious, and therefore is able to be conscious of itself. In fact, it has only itself to be conscious of. Therefore, Pure Consciousness within itself assumes the roles of both Observer (the one who is conscious) and Observed (the object of consciousness). It is this virtual duality that serves as the basis for the multiplicity of creation that we see around us. The Observer aspect of Pure Consciousness projects into our subjective awareness, and the Observed aspect projects into the physical reality all around us. On the level of unity, there is just unity. On the level of expressed reality, there is a difference between the subjective world and objective reality. In Unity Consciousness, where we perceive and act from the level of Wholeness, it may be possible to bend reality to our will, but short of that, we do have to bow before reality, and the results are not good. I’m sure you can think of contemporary examples from every side of the political spectrum.

Maharishi tells the story that he was once sitting having dinner with a group of enlightened saints. One of them spoke and said, “I am eating Brahman [Wholeness].” One by one they all said, “I am eating Brahman.” When it came around to Maharishi he said, “I am eating rice!” He explained that to the extent that he was eating, he was eating rice. That is the reality of waking state of consciousness. When we become enlightened, Wholeness pervades everything, but on that level of consciousness we are “really” not eating, or sleeping, or doing anything other than being. But that does not mean that we do not live within the boundaries of manifest creation. We don’t walk into walls, and we do eat rice, and we acknowledge the reality of physical creation on its own level, even while recognizing that it is not the ultimate reality.

With all this in mind, what does Rambam mean by “opinion”? In the first passage, All the rest of Israel were of one heart to make David king, it apparently has to do with a reasoned decision, based on David’s track record, to make him their leader. The second passage is a bit more interesting: But fools die for want of heart, which Rambam takes to mean through the deficiency of their opinion. If an opinion were just a point of view, and all opinions were equally valid, then we couldn’t even really define “deficiency of opinion.” So Rambam must mean an opinion that is grounded in facts and logic. Facts we arrive at through experience (perhaps scientific experimentation as an extension of sensory experience). Logic is innate to human consciousness, even if many people do not know how to use it properly, nor do they care to learn (sorry for being a grumpy old pedant).

Now the opinions that Rambam is most concerned with are opinions about Gd and the subtle levels of creation that are beyond normal, waking-state perception and understanding. On these levels, facts are few for most of us, because most of us do not have the requisite refined perception to gain direct knowledge of the objects of our inquiry, and even everyday logic may not be sufficient to understand these apparently paradoxical worlds. Where, then, are our opinions supposed to come from, and how do we know that they’re correct opinions – that means, correct understanding of the universe and its dynamics?

I think the primary source Rambam would quote would be Scripture and its authoritative interpretation (especially the interpretation of anthropomorphic terms as applied to Gd). Scripture is a record of the authentic experiences of the most spiritually advanced people, whose vision of reality is much clearer than ours. Those who come afterwards form a tradition of understanding of Scripture that is able to convey the vision of the earlier seers in a way that is intelligible to everyone, each from their own level of consciousness. What Vedic Science adds to the mix is the technology by which any person can rise to perceive reality in its fullness, from the transcendent to its full flowering in every aspect of creation. This will be the fulfillment of the prophecy: They shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying: ‘Know the LRD’; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LRD (Jer 31:34).

We’ll continue with our examination of “heart” next week.

Chazak, Chazak v’Nitchazeik!


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshiyyot Behar-BeChukotai

The main thing that we can learn from these parshiyyot is to schedule regular periods of rest into our lives and schedule deeper, longer rest also regularly: just as we are to rest every seventh day and the land is to rest every seventh year and all are to be freed in the 50th year.

“Behar” means “on the mountain,” literally, Mt. Sinai; symbolically, that highest level of our awareness when we are able to hear Gd and to express Gd’s Will in our everyday actions.

Also, since Rabbinic tradition derives “Sinai” from “sin-ah,” “hatred,” a reference to the hatred of other nations for the Jews who received the Word of Gd, we might see Mt. Sinai as being the mountain of Wholeness which is hated by those who know only pieces. But Wholeness doesn’t mind just as a parent doesn’t mind the anger of a child.

Contacting the Mountain of Wholeness within us through rest, loosens the restrictions that veil Wholeness, opens our awareness to fuller happiness and ability and dissolves fear and hatred. The Sabbath and the Sabbatical Year are examples of means to gain this rest and to gain the experience that brings trust and releases doubt and fear.

But even on days other than the Sabbath, we begin the day with prayers, pray afternoon and evening pray as we conclude our day. These prayers and other spiritual practices we may do provide rest that opens us more to Wholeness.

Ideally, our continued prayers, activity, and Sabbaths become integrated and we experience a continuous state of lively rest that pervades every moment of our day: we become perfectly attuned with Gd and are restored to Full Awareness, that Gd is One, that our individual personalities are roles that Gd plays, and we are One with the One, we are All in All, the One and Only “I.”

In Behar, Gd declares that land belongs to Gd and cannot be sold permanently. And just as every 7th day, we must rest from work, so also every seventh year, the land must rest. In truth, everything belongs to Gd including our energy, our thoughts, our body and all these must rest, not only during sleep but also during days, hours and moments when we take a break from our projects. I’ve seen it commonly advised to take a break from the computer for 10 seconds every ten minutes and 10 minutes every hour.

In this parshah, Gd tells Moses about the Sabbatical year: every seventh year, no work is to be done on a field and the produce is free for anyone to take: human or animal.

Lev 25: 21. Gd says that in the sixth year, He will bless the land so that it produces enough for three years, and, thus have not only enough for the sixth year, but for the seventh and the eighth also.

Symbolically, the Sabbatical can mean that when we are fully attuned to Gd, our work is easy, and the benefits of it do not feel hard-earned but like Gifts from Gd, Gifts that we can share freely, KNOWING that Gd is our Shepherd, we shall not want. So, the Sabbath is not only every seventh year, or day, but the all-time reality of our life; each moment Gd is giving us rest, each moment is bearing fruit for itself and for the future.

And the seventh Sabbatical, the 49th year, all work ceases, all indentured servants are set free.

Just as the land belongs to Gd, so does everyone and everything, including servants.

Symbolically, this can mean that the restrictions we place on the freedom of our thoughts and feelings to flow into action–restrictions that come from, for example, from our choice of professions, daily routines, residence—the restrictions are released and we can live life freely in the confidence that Gd is Blessing us. Revealing Gd as our thoughts and feelings, renewing our lives.

Interestingly, when we look at the cortex of the brain, the grey matter, we see it has six layers and below the cortex is white matter. We can look at this as a concrete basis, symbolizing the six days in which Gd created/revealed the separation between Heaven (the subtle) and Earth (the gross); the seventh is the day of rest. Similarly, in terms of years, and in terms of seven times seven years—each group of six is a subtler level of the cortex and of the affairs of the physiology and of our lives governed by that level; each seventh is, similarly, a transcendence within the layer to a more restful level of functioning.

So, Torah is built into our physiology, our physiology is built of Torah, and by attuning ourself to Torah, where every aspect of our personality to Gd and Gd’s Creation–we become capable of loving Gd with “all our heart, all our soul, all our might” and we become capable of loving not only “our neighbor as our self” but also all of Gd’s Creation–land, crops, animals, mountains.

Torah and the various aspects of Rabbinical Guidance (Talmud and Siddurs, for example) and our healthy life style create the routines and intuition that can return us to full knowledge of the Oneness that is Gd Pure Love, capable of Loving Itself and our neighbor, all Creation, as our Self.

“Bechukotai” means “By my decrees”: Gd declares that when we follow Gd’s Decrees, all will be well. Rain will fall, harvests will be abundant, we will be at peace, victorious over enemies, fertile (“productive”), and be aware of Gd’s Presence. The opposite will happen if we do not follow Gd’s Decrees.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman, author of Tanya, dedicated to unifying the ritualistic ways of the Vilna Gaon, with the Joyful ways of the Bal Shem Tov, comments that “Bechukotai” comes from the word “chok,” which means “engraved” and so we need to follow Gd’s decrees to such a deep and natural extent that we do not even to have to think about doing right – the decrees are engraved in our soul and we automatically follow them.

Signs of this engraving are experiences of expanded awareness, increased contentment, spontaneity, Love and Joy, more support for our projects, less resistance, more compassion, patience, ability to find solutions to problems, decreased problems.

My experience with members of our congregation is everyone radiates great Joy, sharing it through every action, becoming more and more aware and Aware of Gd’s Presence every moment and experiencing every moment the softening of the duality of Gd and us, the unceasing experience of Oneness.

More and more, we are living on the mountain and we are instruments of Gd’s Decrees.

Life is definitely worth living!

Baruch HaShem