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Parshiyyot Tazria-Metzora 5781 — 04/17/2021

Parshiyyot Tazria-Metzora 5781 — 04/17/2021

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.

Tazria – Vayikra 12:1-13:59

Metzora –Vayikra 14:1-15:33

This Odyssey into Greek philosophy has taken me quite out of my comfort zone, as you’ve probably noticed, but if you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you don’t grow. Beginning this week, I’ll be taking another leap into the abyss of my ignorance, but this time I will at least have a teacher guiding me, viz. my daughter, Eve. I caution the reader that any mistakes you encounter will be mine, not hers.

We’ll begin by following Prof. Pines’ description of the influence of Abu Nasr al-Fārābī (872, Tashkent – 950, Damascus) on Rambam. In particular, al-Fārābī’s’s views of the highest possible state of human development impinge directly on Rambam’s concerns, since that question affects how we view Moshe, how we view Mashiach and the Messianic age, and how we, especially as Jews, view our own purpose here on earth.

Let me begin with a quote from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on al-Fārābī’s philosophy of religion (

While al-Fārābī’s does not have a specific term for ‘philosophy of religion’, he does in fact have one which can more or less literally be translated as ‘philosophy of society’, namely, falsafa madaniyya. Notably, this notion embraces two chief moments. First, in line with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, it comprises an intrinsically anthropological and ethical element; accordingly, falsafa madaniyya is the part of philosophy dedicated to an inquiry into the kamal al-insan, the perfection of man, as an individual. Second, just like Plato’s Politeia and Aristotle’s Politica, it moreover deals with the madina, the polis, as a whole, taking into account its makeup and administration. However, it does so strictly from two angles: it assesses the madina and its regime with respect to their success, on the one hand, in guiding citizens towards their individual perfection and, consequently, towards ultimate happiness; and on the other hand, in emulating society’s normative model, namely, the cosmic order, through the makeup of the city.

It appears in this passage that al-Fārābī’s creates a linkage between the structure of nature / the universe, the structure of society and the structure of human intelligence, with each impinging on one another. It should be clear that the order of nature is fixed – that is what science assumes and sets out to discover. The laws of nature are held to be objective realities, and not, in their essence, under our control.  Only their applications, that is, technology, are under our control, until they get out of hand themselves. Think climate change.

When it comes to the individual and society, the two influence one another. A society is made up of individuals, and it is the consciousness of the individuals that makes up the collective consciousness of the society. The activities of the individuals, which are based on the level of consciousness of those individuals, make up the activity of the society. The interaction between the members of the society are or should be, the glue that holds the society together. Conversely, the nature of the society
influences the growth and development of the individual. Laws constrain what we can do. Language may constrain what we can think – if there is no word for something in our language, it is hard to perceive or think of it. If there is, Gd forbid, a great deal of stress in society, even a fully enlightened person’s action may become distorted or misinterpreted by others, and his perception of reality may be less clear than if the society is more harmonious – “in a smoky room, even an enlightened man can’t see so clearly” (Maharishi).

Apparently al-Fārābī’s takes the “cosmic order,” that is, the order of natural creation, as the “gold standard” for the organization of society. Presumably if the order in society matches that of nature, some of that order will be impressed upon the individual, through socialization and through education. In addition, the very structure of society will be so harmonious that activity will be conducted in accord with natural law, with little stress and strain, and therefore the individual’s growth will be least constrained and most rapid.

It appears that al-Fārābī’s thrust here is that the basic unit of organization that we want to work on and perfect is the society. If we can create an ideal society, that will provide a template and a mold by which we can produce ideal individuals. The idea that the individual is primary, and that individual rights take precedence over the needs of society, is a relatively new attitude, so perhaps it is not surprising that al-Fārābī starts with society and works his way down to the individual level.

The downside of this approach is that a society is large and has many moving parts. It is as impossible to put all the pieces in just the right places in a society and to set them in motion in just the right way, as it is to calculate the effect far into the future of a single action of ours. Such an ideal society will not be, nor can it be, created using finite human intellect. History has amply demonstrated the futility of trying to engineer a better society. Most revolutions replace an intolerable system with one even worse. Societies based on power balances are at best metastable – they work until one group manages to get enough power to entrench itself, after which they degenerate into dictatorships or oligarchies.

In Vedic Science the approach is through the individual. The individual mind can settle down and experience Pure Consciousness, and with repeated experience, Pure Consciousness becomes established in the person’s awareness. Since Pure Consciousness is, according to Vedic Science, the ultimate substrate of all creation and the laws of nature that govern creation, someone who has conscious access to Pure Consciousness will naturally act in accord with natural law – everyone acts from the level of their consciousness, and if our consciousness contains the totality of natural law, so will our behavior. When there is a significant enough nucleus of people whose actions are structured by nature in this way, the society begins to take on the structure of nature, as al-Fārābī indicates.

Next week Gd willing we will look at some aspects of individual growth through the eyes of al-Fārābī and others.


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parshiyyot Tazria-Metzora

“Tazria” means “she conceives.” Literally, it means “when a woman gives birth” but, symbolically, it can refer to bringing any action or project to fulfillment. “Metzorah” Chabad says is often mistranslated as “leper” but it is actually a super-natural plague. These parshiyyot present some of Gd’s commands about the states of being unclean and clean and also about the means for purification – pure water is involved both in the purification of a mother who has just given birth and in the purification of the metzora who has some blemishes on his/her skin, garments or home. Symbolically, a blemish can be a blemish of our mind that prevents us from being completely aware of the Unitary Nature of Gd, the All-n-All Nature of Gd. This blemish can be removed by deeper experiences of Consciousness, for which water is a common symbol. Words of Torah, of Siddurs, and experiences through Transcendental Meditation are good ways to deepen our experience of Consciousness.

Tazria also presents the date for celebrating the beginning of a new year. When we are clean, we can enter the Sanctuary and get the added ability to enjoy Gd’s Presence that the Harmonious Nature of the Sanctuary provides. Similarly, a new year provides such an opportunity since it is an opportunity to let go any troubles, any blemishes, that might have been veiling our experience of Gd’s Presence.

Oddly, a woman is considered unclean for some time after she gives birth: I say, “oddly,” because considering the holiness of giving birth, we might expect that a new mother would be particularly clean and therefore most able to perceive Gd’s Presence and most welcome to enter the Sanctuary.

Necheima Grossman on suggests an explanation: Gd has commanded that a person who touches a dead body is ritually impure; when a woman is carrying her fetus in the womb, she is extra pure — she has two lives. When the child is born, she has only one life inside herself, and so there is, in a sense, a loss of life. So, she needs a bit of time and some ritual to feel fully alive again inside herself and not dependent upon her child outside herself to feel fully alive.

In other areas of our lives — for example, working on some extended project for work, home, service to community — there would certainly be the desire to celebrate when the project is complete but there might also be a feeling of loss, a feeling of emptiness because we no longer have the joy of hope to finish, a hope that can connect us to Gd’s Presence, through the silent prayer “Gd, please help!”. We have, instead, the joy of fulfillment, but perhaps some loss of the feeling that we need Gd and therefore less attention to the various spiritual practices that we do to connect to Gd.

Hopefully, we don’t have much of a loss, and we don’t have much time before we return to the perspective that what matters most in our life is not the fulfillment of any particular project, even childbirth, but deepening our connection with Gd, restoring our awareness to Fullness, to the experience of Oneness, Wholeness.

From my experiences with members of our congregation, readers of our newsletter, I am confident that we are making progress in maintaining perspective, Gd first, everything else a gift of Gd to cherish. We are making progress in experiencing every moment as a new year. Our spiritual practices, practical skills keep getting more effortless and fulfilling. Our experiences and purity keep rising and with it, our restoration of Full Awareness, Full Awareness that All is One, and One is Joy and Love, our Essential Nature.

This moment is a great moment to be completely fulfilled.

Baruch HaShem