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Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5783 — 03/18/2023

Parshiyyot Vayakhel-Pekudei 5783 — 03/18/2023

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.

Vayakhel: Shemot 35:1-38:20
Pekudei: Shemot 38:21-40:38
Having left us in Chapter 34 with the conclusion that:

In view of all these causes, these matters are only for a few solitary individuals of a very special sort, not for the multitude. For this reason, they should be hidden from the beginner, and he should be prevented from taking them up, just as a small baby is prevented from taking coarse foods and from lifting heavy weights,

Rambam turns in Chapter 35 to the situation for the rest of us. He writes:

Do not think that all that we have laid down in the preceding chapters regarding the greatness and the hidden nature of the latter, the difficulty of apprehending it, and its having to be withheld from the multitude, refers also to the denial of the corporeality of Gd and to the denial of His being subject to affections [RAR: i.e. individual characteristics]. It is not so. For just as it behooves to bring up children in the belief, and to proclaim to the multitude, that Gd, may He be magnified and honored, is one and that none but He ought to be worshipped, so it behooves that they should be made to accept on traditional authority the belief that Gd is not a body; and that there is absolutely no likeness in any respect whatever between Him and the things created by Him; that His existence has no likeness to theirs; nor His life to the life of those among them who are alive; nor again His knowledge to the knowledge of those among them who are endowed with knowledge.

There are several interesting points here. First, those who are unable to comprehend all the sublime details of divine science are not to be left out in the cold completely. There are a few basic principles that are so fundamental, and have such vital practical consequences, that they have to be transmitted to everybody, based not on reasoning them out from first principles, but by “traditional authority.” I believe  that for Rambam “traditional authority” means primarily Scripture, and secondarily the interpretation of Scripture by those who can claim the mantle of authority, viz. the Rabbis of the Talmud, the Gaonim and the great interpreters who followed them.

Note that I have not included the philosophers in the list of traditional authorities. Rambam certainly espoused the notion that truth is truth no matter what the source, but I think, at least in the context of the current discussion, that philosophical knowledge is that arrived at by reason, and this is the knowledge that is reserved for the privileged few. In this sense it appears that Rambam is putting the process of gaining knowledge from tradition on a lower level than philosophy. Indeed, since Rambam considered prophecy as the highest form of philosophy, and the Scripture we have is the distilled essence of the philosophical knowledge gained by the prophets, then those who can only accept knowledge passed down (and perhaps watered down) from those on a higher level, are indeed not getting knowledge in its most pure form.

According to Vedic Science, Scripture is a record of the experience of enlightened Sages who are able to recognize the subtlest dynamics of their own Pure Consciousness and are able to express those dynamics in the form of human speech. We have already noted the parallels between this understanding of Veda and a more esoteric understanding of what Torah is. And I have surmised that when Rambam speaks of philosophy, he may not mean intellectual manipulation of statements, as we now understand philosophy, but rather direct cognition of the underlying Unity of life and its manifestation into created reality. The difference between the two traditions is that in Vedic Science one begins from a very young age to meditate and expand one’s conscious awareness, while at the same time learning the verses of Scripture.   Scripture then becomes a means of verifying one’s growing direct experience of Pure Consciousness.

The reason meditation can begin early is that it is easy to learn and effortless to practice. Rather than a long and arduous preparation to get a glimpse of the transcendent, the nature of the mind is used to experience the transcendent directly and regularly, until it is fully established in the awareness. At this point, Scriptural study really becomes meaningful; the expressions in Scripture resonate and validate our own internal experience, and we can use Scripture to investigate the structure of creation within the structure of our own consciousness.

Rambam continues:

They should be made to accept the belief that the difference between Him and them is not merely a difference of more and less, but one concerning the species of existence. I mean to say that it should be established in everybody’s mind that our knowledge or our power does not differ from His knowledge or His power in the latter being greater and stronger, the former less and weaker, or in other similar respects, inasmuch as the strong and the weak are necessarily alike with respect to their species, and one definition comprehends both of them. Similarly any relation can subsist only between two things belonging to one species. This likewise has been made clear in the natural sciences. Now everything that can be ascribed to Gd, may He be exalted, differs in every respect  from our attributes, so that no definition can comprehend the one thing and the other. Similarly, as I shall make clear, the term “existence” can only be applied equivocally to His existence and to that of things other than He. This measure of knowledge will suffice for children and the multitude to establish in their minds that there is a perfect being, Who is neither a body nor a force in a body, and that He is the deity, that no sort of deficiency and therefore no affection whatever can attain Him.

I think this is a very important point, which Rambam touched on earlier when he was discussing “negative theology” (modern term), but expands on a bit here. Gd is one unified entity, not a whole system that is constructed of parts. Gd is completely indivisible, infinite, unbounded, and transcendental to everything that exists. Gd is completely detached from the world, yet is intimately involved in  everything that happens in the world. Gd encompasses the whole of creation, and therefore cannot be compared to anything in creation.  The infinite has no substantial connection to the finite, and can certainly not be put into a comparison with the finite.

For example, if I want to measure the length of my desk, I use a ruler and compare how many times the ruler can be fit into the length of  the desk. If it’s a foot ruler and it fits 6 times, I know that my desk is 6 feet long. All of objective science depends on measurement, which is comparison of a property of objects to a particular, agreed-upon standard. This is obviously not a possibility with the infinite. And what is true quantitatively is also true qualitatively. We talk about Gd’s having attributes, but those are just ways of speaking about the way Gd appears to act with us. In truth, there is nothing about Gd that is anything like us, and any language we use to try to get an inkling of Gd is bound to fall short. This is certainly a limitation of any version of “divine science” that uses the intellect to approach Gd, as the intellect can only distinguish between finite values.

Again, Vedic Science takes the approach of direct experience of the infinite. This is not a process of describing the infinite to ourselves using language, nor is it a type of measurement. It is simply an innocent experience of the mind’s expanding in a natural way until it becomes infinite itself. This is Pure Consciousness knowing itself – there is nothing outside, no comparison of unlike things, just simple knowing-ness. It is really impossible to describe, but it is a simple experience to have. While I am not saying that the individual becomes identified as Gd (Maharishi has said explicitly that this is not the case), we do become identified with the infinite, unbounded Pure Consciousness. Perhaps this is as close as we can get while still having a human body and nervous system. For no person can see My
Face and live (Ex. 33:20).


Commentary by Steve Sufian

Parashat Vayakel-Pekudei

Vayakhel emphasizes the building of the Mishkan (the Tabernacle); Pekudei emphasizes the construction of the Priestly Garments. When both were completed, Gd’s Glory filled the Mishkan.

Our individualities are the Tabernacle; our good actions are the Priestly Garments. Combine them and we become aware of Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Glory.

In the previous parshah, Ki Tisa, Moses asked Gd to “Show me your Glory”. Gd said “I will show you my back but My Face you cannot see for no man can see my Face and live.”

Gd’s Back is the surface level of Gd, Material Glory; Gd’s face is the All-in-All of Gd. Until Moses has become One with Gd, no longer separate, he cannot see this because we can only see this by Being this. Fortunately, Moses and all individualities are roles Gd Plays and Gd can reveal Gd to these roles anytime Gd wishes.

The same Hebrew word translated as “Glory” is used in both parshahs: “kavod.”  The construction of the Mishkan and the Priestly Garments created a harmonious resonance with Moses and with everyone so that more of the full perception of Gd’s Presence, Gd’s Glory, was possible but Full Awareness of Gd still depended then, as it does now, on the maturity of the soul of the perceiver.

Kabbalah is the tradition of looking into Torah and finding deeper levels of meaning; for example, Kabbalah views Gd as “Ein Sof,” Endless, also Beginningless, One, Eternal. It views individual souls as expressions of this Oneness remaining within the Oneness but diminishing progressively and then rising again until the full Reality is experienced: only Gd exists, everyone and everything is an expression of Gd, always within Gd and our individualities are Gd playing a game which Gd eventually (soon! we hope. Now! we hope) lets our individual souls win by returning to our status as Oneness, All-in-All.

From this standpoint, the meticulous design and building of the Mishkhan was a help to experience Gd’s Presence but to return to the Oneness everyone had to also perform the offerings and other actions Gd Prescribed to be performed in the Mishkan and also the other aspects of living that Gd prescribed.

There are many guidelines Gd gives Moses to give us (the traditional version is that there are 613) and some can only be performed when the Temple is standing and we are in it but the basic ones are: “The Lrd, thy Gd, Is One;” “Love the Lrd Thy Gd with all thy heart, soul and might” and “Love thy neighbor as thyself (thy Self).”

Through our taking good care of ourselves and our Self and through our good actions we become spontaneously more appreciative of the beauty of the world within us and around us and the gift of life within us and around us. Thus, we grow to love Gd with all our heart, soul and might and we grow to appreciate and love the sweetness of being in communities where people appreciate each other, help each other, are kind to each other. We grow in our ability to love our neighbor as ourselves and our Self.

Through appreciation, gratitude, love, good actions, service we are restored to Oneness, the Fullness of Love and Joy and Gd’s Glory is Fully Present as All-in-All of which our individualities are fully restored expressions.

These parshahs in describing the details of building the Mishkhan and creating the Priestly Garments according to Gd’s Plan help to inspire us to appreciate the world within us and around us as Mishkan, a Tabernacle, a Temple which we are in the process of building and our good actions as Priestly Garments. These parshahs help us to appreciate Gd’s glory and Gd’s Design imprinted within us and within all.

Our appreciation and our actions bring the Grace that restores us to Full Awareness of Oneness.

Those who are wise guide us as those Gd filled with wisdom created the parts of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which they brought to Moses who assembled them into a Whole. Once this is done, Gd’s Presence fills the Tabernacle. Gd’s Presence, of course, Was and Is always there, but the Fully Assembled Mishkan enables those within it to perceive what Is always there.

We may have a vision of the Whole that allows us to create each part according to the plan, human or divine. but to assemble the parts into a whole, a Whole, we must have harmony with ourselves, with our surroundings, with Gd, so that we assemble from a level of Wholeness.

“Moses” is a quality of Wholeness, “Unifying,” that is within each of us, within everybody.

Through our innocence, our faith, our service this level of Wholeness becomes more and more functional in our lives; we gain the Support of Nature, of Gd, to complete our tasks in a way that is lasting. Our personalities, bodies, homes become Tabernacles, Temples within which Gd’s Presence is experienced as the Eternal Reality. How fortunate we are, to be innocent, to trust, to serve, to be blessed and to live our lives as blessings so that Gd’s Presence becomes more and more fully visible to all of us, to everyone!

How fortunate we are!

Baruch HaShem