Today is election day in the US!
I saw this interesting post at Mystical Paths, (they were just repeating it because it was interesting), that purports to prove via Torah codes that Sarah Palin will be our next vice president, and that John McCain will be our next president. I noted some of the problems I have with this in the comment section there. But here is a larger list:
a) Interpreting "in pain shall you bring forth children" in the plain text, in something that does not even intersect with Sarah Palin, to be a reference to her Down Syndrome child, is insulting. And it is a kvetch to boot.
b) They show an impressive matrix, but that is because they are not showing most of the characters. The full rows are not shown, but as they note, there are 45,159 characters between rows. These words are not really very proximate to one another.
c) As far as I can make out, they are wrapping around the text. They are starting in Devarim and ending in Shemos, with Bereishit also in there! Apparently, they are doing some wrap-around to accomplish this. This is weird.
d) Furthermore, they are not even spelling Sarah Palin correctly. They are spelling it שרה פאילן. A Google web and news search reveals no such spellings. And it is a weird spelling, with no yud between the lamed and the nun, and with a yud after the aleph. To compare, a web search on שרה פאלין spelled as I just spelled it yields 10,000 hits, and spelled שרה פלין yields 17,000 hits. Now, you may argue that any transliteration is acceptable, and this is how they do Torah codes. No. This is the very problem of "wiggle room" for Torah codes -- if you can choose at will any spelling, rather than choosing one up front, then the codes are not statistically meaningful, and you can find similar codes in War and Peace. Why this is so, I won't explain here. Do some research on the matter, if you are interested in this difficulty.
Compare with the equally unimpressive claim that Obama will be President because Barack Hussain Obama has a gematria of 501, the same as the Levi Jeans and of the word ראש. And words like ישמעאלים. I wonder how many past presidents had the same gematria of 501, and how many of their defeated opponents had 501.
They neglect to mention that John McCain's middle name is Sidney, and so his full name of יון סידני מקקאין is also 501. So why say this shows Obama as President more than McCain? The answer is that they do not realize how malleable gematria is, so when they abuse gematria to get the results they want and nothing else, they do not realize they are abusing it.
Choosing a gematria to this specific word, as opposed to נשיא, or הפרזידנט. Indeed, הפְּרֶזִידֶנְט has a gematria of 365, while יון מקקין has a gematria of 366, where you are allowed to be off by one. Also, it all depends on whether Barack's first name is a cognate of Baruch or of Baraq, Lightning, Mohammed's horse. The gematria which leads to 501 is based on Baraq, with a ק. But the spelling ck at the end of Barack, and the sometimes given etymology, would perhaps make it with a chaf or chaf sofit, which would mess up the entire gematria.
At the end of the day, both things are silly. Obama or McCain will win because of the votes of the American public and the Divine plan. But not because Obama's gematria is 501, and the fact that it is 501 has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But silly people try to create patterns, in gematria and in Torah codes, to reassure themselves and convince themselves that they know what is going on.
And if McCain wins, they will point to the Palin matrix. And if Obama wins, they will point to the Obama "Torah" code in Daniel, or to the gematria of his name. So they win either way. And the method will remain just as silly.