Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Considering the Jesus / Mecca Torah-code

Shirat Devorah discusses an interesting Torah code. Check it out.  (She also embeds a nice video, with the Torah code discussed at the end. This seems part of a kiruv seminar, trying to inoculate people against the nonsense of Christianity:


As you know, I think that Torah codes, in general, are bunk. And so, here I will try to explain the flimsiness of this particular Torah code. The code is based on two pesukim in VaEtchanan:

 וְהֵפִיץ יְ-ה-וָ-ה אֶתְכֶם, בָּעַמִּים; וְנִשְׁאַרְתֶּם, מְתֵי מִסְפָּר
בַּגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר יְנַהֵג יְ-ה-וָ-ה אֶתְכֶם שָׁמָּה
[27] And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will remain few in number among the nations to where the Lord will lead you.

 וַעֲבַדְתֶּם-שָׁם אֱ-לֹהִים, מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי אָדָם: עֵץ
וָאֶבֶן–אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִרְאוּן וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּן, וְלֹא יֹאכְלוּן וְלֹא יְרִיחֻן
[28] And there you will worship gods, man's handiwork, wood and stone, which neither see, hear, eat, nor smell.

With a shared equidistance of 50 letters, going forwards we have ישו, Yeshu, which is Hebrew for Jesus, and going backwards we have מכה, Mecca, a holy place to Islam.

(1) My first attempted debunking would be based on what Rav Yosef says in Kiddushin 30aא"ל: אינהו בקיאי בחסירות ויתרות, אנן לא בקיאינן, that we are not expert in plene and deficient spellings of words, something which would entirely mess up any Torah code.

What are the malei / chaser divergences on pasuk 27 and 28? It turns out that Minchas Shai has none -- there is one on 26, but none on 27 or 28; CD Ginsberg has none; and Vetus Testamentum has rather unconvincing ones, or ones which appear in the pasuk after the Torah code. And so this particular approach, for this particular Torah code, falls flat.

(2) My second approach would be to question the statistical significance of this. After all, ישו and מכה are rather short words, each of only three letters. I would expect these to be rather common throughout the Torah. Who says this is meaningful?

Indeed, it is not just me who says this. Eliyahu Rips, a major Torah-code proponent, makes the same point in his Torah code article from 1994:
"Indeed, ELS's for short words, like those for 'patish - פטיש' (hammer) and 'sadan-סדן' (anvil), may be expected on general probability grounds to appear close to each other quite often, in any text. In Genesis, though, the phenomenon persists when one confines attention to the more "noteworthy" ELS's, that is, those in which the skip |d| is minimal over the whole text or over large parts of it. Thus for 'patish-פטיש' (hammer), there is no ELS with a smaller skip than that of Figure 1 in all of Genesis; for 'sadan-סדן' (anvil), there is none in a section of text comprising 71% of G; the other four words are minimal over the whole text of G. On the face of it, it is not clear whether or not this can be attributed to chance."
Thus, they admit this problem and give a counter-argument for these particular words, patish and sadan. But Yeshu and Mecca are also short words, only three letters long. Can Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi, who presented this in Shirat Devorah's video, make an effective counterargument? That is, tell me how often Mecca and Yeshu appear in the Torah at some skip length. Can you show me that 50 is really the shortest skip length for these, in this area in sefer Devarim?

Perhaps one can offer the counterargument that it is meaningful because both share a skip length of 50. Perhaps. But I am not a statistician, nor is Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi.

(3) I will further question the statistical significance of this because both codes use rather frequent letters to make up their rather short words. That is, in any language, certain letters are more common than others. For example, in English, we have the following letter frequencies:


Thus, 'e' is the most common letter, at 12%, followed by 't' at 9%, followed by 'a' at 8%. Meanwhile, 'z' is only 0.074%. What about for Hebrew? Well, for modern Hebrew, Stefan Trost of stefantrost.de computed a list. Here is a partial of that list:

Follow the link for the full list.

The list would likely be similar for Biblical Hebrew. I bolded those letters which make up the Torah code in question. Why should these letters be common? Well, many of these are helper letters of sorts. They make up the morphology of a word. Yud is used, for one example of many, in the beginning of verbs for masculine third person ('He will write' - yichtov;) It is used at the end of words for the first person possessive (susiy = my horse). It is used as a vowel letter, to designate a long chirik or tzeirei. And this is just a partial list of how yud is used. Of course, it also can be simply a root letter. That is the yud of Yeshu -- and indeed, it appears in the word וְהֵפִיץ, where is serves such a common functional role. Compare the yud to the tzadi, with a frequency of 0.12% to yud's 11%!

Vav is another exceptionally common letter. It is a vowel letter; it also means 'and', a rather common prefix to verbs in the Torah; it also appears as morphology, designating the plural.

Heh is also rather common. It is a vowel letter. Also, it means 'the' or designated a question, in the beginning of a word. In the word veheifitz, it is part of the verb pattern, rather than the root, and such verb patterns are exceptionally common. At the end on of word, it is the feminine possessive, or else designating the feminine gender of a word.

Mem and kaf appear often in morphology -- think for example kulchem. And kaf  is often used as a word prefix, to mean 'like'.

Even within root letters, I would imagine that certain root letters are more common than others. Shin and mem seem to me to be rather common root letters.

So we take extremely common letters in Tanach, in statistically insignificant extremely short words, and indeed, we find them in close proximity to one another, on a pasuk where we can kvetch an association. Shkoyach!

(4) It gets better than that. Wouldn't a better match to ישו, Jesus, be מחמד, Muhammad? And wouldn't a better match be to have the Islam word in ascending direction, rather than descending? Why the kvetches? The answer is most likely that they were not able to find these words in close proximity, or where they were able to find them in close proximity, the context was utterly irrelevant. And so they replaced Machmad with other words relating to Islam, such as Yishmael, מהמוד, Medina, Mecca, Islam, etc. And they still did not find them in close proximity until they reversed the letters of 'Mecca'.

So we have two short words, made up of extremely common letters, one of the backwards, and that one being part of the general cloud of words surrounding that religion, and they managed to match them in close proximity to each other and to some relevant pasuk. I don't find that convincing proof of anything.

(5) Finally -- and this is just for the sake of being comprehensive -- based on the title of the video, idols of wood refers to Christianity while idols of stone refers to Islam. But Islam is not necessarily considered avoda zara. They worship a single God, who they assert is the same one God referred to in our Torah. And Rambam did not consider Islam to be avoda zara:

הלכות מאכלות אסורות פרק יא
ד [ז] גר תושב, והוא שקיבל עליו שבע ... וכן כל גוי שאינו עובד עבודה זרה, כגון אלו הישמעאליים

If so, this is not a very impressive Torah code. (If you ask me in the comment section nicely, I can rationalize for you a worthy rejoinder to this last point.)


Devorah said...

Rabbi Mizrahi replies [quoting with permission]:

"The chance that these 2 words will be in a verse that speak about fake religious wood and stone in equal skip is impossible... So we see that it was planned by G-d."

joshwaxman said...


in other words, the equal skip of 50 I referred to above, but coupled with the context.

as i also noted above, neither I nor Rabbi Mizrachi are professional statisticians, but i do believe that he is incorrect about this 'impossible' bit. at the very least, he cannot KNOW this. and he should not convince himself otherwise. these are such short words, involving such common letters, that I would expect that these occur all OVER the place. and if they didn't, synonyms or other words from the word cloud appear all over the place. and some small subset of those millions of easy to generate examples will have identical skip lengths. and of those, smaller subset (perhaps just this one) will end up on a lucky pasuk or two.

figures, please. experiments. the statistics involved in this is very often counterintuitive.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

i'm trying to use my Bible code software to try matching, but looking for ישו, it gives me an error that it is too short a word to search for. they know that this will generate millions of hits.

Anonymous said...

To just write off the Torah codes as 'Bunk' is a total cop-out. The codes have at least as much proof as many accepted scientific concepts, if not more. There are many thousands of fully practising Jews in the world today because they accepted this as part of the 'knowledge of G-d' becoming revealed. The nay-sayers just cannot bear having their free choice taken away.
By the way Rav Avigdor Miller did refer to Islam as avodah zarah.

Josh Fan said...

וַעֲבַדְתֶּם-שָׁם אֱ-לֹהִים, מַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵי אָדָם: עֵץ
וָאֶבֶן–אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִרְאוּן וְלֹא יִשְׁמְעוּן, וְלֹא יֹאכְלוּן וְלֹא יְרִיחֻן
Forget the bible code , what do you think of עֵץ
וָאֶבֶן refering to chrisianity and Islam ?
and on וַעֲבַדְתֶּם-שָׁם אֱ-לֹהִים, you seperated the אֱ-לֹ was that a typo or will you say that, if it is refering to chritianity or Islam , then they do worship " hashem" but in a man made way so the וַעֲבַדְתֶּם-שָׁם אֱ-לֹהִים
means you will worship hashem but in away made by man as apposed to worshiping hashem in the god given way ... if you notice it does NOT say elohim "achayrim"
that is realy what "Avoda Zorah" means ...the avoda is zorah not the deity..

joshwaxman said...

though I disagree with you, you make some nice points, such that there is no reason to be ashamed of your identity. please choose at least a pseudonym so that I can track with whom I am having a conversation. bli neder, a response in a separate post, because you make a number of points which need to be addressed in detail.

Josh Fan:
I just copied and pasted from Shirat Devorah, who in turn copied and pasted from some frummy site which apparently inserts dashes into all such occurrences, without considering the context. sure, it is possible to creatively darshen any such pasuk, but I don't see any need to, especially not where Chazal did not see fit to do so.

kol tuv,

joshwaxman said...

see my full response to Anonymous here.



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