Volume 17 Number 64
                       Produced: Mon Jan  2  0:53:41 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Codes in the Torah (2)
         [Meylekh Viswanath, Avigdor Ben-Dov]
Maskilim "Mixing In" ?
         [Mechy Frankel]
Sephardic / Ashkenazic
         [Joseph Steinberg]
         [Claire Austin]


From: Meylekh Viswanath <pviswana@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Dec 94 15:03:47 EST
Subject: Codes in the Torah

I have a copy of the article that was published in Statistical Science,
and I also recently attended a Discovery Seminar.  Let me deal with the
seminar first.  (This was a one day seminar, so it may not have been as
detailed/good as the weekend variety).  The seminar was very
disappointing.  In particular, i) undesirable questions were dodged and
ii) the presenters were not knowledgeable in the philosophy of science
or statistics.  Ultimately, the presentation was valuable for those who
were not very scientifically oriented, and wanted their faith

In addition, the faulty logic presented would help to induce people to
learn the gemaras in an incorrect fashion.  For example, we were
presented with the laws of kashrus as presented in khumesh.  We were
told that it disallows animals that do not chew the cud and those that
do not have split hooves.  After presenting this general statement, four
examples of animals are given, which are non-kosher: the camel, the pig,
the arnevet and the shafan, three of which are split-hooved, but do not
chew the cud, and one that chews the cud and is not split-hooved.  The
presenter told us that the Torah was pointing out that there were only
four animals in existence that satisfy exactly one of the two
requirements.  This was given to us as proof of the divine authorship of
the Torah, because only a confident author would have knowledge of every
possible existing/yet to exist species and make such a bold claim.

The text however, does not say that there are only four species that
satisfy exactly one of the two requirements.  It just says that these
are four cases that are non-kosher and are examples of the rule that
both requirements must be satisfied simultaneously.  Hence, if one did
find an animal (other than the camel or the pig) that satisfied exactly
one of the two requirements, one could say i) it is a shafan or an
arnevet (since the presenter told us we do not know what these animals
are, really; however, both shafan and arnevet are split-hooved and do
not chew the cud, so a cud-chewing non-split-hooved animal could not be
identified with them) ii) it is another example of a non-kosher animal,
which the Torah, for whatever reason, chose not to mention.  Now, the
gemore may tell us (I have not checked) that the Torah's intention in
giving these examples is really to rule out any possiblity of the
existence of any other animal, kosher or non-kosher that satisfy exactly
one of the two requirements.  If so, then we have the gemore ascribing a
claim of divine authorship to the Torah.  The Torah itself is not
claiming (according to the logic of the presentation at this point)
divine authorship.

I presented this question, but was not answered satisfactorily.

As regards the Codes materially, let me say first (in response to some
of the postings) that the authors of the Statistical Science article,
Doron Witztum et. al are willing to send diskettes containing both the
texts investigated as well as the search programs, at cost.  So anybody
could replicate their work.

Their method is not sensitive to alternative versions of Bereishis that
vary in minor details.  What they do, basically, is to select a list of
pairs of words (in their case, prominent rabbis who were important
enough to merit 3 columns or more in an Encyclopaedia of Famous Jews;
the pair was the name of the Rabbi and the date of his petirah).  Then,
the text was searched for occurrences of both those words as equidistant
letter sequences (ELS).  e.g. take the word 'dvr.'  Now look for all
occurrences of dvr of the form d_v_r or d__v__r or d___v___r, etc. where
a _ represents another letter.  Now for any given occurrence of a
particular pair, compute a quasi-Euclidean distance.  Take the average
of that distance over all ELS occurrences of that pair.  Do the same for
all name, date pairs.  (There were about 34 pairs in their list).  Now
they come up with a way to aggregate the distance measure for the 34
pairs into one single number.  Now take a kind of inverse of this
aggregate distance measure, so that you have one proximity measurement
for the 34 name-date pairs.  They perform some kind of normalization, so
that this measure is between 0 and 1.  Now, take 999,999 permutations of
the name date pairs, and come up with a proximity measurement for each
of those pairs.  Now rank the proximity measurement for the true
name-date pair vis-a-vis the other permutations.  The higher the rank,
the lower the probability that this proximity measurement is high by
chance.  In fact, the rank divided by 1,000,000 can be considered the
probability that such a proximate measurement occurred by chance.  For
their 34 pairs, they get a p-value of 16/1,000,000 for Bereishis, a
p-value of about .8 for Bereishis with the verses permuted randomly, and
a p-value estimate exceeding one (what they have is an upper bound on
the p-value) for i) Bereishis with the letters permuted randomly, ii)
the book of Isaiah, iii) Bereishis with the words permuted randomly, iv)
Bereishis with the words in each verse permuted randomly and v) a Hebrew
version of Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The results look pretty impressive.  My questions were i) what is the
effect of the particular method used to normalize the proximity measure
to between 0 and 1 (I couldn't follow it, after a couple of readings.  I
have to go back and look again.).  ii) what is being claimed?  Is it
that there is something about these rabbis that was sent to us by hashem
in bereishis; is the claim that all of jewish history past and present
is included in bereishis -- if this is the case, let us make some
predictions of events that have not yet occurred.  With this
information, we could come up with better null hypotheses, and hence,
better rejections of the null.  In practice, their null seems to be that
bereishis is comprised of random sequences of letters, which is not much
as a straw man.

Opinions/comments of others who have read the article would be

Meylekh Viswanath.

From: AVIGDOR%<ILNCRD@...> (Avigdor Ben-Dov)
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 95 08:00 IST
Subject: Codes in the Torah

All the words on the Codes of the Torah are very interesting, but seem
incomplete. There are many experts here in Israel working on this
fascinating field.

A book I bought about a year ago by Dr. Moshe Katz (in Hebrew) was a
wonderful eye-opener. The English edition is looking for a publisher
or sponsor, I understand. The Hebrew title roughly translates as:
"With Letters was the Torah Given". It's a large size format and more
like a coffee table book, but nevertheless full of codes and examples
of "hidden" messages in the Torah. I think there are likely to be too
many variables in exploring this field, because even Dr. Katz has some
editorial flaws in his book, and it may extend to his data.

He has his own software, by the way, which he sells for those interested.
I find it hard to follow text without vowels and in a continuous stream,
but that's his method.

What we can learn from all these researchers is that the Torah is a deep
sea for all of us to explore and find meaning at whatever level we our-
selves may be at. I've seen critical comments by other scientists in the
linguistic area and the probability of accident and chance is accounted
for. English text, for example, did not yield anything close to the stuff
found in the use of Hebrew text.

Avigdor Ben-Dov


From: Mechy Frankel <frankel@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Dec 1994 14:46:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Maskilim "Mixing In" ?

A reaction to a recent poster's side comment that ".. similar issue came
up in Russia where the maskilim wanted all Jews to go to secular schools
of some sort on order to better "mix in".

1. While it is hard to accurately generalize to a group with as many
divergent individual perspectives as the 19th century Russian maskilim,
it is probably fair to say that the above characterization is more
appropriate to the spreading Reform movement than the maskilim. The
Russian maskilim were in fact generally violently opposed to the nascent
Reform movement precisely because they viewed it as an attempt to blend
in with the dominant culture, abandoning the historical jewish
linguistic, cultural and even religious legacy ("frum maskilim" was no
oxymoron and many examples could be found). The maskilim did not seek so
much to "mix in" as to affirm a specifically jewish culture, albeit also
informed by "modern" culture and a "scientific" excavation and
exhibition of the roots and full reach of the, in their terms, jewish
wissenschaft. Thus they generally did not espouse abandoning jewish
schools for the secular schools, rather they pushed the development of a
new kind of jewish school - which would also teach some secular studies
and, frequently, to force (through collaboration with Russian gevernment
authorities) attendance at these new, but "jewish' schools.

2. I suspect most of the 19th century maskilim would have thought the
mashiach had surely come and stopped in America first if they could have
seen the curriculum of any typical American day school or YU. But lest
this be taken as an opportunity by some to YU-bash by the sin of
retroactive association with the cursed maskilim, we must point out that
their ecstatic reaction would probably have been similar if they could
have seen what is taught these days at Chafetz Chayim and Chayim Berlin
(let alone Ner Yisrael) or indeed at almost any of what many consider
certified black-hat-right-wing-affiliated yeshivos, even chassidishe
schools - at least until high school graduation. e.g. almost every kid
speaks, or can speak, english let alone all the other "secular"
knowledge that has crept in to the typical charedi child's education if
only through minimal compliance with state educational laws. The typical
19th century maskil would observe these yeshivos with great approval and
might well consider that, in the end, though thoroughly rejected by his
contemporary jewish masses, he had won the war.

3. This is by no means meant to be a "defense" of maskilim many of whom
had plenty to answer for when it was time for their din vecheshbone,
most especially in the area of collaboration with the opressive Russian
governments (unable to win a following amongst the people in a fair
fight, the maskilim often turned to the authorities to impose their
views, or start schools, or license rabbis and such like.) as well as a
frequent contempt for the masses of poor and uneducated jews (see
e.g. some of more unattractive writings of Nachman Krochmal), especially
the chassidishe poor. But it is sometimes hard to judge the state of
affairs from the remove of time relying just on the articulated
opposition of the leadership of the frum community which many of us
today identify with. Many of the early maskilim were in fact quite frum
in personal practice and would fit in without a ripple or quiver of
controversy into most orthodox communities today. (It is also true that
we are just not making non-frum maskilim the way we used to e.g. the
maskil who noted the way he unwound from the cares of the week was by
sitting down at a table after his good shabbos meal, lighting up a fat
cigar, and learning a blat gemara.)

4. The violent reaction to the old maskilim, even though many of them
espoused views not very divergent from those practiced by the same
people currently holding such violent retrospectives, may have
deleterious educational effects even today. There developed a sense in
many communities that if maskilim were for something, it must be no
good. Thus, a primary preoccupation of all maskilim with reviving the
Hebrew language and investigations into its Biblical roots, translated
in frum communities to an aversion to dikduk which persists to the
present (admittedly it is hardly necessary to call on this now ancient
ideological dispute to justify an aversion to dikduk, but see
e.g. introduction to the Benay Yisaschar). It seems to me likely that
similar aversion to the subjects of much current "academic" scholarship
in segments of the frum community springs from the same historical root.

Mechy Frankel                                     H: (301) 593-3949
<frankel@...>                              W: (703) 325-1277


From: Joseph Steinberg <steinber@...>
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 1995 12:12:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Sephardic / Ashkenazic


:Yesterday I posting a small article about the issue of Sephardic and
:Ashkenazic pronunciation. I gave an example of mixing pronunciations
:of something like "Nassan HaTorah" it I meant to write "Nassan Lanu
:Torat" which should be either "Natan Lanu Torat" (Sephardic) or
:"Nassan Lanu Toras" (Ashkenazic).

Just FYI: The nusach in most Sephardic communities is:
Natan Lanu Torato Torat Emet...


From: Claire Austin <CZCA@...>
Date: Sat, 31 Dec 94 21:36:37 EST
Subject: Steers

There was a discussion a while back about whether or not one could
practise veterinary medicine given the fact that most vets these days
would find themselves in small animal practice where one would be
expected to spay and castrate animals such as dogs and cats - a clearly
prohibited activity.

This brought to my mind the following question: Does the kosher meat
that we eat come from steers?  If so, why is this not a problem?  If
not, what are we eating?  If the answer is that we do in fact eat steers
but that we are simply deriving benefit from the fact that we obtain the
animals from the open market where this (castrating young males destined
to be eaten) is the common practice, then I would like to know what we
would do if we lived in a Jewish society (that ate beef).

A note on the vocabulary:
     beef:     flesh of the ox, bull or cow.
     cow:      female adult bovine animal
     bull:     male adult bovine animal
     calf:     the young of a bovine animal
     veal:     flesh of calf as food
     heifer:   young cow which has not yet given birth.
     steer:    young castrated male
     ox:       adult castrated male
     bullock:  castrated bull

This leads me to another question.  The English translations of the
chumash refer to bullocks and oxen which were to be used in sacrifices.
Is this indeed the correct translation of par ben bekar?  If so, does
this mean that castrated animals were used in sacrifices.  If not, does
this mean that full-blooded bulls were used for the sacrifices?

Claire Austin


End of Volume 17 Issue 64