Volume 30 Number 76
                 Produced: Fri Jan  7  6:43:10 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Philathropy & Fraud
         [Joel Rich]
Publication of Standards for Hechsherim (4)
         [Akiva Miller, Daniel Katsman, David I. Cohen, Chaim Sukenik]
Torah Codes (4)
         [David Charlap, Moshe Goldberg, Jonathan Katz, Tszvi Klugerman]


From: Joel Rich <Joelirich@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2000 18:48:54 EST
Subject: Re: Philathropy & Fraud

> As a member of the board of a well-known Yeshiva Gedolah, I know for a
> fact that we have turned down donations (in multiple $10Ks) from sources
> that we felt were tainted.  The message from the Rosh Yeshiva was quite
> clear and there was no second guessing.

Do you accept donations from those who profane the Sabbath in public?
What is the taint boundary line?

[I think the question might be is the "sources" above that were
"tainted" the people or the money? If it means the money, then Joel's
question sort of goes away, but I would ask, what exactly does it mean
that the money is tainted? I sort of understand it in my gut, but when I
try to analyze, I'm not sure it holds together. If the source mentioned
above is the person, then the question comes down to how and what
defines a "tainted" source. Mod.]

Kol Tuv,
Joel Rich


From: Akiva Miller <kgmiller@...>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 08:23:45 -0500 
Subject: Publication of Standards for Hechsherim

The Star-K (Vaad Harabanim of Baltimore) has a website at
http://www.star-k.org/ which contains a wealth of information about
various kashrus issues, including many which have been discussed
recently on Mail-Jewish. I strongly recommend clicking here for anyone
who wants to lean more about:

Airline meals: http://www.star-k.org/articles/plane.html
Cholov Yisroel: http://www.star-k.org/articles/cholovyisroel.html
Mezonos rolls: http://www.star-k.org/articles/mezonos.html

Lists of their articles are at http://www.star-k.org/list.html and at

And when I said "anyone", I meant it. Beginners will find the basic
concepts to be clearly explained, while advanced learners will find an
abundance of practical information not available in standard seforim.

Akiva Miller

From: Daniel Katsman <hannah@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 23:09:57 -0000
Subject: Re: Publication of Standards for Hechsherim

I don't know what the situation is everywhere in Israel, but the Rabbanut of
Tel Aviv publishes a booklet of restaurants under their supervision which
contains a summary of their standards, for both "regular" kashrut and

Daniel Katsman
Petah Tikva

From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 14:41:57 EST
Subject: Publication of Standards for Hechsherim 

Kashrus magazine provides agreat deal of information about various
hechsherim. Once a year they publish an extremely comprehensive list of
all the various kashrut synbols, who they represent together with
contact phone and fax #'s. With that information, it is easy to contact
any particular organization, and determine it's halachic standard on any
particular kasrut issue. Obviously, once you're in the air, it's too
late when deciding to eat the kosher airline meal. But the vast majority
of those, at least USA domestic are under one of the big national
hashgachot, so you can be armed with the necessary infomation before
    Happy trails!
    David I. Cohen

From: Chaim Sukenik <sukenc@...>
Date: Thu, 6 Jan 2000 11:02:03 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Re: Publication of Standards for Hechsherim

I want to strongly endorse Oren Popper's call for clear public
statements of policy from all kashrus supervision services. It would not
only be valuable for the information it would provide but it would also
reduce the lashon hara and hearsay based accusations that are often
thrown at one hashgacha or the other. If the facts are known in an
authoritative fashion, we (together with whomever we go to for psak) can
make meaningful decisions about the level at which we want to "buy in".

A wonderful example of how this could/should be done is the booklet
published a few years ago by Tnuva (the major dairy producer in Israel)
and its Rav Hamachshir, Rav Whitman. They present in detail the various
sides of a number of halachic issues on which there are differing
opinions (chalav stam, powdered milk from outside eretz yisrael,
gelatin, renet in cheeses, and others). They then present the current
Tnuva policy and make clear where their regular hashgacha differs in
substance from their mehadrin hashgacha. The booklet is beautifully done
and makes fascinating reading.

Here in Israel, the abundance of hashgachos creates many situations
where the consumer is able to choose, but doesn't necessarily have the
information needed to use that ability effectively. For example, there
must be at least 10 different hashgachos on chickens. While I have heard
all kinds of word-of-mouth information about how they differ (rate of
processing, kinds of checking done, etc), I have never seen a clear
comparison of who uses what standards (and why).

This is even more critical for people coming to Israel from the US. It
is well known that the rabanut in Israel allows itself certain
leniencies as part of its effort to bring kashrus to the broad Israeli
public. Without getting into the question of the rightness or wrongness
of chumros versus kulos, the public should be able to know what
kulos/chumros were invoked. The blanket statement of "If you use
hechsher X in the US than you can rely on hechsher Y in Israel" is often
very misleading.

Chaim Sukenik


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2000 18:19:58 -0500
Subject: Re: Torah Codes

Binyomin Segal wrote:
> Not too many years ago (as jews mark history) a small group of jews
> began working on "torah codes". It became the hallmark of Arachim in
> Israel and Arachim and Discovery in America, let's _prove_ the Torah.
>      ...
> Do any of the friendly neighborhood skeptics have anything to say
> about this one particular code? I find it perhaps especially relevant
> given the recent discussion of how the Torah text may be at least
> slightly in doubt.

I'm not enough of a statistician to know whether the Discovery research
is any more significant than the "codes" one can dig up from any large

What does worry me is the purpose that these codes are being used for.

If they are being used in conjunction with a proper course of Torah
study, then I see them as interesting tidbits of information that are
probably harmless.  The kind of thing yeshiva students can use to
impress each other at parties.

If, on the other hand, they are being used to try and convince non-
observant Jews that the Torah is real - to try and make them more
observant, I have strong reservations.  I think a person who bases his
faith on things like Torah codes will be an easy target for missionaries
from foreign religions (who have their own codes from their own
documents).  Such a person is probably not a Torah expert and probably
doesn't fully understand the mathematics behind the Torah codes, either
- meaning he will probably be unable to defend himself against a
missionary with his own set of codes, even if those codes are incorrect.

If, on the third hand, they are being used as a publicity stunt to
attract financial donations, then I am 100% against their use.  No
aspect of Torah should be used in that capacity.

I don't know exactly how this research is being used, but I think that
is just as important as the accuracy and usefulness of the research
itself.  Perhaps even more so.

[For those longer time readers on the list, I think you will find this
very issue having been brought up by Arnie Lustiger several years
ago. Mod.]

-- David

From: Moshe Goldberg <mgold@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 08:52:45 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Torah Codes

> There seems to be one unique attempt to test a code in a
> mathematicaly and statistically significant fashion. The Arachim folks
> did a pretty sophisticated test with Rabbi names and date of birth/date
> of death. This particular code was published in a peer reviewed
> journal. None of the (perhaps well deserved) skepticism that is directed
> at codes in general applies to this particular code.

No, a scientific refutation of "this particular code" has been published
in the same journal: Brendan McKay, Dror Bar-Natan, Naya Bar-Hillel, Gil
Kalai, "Solving the Bible Code Puzzle," Statistical Science, May 1999.
Here is the abstract of this article.

"A paper of Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg in this journal in 1994 made the
extraordinary claim that the Hebrew text of the Book of Genesis encodes
events which did not occur until millennia after the text was
written. In reply, we argue that Witztum, Rips and Rosenberg's case is
fatally defective, indeed that their result merely reflects on the
choices made in designing their experiment and collecting the data for
it. We present extensive evidence in support of that conclusion. We also
report on many new experiments of our own, all of which failed to detect
the alleged phenomenon."

Another scientific article, on a more popular level, is: Maya
Bar-Hillel, Dror Ben-Natan, Brendan McKay, "The Torah Codes: Puzzle and
Solution," Chance, vol 11 (2), pp 13-19.

These articles and a lot more are available on the net from:
Other useful information has been listed by Prof. Barry Simon, of Caltech,
including a link to a petition signed by professional mathematicians and
statisticians who find "the evidence ... entirely unconvincing." See:

[Just a quick note about Prof. Simon. I know him from times he has been
here in Highland Park, NJ and besides his expertise in the computer and
math fields, for which I do not need to say anything, he is frum Jew and
as such is not coming from any "Torah cannot be divine" academic
bias. Mod.]

There are many religious people who claim that the issue of Torah codes
has done much more harm than good in the way it has been developed and
presented. What do you tell someone who has become a baal teshuva
because of the Torah codes when he/she discovers that there is no
scientific basis for the claims that have been made?

Moshe Goldberg -- <mgold@...>

From: Jonathan Katz <jkatz@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 15:54:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Torah Codes

I'll state up front my bias against these so-called "Torah codes".

While everyone seems to know about the publication (in a peer-reviewed
journal) of results supporting "Torah codes" (Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg,
"Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis," Statistical Science
9: 429 (1994)), few people seem to be aware of an article published in the
same journal refuting these results (McKay, Bar-Natan, Bar-Hillel,
and Kalai, "Solving the Bible Code Puzzle," Statistical Science, May

(I will admit that I have only skimmed both articles, and not read either
one in depth; furthermore, I am not trained as a statistician. Some of
the points raised, however, go beyond statistics.)

This second article, available on the web, makes for some pretty
interesting reading. They basically argue that the earlier article was
"rigged". I will mention a few of their key points:

1) The method used by Witztum et. al. was biased toward the result they
hoped to prove.
2) The "data set" of Rabbis, their names, and their dates of birth/death
was not chosen systematically and without bias (with the implication that
the best set of data was chosen for presentation in the paper, other data
sets which didn't fit the hypothesis were ignored).
3) Using similar methods, McKay et. al. find Rabbis names and birth/death
dates in a copy of "War and Peace".

As a side point, it is interesting to note that one of the objections 
raised by McKay et. al. was the fact that the Torah we have today almost
certainly is not the authentic version. They run similar tests on the
oldest known Torah scroll, Yemenite and Sephardic Torahs and find no codes
in those versions.

Jonathan Katz

From: Tszvi Klugerman <Klugerman@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Jan 2000 19:47:24 EST
Subject: Torah Codes

In mail-jewish Vol. 30 #68 Digest Bintamin Segal asked about the codes
and Russel Hendel offered some insights as to the authenticity of the

The codes are based on the standard Torah that dates from the time of
Ezra.  However the mishnah in Sofrim, I believe chapter 6 , states that
the Torah that we have now, is based , in some instances, on the concept
of Rov (majority rules). There were apparently three Torah scrolls which
had variants and they compared them and took the best two out of
three. Some of the variants were in Dvarim and other sefarim. What if
the Torah we have is wrong , even by one letter- are the codes still
accurate for all the prophecies

The Torah is still accurate as the variants are in spelling not in
meaning, but the codes might not be



End of Volume 30 Issue 76