Volume 47 Number 30
                    Produced: Mon Mar 21  6:36:20 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Book Ownership
         [Judith Weil]
Hallel on Shabbat of Purim MeShulash
         [Brian Wiener]
Lubavitch and Chabad
         [Elazar M. Teitz]
Mystical Names in the Art Scroll Machzor
         [M. Nugiel]
Separation at a Funeral
         [Judith Weil]
Torah Codes revisited
         [Mike Gerver]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 06:30:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia

Hello All,

I'd like to thank the list members who pointed out to me yesterday that
they had not seen any mail-jewish issues for over a week. It turns out
that there was a configuration change that caused the issues that I was
sending out to go nowhere. That is now fixed, and I have re-sent all the
issues that were affected, so now your mailboxes are all full. I was
going to comment on the fact that the number of submissions to the list
ahd significantly diminished. That is now all clear, and I expect to be
overwhelmed as you all make your way through the issues I just sent out.

Avi Feldblum


From: Judith Weil <weildj@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 04:43:19 +0200
Subject: Re: Book Ownership

> What is the origin of the custom of writing "LaHashem Haaertz Umelo'ah"
> when writing one's name in a book to signify ownership? Why books and
> not other articles you might lend out (chairs come to mind)?

I think the reason for this is that some people buy Jewish books from
their maaser money, and regard these books as for public use.



From: Brian Wiener <brian@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 12:54:25 +1100
Subject: RE: Hallel on Shabbat of Purim MeShulash

I am trying to get hold of Chazon Ovadiah, but meanwhile I looked in Od
Yosef Chai -the Siddur with R Ovadia's notations. In the paragraph
headed 'Purim Meshulash', nothng is mentioned. I would like to see the
exact location in Chazon Ovadiah, because as Joshua wrote, there is
definitely a -theoretical, if not halacha le'maase- basis to say
Hallel. It is an interesting point.

Brian Wiener


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 03:33:06 GMT
Subject: Re: Lubavitch and Chabad

<There was a problem when Rabbi Gurary's son was taking books from the
Lubavitch Library/Archives and saying they were his because he was the
only grandson (and therefore the direct heir) of the 6th Lubavitcher
Rebbe known as the Rayatz.  (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchoak Schneersohn zt"l)
There was a huge court case and the court decided that the books
belonged to Lubavitch not to one person.>

     I have always been bothered by this matter.  Rabbi Gourary's son
     was pressing for a din Torah to resolve the dispute.  By what right
     did Chabad take the case into civil court, in direct violation of a
     Torah prohibition that Jews may not settle disputes with other
     Jews, other than in a Beth Din?


From: M. Nugiel <marty1499@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Mar 2005 22:55:22 -0500
Subject: Mystical Names in the Art Scroll Machzor

The Art Scroll publishers, that bedrock of fundamental diaspora
orthodoxy, has included in their Machzor references to mystical names.
These names are to be scanned, but not pronounced, during the kedusha of
mussaf, and are said to bring benefits to the worshiper.

I assume the source for this practice is the Zohar.  Can anyone cite
where in the Zohar this practice is suggested.



From: Judith Weil <weildj@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Mar 2005 04:41:32 +0200
Subject: Re: Separation at a Funeral

>I can not recall being at a cemetary burial where there was a
>definitive seperation of the genders. For sure I have never seen a
>mechitza of any sort for the Major Kaddish said at the end of the
>burial and I never recall a Rabbi sheparding the genders to seperate

Chareidi chevra kadishas discourage women from attending the actual
burials.  Therefore in circles where they would be most particular about
separation, the issue does not arrive.

In my chareidi neighborhood men and women stand separately at funerals,
and then only men go to the cemetery.



From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sat, 19 Mar 2005 18:41:56 EST
Subject: Torah Codes revisited

Long time readers of mail-jewish may recall my interest in finding
mundane explanations for the "Torah Code" results reported in the
article by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg in Statistical Science vol. 9,
p. 429-438 (1994). I've made an interesting new discovery, but first I
will summarize what was done before, so readers will be able to
understand what I've discovered. To keep this summary short enough to
post here, I will assume that readers are familiar with the terminology
used by Witztum et al.

Witztum et al defined a measure c(w,w') of closeness for equidistant
letter sequences of two words w and w' in the text of Breishit, and
claimed that c(w,w') was much smaller, on average, with a high degree of
statistical significance, when w was the name of a rabbi on an
objectively chosen list of famous rabbis and w' was his yahrzeit date,
than when w was the name of one of the rabbis and w' was the yahrzeit
date of another one of the rabbis on the list, randomly chosen. In a
posting here in April 1995, I pointed out that if there were a
correlation between the names and yahrzeit dates (e.g. if people with a
certain name were more likely to have a yahrzeit date during a certain
time of year, than people with other names), and if there were long
range order in the text of Breishit, then a positive result such as that
found by Witztum et al would be expected. I speculated that, for
example, rabbis in northern Europe might be more likely to die in the
winter than rabbis living in north Africa, and would also tend to have a
different distribution of first names. Long term order in the text of
Breishit, I said, would be a very interesting and unexpected phenomenon,
but something that could have been done by human authors. This
explanation for Witztum et al's results, if it had panned out, would
have made it impossible to use their results to prove the divine origin
of the text of Breishit, while at the same time giving no reason to
suspect fraud on the part of the authors.

As it turned out, my idea was not applicable to Witztum et al's results,
since the positive results depended on the use of various nicknames in
the list of rabbis, and the authors could not describe an objective
procedure which would produce that set of nicknames. If one only
considered the actual first names of the rabbis rather than their
nicknames (the rabbis themselves were chosen by an objective procedure
involving the length of their entries in the Entsiklopedia Gedolei
Yisrael published in 1961), then the positive results went away. This
was pointed out by McKay et al in an article published in Statistical
Science, vol. 14, p. 150-173 (1999).

Some of the authors of the original article, and their supporters (for
example Harold Gans), then came up with other lists of objectively
chosen words w and corresponding words w', which they claimed also gave
average c(w,w') that was smaller, with great statistical significance,
than if the lists were randomly shuffled. For example, Rips did a test
in which for w he used the patronymics of the rabbis on the list used in
Witztum et al, and for w' he continued to use the yahrzeit dates of the
rabbis.  The results of this test were not published in a peer-reviewed
journal, but were posted on the internet. I examined these results,
hoping that I might find that it was explained by my theory of a
correlation between the names and dates, and long range order in the
text of Breishit. But I concluded instead that the claim made by Rips
was not correct, for this test. A handful of the yahrzeit dates were not
in agreement with the dates given in the Entsiklopedia Gedolei Yisrael,
and there was no way to verify the claim, made by Rips, that corrections
had been made in an objective way by using other sources of data about
the yahrzeit dates.  Without these changes in the dates, the statistical
significance of the result went from about 1/3000 to about 1/100, which
is not very interesting at all. (The authors could easily have done 100
variants on the test and only reported the best result.) I posted
something presenting these conclusions in September or October 1999. (I
cannot find it in the mail-jewish archives, which didn't seem to provide
access to any issues from earlier than last November when I looked
yesterday, so I don't know the exact issue where it was posted.)

I didn't go to the trouble of checking out the validity of the results
of the various other tests done by Rips, Gans, and others, which would
have been very time consuming, since I had little doubt that they also
would turn out not to be true, or to depend on unverifiable claims made
by the people who had done the tests, rather than demonstrating anything
interesting. I didn't think much about the problem after 1999, although
I did notice, with resigned disappointment, that Aish Hatorah continued
to use the "Torah Codes" results in their (otherwise admirable) kiruv

This brings me up to date as of a couple of months ago. At that time, I
heard a talk on the "Torah Codes" by Rabbi Moshe Zeldman, who makes
presentations on them for Aish Hatorah. As you can imagine, it was
agonizing for me to sit through the talk, which made me feel like I was
back in 7th grade, trying to restrain myself from blurting out rude
remarks about the misinformation that I felt that my science teacher,
Mrs. Reiss, was feeding the class. (I didn't restrain myself very well
when I was in 7th grade, and got sent to the principal's office on more
than one occasion.) But I felt much better about it after the talk, when
I spoke to Rabbi Zeldman, who assured me that he was very interested in
learning of any problems with the test results, and that he wouldn't use
this material in his kiruv work if he found out that it wasn't valid.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the problem again, for the first time
in over five years, which gave me a fresh perspective. And I soon
realized something very interesting. It turns out that it is not
necessary to have long range order in the text of Breishit, in order to
get statistically significant positive results in these kinds of tests.
All that you need is a correlation between the names and the yahrzeit
dates (or whatever is used for w and w'). The text could just be a
string of randomly chosen letters, and you would still expect to often
get c(w,w') much smaller, on average, than when using a yahrzeit date
from a different rabbi on the list, randomly chosen.

The reason for this conclusion is that the rabbis' names are dominated
by only a handful of different names. For the list of rabbis used in
Witztum at al, for example, 5 different first names (Rabbi David, Rabbi
Chaim, Rabbi Yehuda, Rabbi Yaakov, and Rabbi Moshe) accounted for 15 of
the 22 words w, while in the case of Rips' patronymic test, five
different patronymics (Ben Avraham, Ben Yaakov, Ben Yitzchak, Ben Moshe,
and Ben Shmuel) accounted for 14 of the 25 words w. (The number of words
w, in each case, is smaller than the number of rabbis on the list, which
is 32, since for some of the first names and patronymics, e.g. Rabbi
Avraham and Ben Pinchas, no equidistant letter sequence exists in
Breishit.) Just by chance, some words w have equidistant letter
sequences with shorter minimum skip distances than other words, and for
those words, c(w,w') is smaller, on average, for a randomly chosen word
w', than for words w which have larger minimum skip distances. This
fact, together with the fact that only a handful of words w are used in
most of the pairs (w,w'), leads to the conclusion that shuffling the
names w and dates w' randomly has a good chance of significantly raising
the average c(w,w'), if there exists some mundane correlation between
the names and the dates.

Of course, this new effect is not needed (and does not help) to account
for the positive results reported by Witztum et al, and by Rips in the
patronymic test, since those results have already been explained by the
fact that the pairs (w,w') were not chosen in a transparent objective
way. Furthermore, any correlation between names and yahrzeit dates, due
to something like climate and local fashions in names, is likely to be
fairly small, too small to produce a statistically significant change in
the average c(w,w') for a list of only 32 rabbis.

Still, this effect might account for some of the other positive test
results that have been reported, for example in Harold Gans' test using
rabbi's names and birthplaces. Unlike first names and yahrzeit dates,
which are likely to have only a subtle correlation, first names and
birthplaces are likely to have a rather large correlation. It is
obvious, for example, that the names of towns in certain countries are
likely to have a different distribution of letters (especially
relatively uncommon letters like tet and samekh), or a different average
number of letters, than names of towns in other countries, and this
could easily affect the probability that an equidistant letter sequence
exists, in a given text, for the towns in a given country. And it is
equally obvious that certain first names are relatively more common in
certain countries than in other countries (e.g. Avraham was used as a
name by Sephardim about 200 or 300 years before it was used by
Ashkenazim). So it seems plausible that the effect I discovered might
account for Gans' results in his test using names and birthplaces. I
haven't checked out yet whether this effect actually does account for
Gans' results in that test.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


End of Volume 47 Issue 30