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What should I think of the "Bible Codes"?

by Rabbi Eli Wolf

  

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Bible codes are quite a fascinating discovery, in which various historical episodes, facts and personalities can be found hidden within the very letters of the Bible. The primary method, by which, purportedly, meaningful messages have been extracted, is via a method known as ELS (equidistant letter sequences) – or simply put: one chooses a starting point and a skip number. Then, beginning at the starting point, one selects letters from the text at equal spacing as given by the skip number, and the result will be the Bible code.

Of the many codes found, some of the most famous include the assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin; the holocaust; the Gulf War; the existence of certain diseases such as AIDS and George W Bush being elected to presidency in 2004. 

This breakthrough is becoming so widespread, that special software is being designed to ease the difficulty involved in extracting these complex codes.

So, for a Jew in today’s world, what is an appropriate reaction to this new finding? Is this perhaps a genuine example of scientific evidence endorsing the truths of our faith?

The concept of extracting pieces of information from the letters of the Bible has its origins within the writings of several great Rabbis in Jewish history. The Zohar states1 that G-d used Torah as a blueprint to create the world. Nachmanides was of the opinion that every name, as well as every event to occur throughout history, can be found within the letters of the Torah Portion, Haazinu.2   The twelfth century Talmudist and Kabbalist, Rabbi Eliezer Rokeach, enumerated3   73 methods of understanding and interpreting the letters of the Torah. Amongst them is “the method of skipping”.4 The Vilna Gaon often encouraged his followers by finding their names hidden within letters of the Torah.

G-d used Torah as a blueprint to create the world
Similarly, the concept of Gematriah has been used in many classical texts and commentaries throughout the ages.5

To appreciate the issue of Bible codes, there are three points that need consideration:

  1. The art of deciphering and extracting codes from the Bible wasn’t given to anyone who desired it. Great skills, wisdom and holiness are required when interpreting the words of the Bible. Many authorities spoke unkindly6 of those whom made their own discovery in the Bible and then formed their own explanations based upon it. The Sages of the Talmud, who made various extrapolations from the Bible text, were exceptionally holy men of enormous insight and humility. They possessed a “mesoret” – (tradition from Sinai), handed down through the generations, which guided their studies.
    So, whilst it is an intrinsic Jewish belief that the Torah alludes to everything in our world, only people of great stature are capable of deciphering the codes.
  2. We need to understand how much truth lies within the messages of the codes.
    The story is told of a man who asked a renowned Chassidic Rebbe where his name could be found in the Torah. The man was delighted to find out that the very words which hinted to his name were words of praise and good fortune. Upon seeing the glee in the man’s eyes, the Rebbe warned him: “It is possible to have a name alluded to in a context regarding success and good luck. However, you must practice great caution not to become too secure in your future successes, lest you become sluggish in your service to G-d. Since all of life is based upon man’s choices, if need be (G-d forbid), another appearance of your name could be found in a context of bad luck and adversity.
    In other words, no extrapolated message can serve as a guaranteed prediction. G-d always reserves the right to act as He wishes, normally befitting the demeanor of each person. 
  3. When speaking about proving one’s beliefs, it is crucial to bear in mind the vital difference between an essential proof, and suggestive evidence.

Footnotes

  • 1. Vol. II 161a.
  • 2. Seder Hadorot.
  • 3. In Sefer Hachochma.
  • 4. Method #54.
  • 5. It is important to note, that several authoritative commentaries [see Bach, Orach Chaim 24] negated the use of this method quite harshly.
  • 6. Nachmanides, Sefer Hageulah.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Torah » Codes and Numbers
Torah » G-d's Wisdom
Miscellaneous » Hebrew / Languages » Codes and Numbers

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Zohar
The most basic work of Jewish mysticism. Authored by Rabbi Shimeon bar Yochai in the 2nd century.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Torah Portion
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions. Every Sabbath morning we read one portion. Several weeks during the year a double portion is read, in order to accommodate the Torah's completion on the Simchat Torah holiday.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.