Hidden codes embedded in Scripture! Bible codes predict terrorist attacks! Sensationalistic headlines like these have been seen for years. Melodramatic books with extravagant claims appeared in the mid-1990s often written by authors with little Hebrew knowledge.
So frequently am I asked about this that I’m devoting this Thought Tool to the topic. While in yeshiva, my teachers often showed me cryptic references to codes in the Five Books of Moses. These are alluded to in the pre-WWII works of Rabbi Chaim Michel Dov Weissmandl, the volumes of Rabbeinu Bachya (c. 1300) and many others.
How do they work? Look at the color Hebrew Alphabet guide we publish in our Scrolling through Scripture Study Guide. You see the 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet laid out in 3 rows of 9 letters each. Each letter possesses a specific numeric value, so the rows can be viewed as 1-9, 10-90, and 100-900. Furthermore, columns have meaning as well. For example, 500 is an elevated, more intense form of 50, which, in turn, intensifies 5, which always suggests the FIVE books of Moses.
The first line of William Shakespeare’s play, King Henry VI, reads, “Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night.” Imagine discovering that the 50th letter counting from the first ‘S’ in ‘heavens’ yields an ‘H’. Counting a further 50 letters we come across an ‘A’. Continuing, we discover that Shakespeare encoded his name into the opening of all his plays in this fashion. He didn’t. But if he did, it would eliminate all controversy about who really wrote those plays.
Well, counting by 50 from the first instance of the first letter of the Hebrew word for Torah in the first two books of the Five Books of Moses yields the entire word TORAH. The last two books follow the same pattern but in reverse, starting from the first instance of the last letter of the Hebrew word for Torah, which of course is just as improbable. (The middle book, Leviticus, reveals a different word, for reasons we don’t have space to explore here.)
There are hundreds of similar examples throughout the Torah, which defy mathematical odds. An amazing sequence is found in Genesis 38. This chapter introduces the strange circumstances leading to the birth of Peretz, the 9th level grandfather of King David. In Genesis 38:11-28, using the counts of 50, we find embedded the names, Ruth, Boaz, Oved, Yishai (Jesse), and David in that chronological order. These, of course, are King David’s father, grandfather, and great-grandparents. Statistical calculations show that the odds of this happening by chance are well over a million to one.
Why did God put the codes in the Torah? Perhaps, so that in future years, when people would become scientifically advanced and secularized and come to doubt that the Torah is God’s message to mankind, they would encounter the codes, known to Torah-knowledgeable Jews but otherwise discoverable only with computers. They will be thrown into consternation and doubt. They will ask, “Is it possible that the Torah really is the word of God?”
In the early 80s I was in regular touch with some of the first Israeli computer scientists exploring the codes, like distinguished mathematicians Eliyahu Rips and Doron Witztum. They were searching for the patterns hinted at in early Hebrew writings and requested my help in securing computing equipment. Back then, computers were big and expensive but my California congregation willingly participated in purchasing several computers that we dispatched to our researcher friends in Israel. In return, we asked to be kept informed of all progress, gaining early data on code research.
Are the codes authentic? Those passed down since Sinai certainly are. However, since the codes became a media event, some people have attempted to sensationalize them. For this reason, there is both valid and not valid information about codes to be found.
Scrolling through Scripture – Unit 1
Codes are only one of the astonishing surprises embedded in the Hebrew Torah. Rabbi Daniel Lapin has made it his life’s work to teach the Torah’s timeless truths to people of every faith and background. He draws on the 3,000+ years of ancient Jewish wisdom and the oral transmission that he learned from his family and teachers. Along these lines the project that has consumed most of Rabbi Lapin’s time has been to prepare the Scrolling through Scripture online course.
This original course includes 20 half-hour video lessons, downloadable pdfs of the graphics shown in each lesson and a 44-page study guide for deeper immersion. A short quiz follows each lesson to cement your newfound knowledge. (If you need help, we’ll provide it!) You will be amazed at how much you will learn by listening to the videos, viewing the graphics, and thinking about and discussing the extra material in the study guide.
In Unit 1 – which covers foundational principles from Genesis Chapter One, you will gain a glimpse into God’s mind and discover many new insights including:
- Why there is no conflict between religion and science
- Why God does not say that the second day of Creation is good
- Why the first section of Genesis actually concludes only after the first 3 verses of chapter 2
- What special qualities the Hebrew letters א, ה and ו , possess
- The unifying theme throughout this account of Creation