Monday, February 21, 2011

Gematria: Significant Statistics

 
 
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The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Mere coincidence or divine truth?

Dec. 3, 2009
Yocheved Miriam Russo , THE JERUSALEM POST

A niggling curiosity about colors started the whole thing. "For many years, I found myself idly wondering if the name value of colors mentioned in the Bible had any relationship to their wave frequency," says Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Professor Haim Shore.

"In the scheme of things, that's an outrageous suggestion - why would anyone think that the Hebrew name for colors mentioned in the Bible - red, green, yellow - would bear any relationship to the wave frequency of the color itself?" he asks. "Finally, just for fun, I checked it out. When I saw the results, I was stunned. It was a heck of a coincidence, but the two were linearly related."

"The Hebrew word for the color actually matched the color's wave frequency," Shore says. "How could that be?"

Shore's methodology was relatively simple. He took the Hebrew names of five colors that appear in the Bible - red (adom), yellow (tzahov), green (yerakon), blue (tchelet) and purple or magenta (argaman) - and calculated a numerical value for each word by adding the total values of the letters, with aleph as one, bet as two, etc. Then he plotted them on a graph. The vertical axis charted the colors' wave frequencies, which are scientifically established, while along the horizontal axis, the 'CNV', Color Name Value, appeared. When it was complete, "I was astonished," Shore recalls.

"The five points on the graph formed a straight line - which means that the names of the colors related directly to their established wave frequencies." It was a straight-out statistical analysis, Shore says. "I didn't manipulate a single number in doing the analysis."

"I didn't plot anything at all until I had all the data," he says. "But when I saw it, I was like a lion in a cage, pacing around. I couldn't believe it. Then I went on to other words in the Hebrew Bible, plotting the value of the letters against known scientific data. The whole thing blew me away."

"What I found is that there's an astonishing number of 'coincidences' in which the Hebrew name for some 'entity' in the Bible relates directly to that entity's scientifically established physical property," Shore continues. "I began recording it all, and finally published it in a book which contains about 20 different analyses - statistical, scientifically verifiable findings."

"I have no intention of trying to tell anyone what this means, or how this information should be interpreted. All I did was publish what I found," he says. "As a scientist, as a matter of integrity, I felt compelled to offer what I'd found for discussion."

Shore's book Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew offers dozens of incidents in which the Hebrew words in the Bible offer hidden information about the objects or people they represent, information which, in many cases, couldn't have been known or measured until modern times.

"This is not gematria," Shore says. "Gematria, adopted by rabbis and Jewish Bible interpreters, suggests that if two Hebrew words share the same numerical value, there's then a 'secret' that binds them together. By contrast, the Hebrew word, 'heraion' (pregnancy) has the same numerical value as the duration of human pregnancy, 271 days."

"That is not gematria," he insists, "nor is this a 'Bible Code' sort of thing, with overtones of prophecy. What I have attempted to do, with as plain and non-technical means as possible, was to offer several quantitative analyses that demonstrate that major physical properties are probably reflected in the numerical values of Hebrew words."

Colors were one thing. Celestial objects were another - moon, earth and sun. "It is well known from Kabbalistic literature that the letters of the Hebrew alphabet were created first, and that thereafter, by use of these letters, God created all the worlds. Ancient Jewish sources repeatedly stress that idea," he says.

"Could there be a linkage between numerical values of biblical words and certain physical properties, as demonstrated by the heraion example?" Shore asks. "In Hebrew, yareach is moon, eretz is earth, and shemesh is sun. One thing that distinguishes the three bodies is their size, expressed by the diameters. I used their diameters as listed by NASA, and plotted them on a graph, just as I did with the colors.

"On the horizontal axis is the numerical value of the Hebrew word, on the vertical axis is the planetary diameters from NASA (on a log scale)," he continues. "To my astonishment, the phenomenon repeated itself. The three points aligned themselves on a straight line - an exact mathematical relationship would have given a linear correlation of '1,' whereas these three points had a linear correlation of 0.999. Again I thought, 'What an amazing coincidence!'"

IT'S NOT as though the Tiberias-born Shore was intellectually primed to believe what he was seeing. "My research has been in the areas of statistical modeling and quality and reliability engineering," he says. "I graduated from the Technion in Industrial Engineering and Management, received a Masters in Operations Research, plus a BA in Philosophy and Psychology, then a PhD in Statistics from Bar Ilan. I've worked as a management consultant, taught at Tel Aviv University, then came to BGU in 1996. But beyond that, I'm an engineer. I don't accept anything as true unless there is quantitative analysis - without that, everything is debatable."

"But not this," Shore says. "It's a universal principle of engineering that if you have two sets of data, you put them in ascending order, plot one set on a horizontal axis and the other on a vertical axis and they fall on a straight line, that means both data sets are measuring the same thing, only on different scales."

Nor did he start out believing what the Sages had written, that within the Hebrew words lay an additional layer of information, hidden to us, which can be exposed by relating to the numerical value of the word.

"Not at all," he says. "For many years I was utterly convinced all that was based on superstition - pure myth, no different from those provided by any number of other religions and cultures. But what I was seeing made me think twice about what was written in the Talmud, like in Midrash Rabba, where it says, 'Thus was God observing the Torah and creating the universe,' and in Berachot, 'Bezalel knew how to assemble letters with which Heaven and Earth had been created.'"

Shore's postulations don't amount to scientific evidence, he says, but he's now moved beyond terming the multitude of correlations he found as mere "coincidences."

"Initially, I related to these incidents as curiosities, things that had no scientific basis. But over the years, I've come to see these 'coincidences' evolve into something more," he says. "By 2006 I'd reached the conclusion that the number of instances I'd assembled had reached a critical mass, which justified putting some of it into print."

One of the things that fascinates Shore is how modern science and technology reflects or reinforces Biblical terminology. "The word 'year' - in Hebrew shana - is numerically equivalent to 355, which happens to be the average duration of the lunar (moon-based) Hebrew year," Shore explains. "Or ozen which means 'ear' in Hebrew, which comes from the same root as the Hebrew word for 'balance.' That's curious, because it was only at the end of the 19th Century that we discovered that the mechanism responsible for the body balance resides in the ear."

Another curiosity relates to the name of the Biblical character, Laban, one of the more menacing personalities in Genesis. A passage in the Passover Haggada reads, "Go and realize what Laban the Aramean wished to inflict on Jacob our Patriarch. Pharaoh decreed against the males only, however Laban wished to uproot all."

"Laban represents a total loss of Jewish identity," Shore says. "He wanted everything mixed up, with no one, or no culture, having any distinguishing features. He mixed his children, his wives, his religious faith, his language and his property. He idealized the 'everything goes' maxim - the 'global village, as we'd say today - where everyone and everything is just alike."

"As every Hebrew school kid knows, the name 'Laban' means 'white' - which is extraordinary," he continues. "'Laban' is the only personal name in the Bible that's also the name of a color. Up until 1666, when Isaac Newton came along, every scientist since Aristotle believed that white was a single basic color. Not until Newton passed a thin beam of sunlight through a glass prism did anyone recognize the spectrum of colors. White, Newton argued, is really a mixture of many different types of rays that are refracted at slightly different angles, with each ray producing a different color. White, then, is a mixture of all colors."

"Isn't that bizarre, if it's just a coincidence? That in the Bible, Laban, the man who mixed everything up, should be named 'white'?" Shore asks.

THE BOOK of Genesis, especially the creation story, comes in for special treatment. Together with Prof. Yehuda Radday, Shore analyzed Genesis and published a book in 1985.

"Prof. Radday, who passed away on Sept. 11, 2001, was one of my closest friends. We first met when I was a teaching assistant back in the 1970s and he was affiliated with the Technion doing statistical analysis of Biblical texts," Shore recalls. "At that time, the theories of German-born Julius Wellhausen were in vogue, and we set out to statistically test Wellhausen's theory that there were multiple authors for Genesis."

Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) was a German Bible scholar who argued that the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses, were not written by Moses but rather resulted from oral traditions that evolved from a nomadic culture which, relatively recently, had been pieced together. Wellhausen named the four sources "J", "E", "D" and "P" distinguishing individual verses and segments on the basis of terminology and by perceived differences in philosophy. For many decades, Wellhausen's theories enjoyed general acceptance among Biblical scholars.

"Yehuda and I published our research - which statistically affirmed the position that the book of Genesis was homogenous with respect to authorship (namely, a single author) - in several research papers and ultimately in a book published by the Biblical Institute Press in Rome (Romae E Pontificio Instituto Biblico) of the Vatican," he tells. "So when I began looking at the book of Genesis again, I already had considerable background."

One of the elements Shore analyzed was the Biblical timeline of creation. In the Genesis story, the universe was created in six "days," whereas in modern day cosmology, it's measured in billions of years, which sets off the faith vs. science debate.

"I started by taking the events of the first chapter of Genesis - just the facts as given, no interpretation. 'Light' was created on the first day; on the second - the sky; on the fourth - the sun and the moon were set in place; on the fifth - marine and bird life; and on the sixth day, according to oral Torah, Adam and Eve were created at the end of the 14th hour," he says.

"I took the six points and correlated each Biblical day - '1 day,' '2 day' - with the scientifically established time period. For example, science has established that galaxies started to be formed about 11.8 billion years ago, the sun and the moon, 4.5 billion years ago, etc. I plotted the cosmological age on the vertical axis and the Biblical timeline (day - one through six) on the horizontal axis. I found them to be arranged in a straight line," Shore says.

"Is that possible that the two sets of data, the biblical and the scientific, represent the same 'timeline,' just expressed in different time scales?" he asks.

"Statistical analysis shows that the probability that would happen by chance alone is less than 0.0021%," he continues. "If you take out day 2 and day 5 - there's scientific debate about when life as we know it came into existence, or when exactly large scale structures had appeared in the early universe - you can plot just four points. The probability of those four points aligning themselves on a straight line, the way they did, by chance alone is still less than 0.0165%."

Shore now believes he might have used a word other than 'coincidences' in the book title. "The title reflected my attitude towards many of the examples given in the book. But during the short span of about two or three months when I feverishly wrote it all down, something changed. I'd now say it's highly probable that hidden information in biblical words supplements the exposed information submitted."

What did Shore hope to gain by publishing his findings? "I knew very well I was putting my reputation on the line with this book," he says. "What I hoped would happen is that it would start a discussion, that people would begin to talk about it."

"That hasn't happened so far, probably because I've been reluctant to publicize it," Shore admits. "I finally went ahead because the data is significant. Everyone can figure out for himself what it all means - I'm not saying anything here about God or the Bible or biblical Hebrew. But there's something here that should be discussed and analyzed further."

Several more 'coincidences' have helped shape Shore's life. At present, he is statistically processing data received from a web-based feedback survey, conducted at the end of the 18th Maccabiah. "We're measuring participants' satisfaction, which involves analyzing questionnaires submitted by e-mail to athletes, delegation officials and Maccabiah staff," he says.

"The Maccabiah is special to me because in 1932, my father, Daniel, came to Tel Aviv to participate in the first Maccabiah as a member of the Polish football team. Once here, he stayed - which meant that he escaped the Holocaust (most of his family did not). Because of that, I told the Maccabiah Organizing Committee, who had approached me with a request to conduct this feedback survey, that I would conduct the survey and analyze its results free of charge, on a voluntary basis only," Shore recalls.

Then, too, Shore was stunned to find that he wasn't the first Shore to write a book on Genesis. "My father's grandfather, Baruch Schorr, was a famous cantor in Lemberg, called Lvov today," he says. "He wrote two books, one about Ecclesiastes and another about Genesis that he named Bechor Schorr. I only learned about Baruch's book of Genesis - which was published in Lemberg in 1873 - long after my book about Genesis, with Prof. Radday, was published."

"That's just one more coincidence," Shore adds.

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