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A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kuzari Principle or Argument Part I

Updated thru 1/23/2016 10/17/2017

Over time my intent is to discuss the Kuzari argument in more detail.  
{ETA as of 6/14/2017 there are 12 posts on the Kuzari, including some directly or indirectly applicable to Rabbi Keleman and Rabbi Gottleib's Kuzari argument/principle and it flaws.}

The are several variants of the Kuzari, but basically they reduce to the following premises, assertions and claims.

KA1) There is an oral history (and bible story) passed down from Jewish ancestors that God came down to Mount Sinai and made the Jews the chosen tribe, gave them the ten commandments (some say the entire torah).

KA2) The story’s details include: 600,000 plus people at Sinai as witnesses, a new religion started at Sinai and other features that make the story unique among all religions and myths.

KA3) It is not possible for such story to gain traction among a large population unless true.

KA4) We expect myth and religion development to follow certain patterns. But the Sinai story does not fit any of those patterns. The Sinai story's uniqueness means it must be supernatural.

It must be mentioned every assertion listed above is open to serious doubt and even refute. In addition certain logical fallacies are inherent in the argument. This will be discussed in future blog posts.


{ETA 6/27/2014 An excellent repudiation of the Kuzari argument can be found at http://atheodoxjew.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-revelation-at-sinai-was-real.html He emphasizes the distinction between the thought gestalt 2000 to 3500 years ago and more modern times.}

To begin with we know that myths (even when originally known as false) evolve and get embellished over generations as they are passed down parents to children and then become accepted as true. This is especially true for ancient ignorant, superstitious and non scientific minded people. The ancient Semites would be gullible since they had tribal gods and believed in supernatural beings. Furthermore, since there is no corroborating evidence for the Sinai story, advocating that the Sinai story is different than other myths is tantamount to the fallacy of special pleading
For these reasons alone we may reject the Kuzari argument.

{ETA 10/28/2015 The ancient Israelites were superstitious. Examples are found thru out the Tenach - For example Leviticus XVII: 7 And they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices unto the satyrs, after whom they go astray. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.

Rambam has written in the Guide to Perplexed, prior to the Sinai revelation the ancient Israelites had been steeped in pagan ways. }

{ETA 10/31/2015 Regarding Leviticus 17:7 Ramban explains the Israelites sacrificed to demons having no power or strength at all. They had no utility.}

{ETA 10/31/2015 Exodus 32 The Israelites claim the molten calf is their god.}

{ETA 10/28/2015And they were non scientific - the scientific method had not been invented yet. In short, they would not make sufficiently good experts to evaluate  a 'revelation' or myths.} 

(ETA 11/17-18/2013 Unless the Kuzari can provide an example of mass supernatural revelation claim that we know is true or some other valid evidence that it is true seems to me to be a case of special pleading. We know that myth formation and acceptance (let alone some historical behaviors) often seem irrational to us today. Using "logic" today to speculate on how ancient unscientific  superstitious people could have or should have reacted to myth formation does not supply sufficient evidence. Also see more in my comments below to ANON.)

{ETA 6/26/2014 Kuzari proponents claim the Sinai revelation was unique therefore it is true. Besides other fallacies here are two that should be stressed 1) They draw a target around the Sinai conditions to exclude every other myth. But you can do the same for almost every other myth. (The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy). 2) An hypothesis is not accepted as true because we have failed to provide a counter example}

But my main goal in this post is to discuss a myth that seems like it would pass the Kuzari Principle.


The White Buffalo Calf Woman (WBCW) Story of the North American Sioux.

Page 234 Mythology An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1980 Richard Cavendish:

The Sioux (North American Indians) have the White Buffalo Calf pipe in a palladium in Dakota and members of the tribe make pilgrimage to it. You can read the revelation story in that book, The supernatural being is talking to the people and it sounds like a fair number from the story.

A version of the WBCW story is found at the bottom of this post.



Besides the sacred pipe in the palladium provided by WBCW, consider the following information from the book Native American ReligiousTraditions by Suzanne Crawford 2007.

P. 90 "Chapter 1 described one instance of a Lakota Sun Dance (wiwanyang wacipi), a tradition marked by personal sacrifice, prayer and reverence for the sun and the four directions. The other central ceremonies brought to the Lakota by White Buffalo Calf Woman include Inipi...Hanblceyapi...Hunkapi Iowanpi...Isnati Awicalowin...Wanagi Yuhapi...and Tapa Wankeyeyapi."

So WBCW a supernatural being directly brought a group of ceremonies to the Lakota !

P.43 "...WBCW gave the sacred pipe to the people and instructed them how they were to pray with it."

P. 43 describes the story of WBCW


(ETA - see comment section for more WBCW details, and my additions to this post below.)

Some of these ceremonies are challenging, difficult and could be painful rituals. In particular the Sun Dance could be painful. 


{ETA 10/17/2017 Some critics claim the Dakota Sioux did not believe the WBCW story. Later in this post the evidence indicates otherwise. For example, in the book the Worlds Religions second edition by William A. Young 2005 beginning on page 43: The most important sacred implement for the Oglala religion is the sacred pipe.  The pipe brought by WBCW is now on a Cheyenne reservation in South Dakota. “The pipe used in Lakota rituals today are understood to be extensions of the power of the original pipe [given by WBCW]. “ In the story WBCW turns into a white buffalo then a black buffalo. WBCW promises to return. In August 1994 a female white buffalo calf is born. Has the prophecy been fulfilled ? Many Lakota people, many Lakota elders and others believe so.  They are convinced WBCW has returned to provide humanity an opportunity to learn the ways of harmony WBCW first came to teach. }

Most people would not believe the WBCW actually existed, but using the Kuzari principle it seems you can argue the WBCW story actually happened.

The Sioux have an oral tradition regarding the pipe and other rituals dating back to WBCW, just like the Jewish claim that some laws or rituals are given by Moses (in some version of the Sinai story).


The Sioux celebrate new difficult and painful ceremonies because of WBCW

How could the WBCW story gain traction unless true ? 


{ETA 8/29/2015 
I was having some discussions at Kefirahoftheweek and one Individual supplied information from  unpublished material by Rabbi Kelemen  that maybe the Dakota did not believe in the WBCW  story. [WBCW is also known as Whope].  Kelemen is making the claim based on his reading of certain texts about Dakota stories.  I am still in the process of researching the WBCW story, but so far it seems pretty clear that the story became accepted by many Lakota and the basis of their religion.  Yet even if the story was not initially believed by anybody, and now only believed by a few Dakota, concepts such as WBCW giving the Dakota ceremonies and a sacred pipe took root among some of the Dakota. Given enough time and appropriate circumstances  it could well become an accepted widely believed Dakota story. The rise of skepticism, modern science... should  prevent such stories from gaining wide acceptance, yet even modern people may come to believe in supernatural stories - miracles. For more see my later Kuzari posts. 

From Lakota Belief and Ritual by James Walker, edited by Demallie and Jahner 1980. Walker was citing information he obtained directly from Lakota Chiefs, Shamans etc:

Page 109 Whope and the gift of the pipe told by the Shaman Mr. Finger. The Shaman explains Whope gave the pipe to the Lakota and was in their camp for four days.

Page 93 Per George Sword, Bad Wound, No Flesh and Thomas Tyon: A list of ‘good’ Gods as THEY ARE KNOWN TO THE PEOPLE is  provided. Whope is on the list.

On Page 295 “The Buffalo Calf Pipe, believed to be the first pipe brought to the Lakotas by Whope and kept by the Sans Arc Tribe.” 

From Oglala Religion by William Powers 1975, 1977

Page  49 - According to George Sword, the WBCW stayed with the people 4 days and gave them 7 great ceremonies.

Page 50 Black Elk informs us Whope gave the Sioux 7 great ceremonies.

Page 64 All sacred ceremonies of the Oglalas where given to them by WBCW. Page 89 clarifies not all, but the central ones.

Page 101 One of the 7 important religious ceremonies is The Girls Puberty Ritual also called the Buffalo Ceremony. It  marks the passage into womanhood and also establishes the girls relationship with WBCW.

Page 116 During the 1950's a Catholic Priest initiates the use of the sacred pipe as part of the Christian Mass. The idea to make Christianity more appealing to the Native Americans. However the scheme sort of backfires. The Oglala became impressed because THE PRIESTS finally saw the light and the efficacy of the Sacred Rituals first brought to the people by the sacred WBCW. [ This is fairly good evidence that many Oglala themselves came to believe that  WBCW had given them ceremonies. The Priest must have known this was their belief, which is why he initiates it’s use in Mass.]}

{ETA 9/4/2015 From the Oglala People A Political History 1841 - 1879 by Catherine Price 1996.

On Page 49 the book is discussing the significant reduction of Buffalo in the USA. "The Lakotas could certainly hunt antelope, deer, elk, and other small game instead of Buffalo , but whether they chose to do so is not the crucial issue from a Lakota perspective. More important is the belief that the Lakota's ancestors were born from the Pte Oyate (the Buffalo Cow Nation); that White Buffalo Calf Women brought the sacred pipe to the people; and that they, Tatanka (the male buffalo relatives), and Maka Ina (mother earth) are united in a sacred, harmonious relationship." [So the book is saying the people believed the sacred pipe came from WBCW. ]}

{ETA 9/10/2015 I have already cited many texts that explain the story of WBCW is foundational to traditional Lakota religion. Here are some more:

The Sioux by Royal Hassrick 1964
Page 217 The book explains the WBCW story is the origin of many moral premises of Sioux society, as well as the symbolic ceremonies expressing this morality.  The story of the Goddess Whope visiting the Earth is also told to us by Iron Shell.

American Indian Myths and Legends - Erdoes and Ortiz 1984
Page XV - “In the end, however these legends are not told merely for enjoyment, or for education, or for amusement: they are believed.”
Page 47 Crow Dog, a Sioux medicine man explains WBCW - “This holy women brought the sacred buffalo calf pipe to the Sioux. There could be no indians without it. Before she came, people did not know how to live. They knew nothing. The buffalo women put her sacred mind into their minds.”
The book prints the WBCW story as per Lame Deer 1967.

The Sioux by Guy Gibbon 2003
Page 132 “A major religious figure in traditional lakota religion is the White Buffalo Calf Women, who as the messenger of the great unkown, brought the people the gift of the pipe and the seven ceremonies that were the foundation of the Lakota way of life.”
Page 151 The story of WBCW and the gift of the sacred pipe  - a foundational lakota narrative. First told hundreds of years ago.

Teton Sioux Music (Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 61) - Francis Densmore 1918
Page 63 - Lone Man (Isna la Wica) tells the ancient sacred tradition of the Sioux and this includes the story of WBCW visiting.
Page 69 The Alowanpi Ceremony - “Among the Sioux this ceremony was closely associated with the White Buffalo Calf Maiden and her mysterious visit to the tribe.”}

{ETA 9/16/2015 I have researched more books and scholarly articles on the Sacred Pipe.

Journal of American Folklore 1906 - Vol XIX No. 75 22,  Legend of the Teton Sioux Medicine Pipe - by George A Dorsey. Percy Phillips a full blooded Sioux provides the account of WBCW and a seemingly important tribal ceremony. Percy explains - The Sans Arc have the pipe; a great many people see WBCW in the story. Also, different tribes make offerings to the pipe. Whenever they are in need or in hunger 10 best men go and plead to the pipe. Within 1-3 days their prayer is answered.  General Custer swore by the pipe he would not fight the Indians. The next summer he disregards his oath and is killed.He who swears by the pipe and breaks the oath will experience destruction. The people call the pipe the calf pipe because the women who brought it transformed into a buffalo.

From The Sacred Calf Pipe Bundle: It’s Effect on the Present Teton Dakota by J.L. Smith in the Plains Anthropologist 15, 1970 pages 87-93

WBCW gave the people the sacred calf pipe bundle and certain religious ceremonies. “From the old days to the present this bundle has been held in great reverence.” The WBCW events occur to the Red Water band of the Sans Arcs who’s Chief was Standing Buffalo. WBCW addresses the people. The people saw her turn into a white buffalo calf. “The legend is still very popular among the present Teton.” 
Based on consulting many winter counts, the author estimates 1785-1800 the time when WBCW came, and states regardless of the winter counts there exists the pipe bundle.  Informants tell there were no pipes before the coming of the sacred calf pipe and all pipe since approximate it. Citing Mekeel (articles in American Museum of Natural History and North Dakota Historical Quarterly) all of the keepers of the bundle are from the Red Water Sans Arcs. In the 1930's Red Eagle was the keeper. During her term there was a drought and the leaders of the community on the Cheyenne River petition her for the bundle. She sat out in the sun from dawn to dusk holding the pipe - refusing to move to the shade. Relatives say her death three months later in October 1936 was a result sitting in the sun. [The article does not tell us if rain came.]  In the old days the pipe bundle was kept in the lodge of the keeper and taken outside on good days displaying it for the benefit of the people.  There is now a catch all shed and “The pipe bundle is no longer taken outside, mainly because all are afraid to go near it.”  

The Sioux - By Royal Hassrick 1964

Page 223 explains: WBCW is said to have come over 10 generations ago. Interestingly at this time the Sioux were engaged in a losing struggle with the Chippewas. Supernatural intervention came not as weapon, but as a code and symbol of peace - the pipe. Such aid made it possible for the Sioux to accept defeat. She also brought a code of honor. 

From Legends of the Lakota by James LaPointe 1976, the Indian Historical Press.

James a Lakota was born in 1893.  Beginning on page 7 he explains: “Early in their ancient history, the Lakota received the most important symbol of their religion the sacred pipe. (The cross, as an example, may be compared to the sacred pipe in religious importance). So strongly have the people believed in it, that its use has remained constant even to modern times.”  White Buffalo Women gave the sacred pipe.


Page 23 In ancient times White Buffalo Women brought the Sacred Pipe to the Lakota. She also gave laws by which the Lakota were to live a moral life.  “This memorable drama is regarded as a factual event.” The book also tells the story of WBCW. 

{ETA 10/31/2015 From the book Native Religions and Culture of North America - Lawrence Sullivan (Editor) 2000 Page 18 "White Buffalo Calf Women becomes essential to the relationship between the creator and the people. She reveals a sacred pipe that they can smoke when they require help from the creator." She taught the 7 sacred ceremonies which becomes the foundation of Lakota religion.} 


[I think all the above references are strong  evidence the story of WBCW and her gift of the Sacred pipe had gained traction among many of the the Teton Chiefs, Leaders, Holy Men, and people. That the story was not understood to be fictional, but an actual event in the history of the Teton.] }

{ETA 9/16/2015 A commentator at Kefirahoftehweek    http://kefirahoftheweek.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-modern-kuzari-argument.html posted the following information (see next paragraph) from  a Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen’s unpublished article regarding the Kuzari argument. I have not seen Kelemens unpublished commentary, but will assume for this blog post that extract accurately represents Kelemen. People should not use it to disparage Kelemen since I can not vouch for it’s accuracy.   So I will use the name LEMON instead of Kelemen.

LEMON : To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology. Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Lakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Lakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22). Jahner, professor of English and Native American Studies at Dartmouth, writes, "Deloria recognized the many kinds of oral creativity that characterized a vital traditional community... She also documented the adoption of European tales into the folklore of Lakota communities" (ibid., p. 23).

My Response:

LEMON has taken sentences from the book he cites out of context and thus insinuates the WBCW and her giving the Sacred Pipe was not part of traditional Lakota religion and that the story was treated as fiction by the Lakota.  I have seen no indication in any of the numerous articles and books about the Sacred Pipe that suggests the story was understood as fiction by the Lakota. Quite the opposite - see the numerous reference above. But I am still researching and trying to contact living experts on Lakota Religion.

First a little background. James Walker lived among the Dakota 1896-1914 and wrote volumes about the Dakota. Demallie and or Jahner wrote the intro to some of Walker’s books when his material was published in books about in the 1980's.

LEMON 1 - “To properly comprehend the Lakota worldview, it is crucial to step out of the Western mindset that assumes cultures place literal faith in their mythology.”

Response to LEMON 1 - I doubt that Western cultures place literal faith in all their mythology. Some myth were thought to be true and some not. The same is probably true for every culture, including the Ancient Israelites/Jews, Modern Jews of all denominations, Greeks etc: and according to Deloria we will see it is also true of the Lakota ! 

LEMON 2 - “Ella Cara Deloria (1889-1971), herself a Lakota Indian who mastered English and became one of the first to publish written records of Lakota mythology, clarifies for those outside of the Sioux culture that "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). [This is page 26 in Lakota Myth by Walker including an Intro by Jahner] “

Response to LEMON 2  - LEMON  is quoting Jahner out of context. In  Deloria’s book  Dakota Texts Volume XIV she explains One group of Dakota stories where not believed. BUT there is a second group of stories that were believed.  

So some of the stories in DELORIA’s book were believed and some not. But it is even worse for LEMON -  Page 26 the very page he cites disproves him - because it writes some tales were believed to be historical.

 I skimmed thru Deloria’s book Dakota Texts and did not find the story of WBCW in the book. And the WBCW story is not in the book Lemon is citing. Rather it is found in a different book Lakota Belief and Ritual by James Walker, Editors Demallie and Jahner 1980. 

 LEMON  3 cites "The purpose of such tales was to amuse and entertain, but not to be believed" (Elaine A. Jahner, p.26). “

Response to LEMON 3 - This is Jahner quoting  Deloria’s response to some Dakota stories. It is not a reference of Deloria regarding the WBCW story as implied by LEMON. Also see my LEMON 2 above.

LEMON 4  “Deloria wrote in 1938, only six years after the story was first told, that the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is "the work of a clever Dakota storyteller… The stuff of which they are built is Dakota, but the tale as such had never been in oral tradition" (ibid, p. 22).”

Response to LEMON 4 - This makes no sense. According to LEMON’s reading the story was first told in the 1930's. Yet I have seen an actual book published in 1906 and 1918 with the WBCW story in it !

LEMON  is citing page 22 from the book Lakota Myth by James R. Walker including an intro by Jahner. Deloria is referring to the stories told by Sword to Walker. BUT, the story of WBCW was told to Walker by Finger as seen in a different book .

LEMON also  misquotes the text. The text actually says “tales” not tale. This makes LEMON statement  very misleading, as if Deloria is addressing the WBCW story; yet she was not at all doing that. Also I did not find in the text where it says the Legend of the Sacred Pipe is not in the oral tradition or it is the work of a clever Dakota storyteller.  It is a false quote.}

{ETA 1/23/2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv1_Yf6vAsc

Oglala Lakota Women and Buffalo - in this short video a modern  Oglala women treats the giving of the sacred pipe by WBCW as an actual historical event. Listen to the first couple minutes. This is not an Isolated video by one Oglala. There are many youtube videos where the Oglala treat WBCW as an actual historical event. } 




See Kuzari Part 2

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A version of the WBCW story as found at http://www.firstpeople.us/FP-Html-Legends/White-Buffalo-Calf-Woman-Sioux.html


Briefly here is the account, but see the link for more details and for accuracy.

A long time ago there was a famine for lack of game. Daily two hunters depart looking for game, and one day up a hill they see a most beautiful female floating figure. One scout out of desire tried to touch her but was killed by lighting. This female was the WBCW. She told the scout she would appear in the village and to inform the Chief to make arrangements. After four days they saw WBCW coming. She told them to make a sacred alter and held out a pipe to the people and explained how to use it. The villagers dipped some sweet grass, into a skin bag of water and gave it to her, and to this day the people dip sweet grass or an eagle wing in water 
and sprinkle it on a person to be purified. She also taught various other rituals and skills.

“The people saw her walking off in the same direction from which she 
had come, outlined against the red ball of the setting sun. As she 
went, she stopped and rolled over four times. The first time, she 
turned into a black buffalo; the second into a brown one; the third 
into a red one; and finally, the fourth time she rolled over, she 
turned into a white female buffalo calf.” After which the buffalo herds return.

UPDATE - Minor change was to summarize the story from the link and partially quote it less 10/6-10/7/2013




Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gematria

UPDATED THRU  6/17/2015

Some Orthodox Jews argue gematria (numerology applied to the torah or other Jewish texts) or similar phenomena like the bible codes are so unusual or so improbable that it proves the torah is divine, and therefore god exists.

{ETA 4/20/2015 I have just discovered my own amazing Gematria 'proving' English is divine. Setting A=1, B=2 etc: Hand = 8+1+14+4
= 27

Now Wiki wrist - “In the hand proper a total of 13 bones form part of the wrist: eight carpal bones—scaphoid, lunate, triquetral, pisiform, trapezium, trapezoid, capitate, and hamate— and five metacarpal bones—the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth metacarpal bones”. 

Also from the Skeletal hand LindBerg Models 1991 "The hand is composed of a wrist, a palm and five fingers."

The Hand has 8 carpal bones, 5 metacarpals, 5 proximal phalanges, 4 middle phalanges, 5 distal phalanges, giving a total of 27. Is not this amazing ? 

For more of my "amazing" English language Gematrias see Proof of God from Hebrew}


Even if the bible codes or gematria is an apparent real anomaly, a genuine unfathomable phenomena, it does not follow the torah is divine. It only means we do not have an adequate explanation at this point. Maybe as we gain more knowledge, do more research, use more imagination reasonable explanations will be discovered. (Furthermore, even the author of the book the Bible Codes believed it was extraterrestrials not a god that wrote the bible.) But it is unnecessary to posit ET and in addition gematria is not an unfathomable mystery. The bible codes have been debunked, see for example the numerous articles at www.talkreason.org so this article will not discuss the bible codes. {ETA A good discussion, and I would an argue a refute of Bible Codes  is also found here http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~jtigay/codetext.html  THE BIBLE "CODES": A TEXTUAL PERSPECTIVE by 
Jeffrey H. Tigay }

{ETA 1/16/2015 "There is a common belief in the general community to the effect that many mathematicians, statisticians, and other scientists consider the claims [of Bible Codes]  to be credible. This belief is incorrect. On the contrary, the almost unanimous opinion of those in the scientific world who have studied the question is that the theory is without foundation. The signatories to this letter have themselves examined the evidence and found it entirely unconvincing." Source http://math.caltech.edu/code/petition.html }

{ETA 1/16/2015 Barry Simon is the IBM Professor of Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Caltech an Orthodox Jew also debunks Bible Codes see http://web.archive.org/web/20131121111800/http://www.khunwoody.com/biblecodes/ }


{ETA 2/17/2015 Suppose Bible Codes find your name Yakov Ben Moshe and birthday in Torah letter skips - is not that amazing ? But if they are not found, you may say well I am not important enough.
If you look hard enough in Moby Dick you will find amazing letter skips. When they are found you say wow it must be divine. Yet you do not find others. I wonder why.
Bible codes consist of confirmation bias or  retroactive fitting  or coincidence. Coincidence and chance will find amazing letter skips in any thick book. Even if the event is specified before you run the letter skip program. Increasing the chances of finding something 'amazing' is making numerous  predictions based on the Bible Codes. Those that fail are ignored and the successes are touted. The same technique used by other frauds.

Since Bible Codes do not provide complete sentences of events, it leaves open the possibility massaging the message of the found letter skipped words to fit a known past event or an event that can be predicted based on other information. For example in 2015 a Bible Code links the words 'Hillary',  'Clinton', 'President'.  Suppose she is elected President in the future. Is not that amazing ? No, because first the Hebrew  spelling was massaged to match her name. Same for President. It also ignore the Bible Codes that link up 'John', 'Doe', 'President' and thousands just like that. 

Also, Hebrew may be written with no vowels, unlike English. Thus the nature of the language will influence the chances of finding something. This is crucial. Comparing Torah Codes to Moby Dick is not the best text to use. You need to use a language 'similar' to Hebrew and use a large book written in that language. Another important issue is the distribution of the lengths of words in the language. Shorter words will give higher success rates. 

Example:: Compare the word 'intoxicate' to the hebrew word for intoxicate spelled shin-kuph-resh. The English version is longer and has vowels and would be harder to find.

Moreover, Hebrew can have different spellings of the same word increasing the chance of finding something.}

[ETA 6/17/2015 Bible Codes also suffer from a statistical flaw known as the Look-Elsewhere-Effect see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Look-elsewhere_effect  As applied to Bible codes - "Thus, setting aside related questions like confirmation bias, even if no groupings of interest or significance were found
 in the first grid, the next iteration can be tried by computer and so on en masse until "miraculous" or "improbable" groupings are finally arrived at. This is tantamount in effect to, upon dealing oneself an 
uninteresting poker hand, continuing to do so in whatever great quantities necessary until one obtains a straight flushroyal flush, or even many such events in sequence, and calling the deck inspired for enabling such a result. }


This article will provide  an example of gematria and explain how they arise naturally and therefore do not imply divine involvement. One example involves Pi, another one the ear. The principles discussed apply to gematria in general. {ETA 1/14/2014 the second example is not gematria, but an "amazing" word relation allegedly proving the divinity of Hebrew}


Gematria findings are not amazing from a human psychological (for example confirmation bias) viewpoint and from a statistical probabilistic viewpoint. In addition, you may simply invent mathematical ad hoc ways to back into your target. Then there are thousands of words in the torah, hence almost an infinity number of possible gematrias. The gematria may involve Pi, or it may involve a name of an animal or an infinite number of other things. For those reasons there is a high chance of discovering an "amazing" gematria in any large book, especially if millions of man hours are spent trying to find gematria in that text.


Many of the items of my laundry list below work synergistically in combination with each other to create apparently amazing things.

Our first gematria example is at this link
http://www.ouisrael.org/tidbits/detail/A-pasuk-in-Melachim-Alef79111111111111111111111111/#. UV81bpOUQaY
and provides an example of Gematria and Pi as follows:

The verse states: And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was round all around, and its height was five cubits; and a line of thirty cubits measured the circle around it (Melachim Alef 7:23).

The article explains it was a bathing vessel for kohanim. It was round with a 10 amot across and a circumference of 30 amot. Rabbinical commentators derive an estimate  30/10 or 3 and the article calls this their rough estimate of pi.  The article then states: "Notice that the word KAV referring to the circumference of the vessel, has a K’TIV-K’RI, it is written one way and pronounced a different way. Take the gimatriya of the written word, KUF-VAV-HEI = 111 and divide it by the numeric value of the pronounced word, KUF-VAV = 106. You get 1.0471698 (using the first 7 decimal places). Multiply this number by 3, using it as a "correction factor" for the rough approximation. The result is 3.1415 (first 4 places). This gives a value of pi which deviates from the actual value by 26 millionths - a vastly more accurate value of pi." However there is a discrepancy between the rough estimate and the actual value PI. The article resolves this by appealing to various Rabbinical commentators. One saying the vessel may not have been perfectly round. Others say the 30 amot measurements is an inside vessel diameter  and the 10 amot diameter the vessel outside diameter. There is also the issue of the vessel wall  thickness.

Here is the refute of the above "proof", not in any particular order.

{ETA 4/28/2015 The above calculation gives PI is 3.141509... while PI = 3.14159265358979... So the 'Divine' approximation is already wrong in the fifth decimal place !. A better approximation is 355/113 = 3.141592920... which  is accurate to eight decimal places. And there even better approximations. Surely, a divine approximation could have done better than only four decimal accuracy.}

1) First some Jewish commentators are saying the object was not circular, so even calculating Pi based on the object is not relevant. The whole gematria falls apart right there. The pasuk does not state the correct value of Pi or even a crude value of Pi. Rather, a relatively recent Individual knowing the correct value of Pi found a way to derive it using gematria tricks. (Chazal did try to deduce Pi based on the pasuk and therefore got it wrong. A more intelligent approach would be to derive Pi from a study of geometry and reality.)


2) The commentators cannot decide if the dimensions are internal or external. This creates the opportunity for mixing and matching to get to the correct combination of the gematria correction factor and the so called crude pi approximation.

3) Is there only one way to spell the pronouncing of the Hebrew word ? If so you can pick and choose to get to the correct combination of the correction factor and the crude approximation of Pi. For example, The gematria as stated left out the begining vav (a Hebrew letter) from both words, yet that letter was part of the actual words in text of the pasuk (sentence). So the backed in value of Pi is not as accurate as the link says it is. You can pick and choose which letters to include or exclude to make your calculation.


4) Pick up any large text at all - if you try hard enough you can find all kinds of ways to make up gemmatria gimmicks based on different spellings of words, meanings of words, roots of words , addition of letters, sounds of words, various ways of applying the arithmetic, various ways to assign numeric values to letters: etc:

5) Here is another explanation - its all a miracle. Although normally the ratio of the circumference to diameter is 3.14...., by a miracle of god this circular vase has the ratio only 3. You see how all problems go away if you invent miracles.

6) The Torah and Chazal make so many mistakes about science and reality, it is preposterous for anybody to claim that oral tradition or written tradition is divine.

7) And why is the ratio taken as 111/106 and not the reverse ? Because we know the correct value of Pi. That is what is called circular reasoning.

8) And why is the correction factor multiplicative ? Because in this
convoluted example it works out the way you want. In other words, the correction factor could have been additive, subtractive, divisive but thru circular reasoning we pick multiplicative.

9) There are so many ways to back into the appropriate arithmetic type of and value of correction factor and also the spelling and also the crude value of Pi, no wonder somebody finds one sequence that works to find Pi.

10) Who decides that aleph is one, bet is 2 etc: ? Why should there be any association of order or quantity with a specific letter. ? Why should the base 10 be used for letters and numbers ? Do you understand that the arithmetic base is chosen by people and there are different bases used. Also, some letters I think can have two different values. This greatly increases the chances of finding gematria tricks. How vowels are used is added to the arsenal.

11) Some Muslim said something like this:The Quran uses the Arabic word for "sea" x times, and the Arabic word for land y times. And the ratio of sea to land on planet earth is exactly the same as the ratio of x to y. And Mohammed didn't even realize the earth was round, really, and certainly didn't know about the Americas and Antarctica and the Pacific Ocean, so that
proves the Quran was written by Almighty Allah, who DID have those facts at his holy fingertips in Allah's Almanac. You see how easy it is to find gematria in other places.

The Christians have found gematria in the New Testament. If you spend millions of man hours looking for gematria tricks you will find them in any large text. It all a case of backed into figures or information, coincidences, cognitive errors, the laws probability and combinations of the various reasons provided in this article.


12) And why would god use this convoluted way to tell us the value of Pi is 3.14... ? What can possibly be the purpose ? Was it to show us the truth of the Torah ? But suppose nobody discovered it ? Then it would have been a bigwaste. A lot better way would have been is to give accurate information of reality.


13) When words and language evolved people used human reasoning. In other words, there could be some built in gematria and other fascinating findings. It has nothing to do with god.

14) When people write books (including the Torah) they may at times imposed some gematria for various reasons including poetic form, metaphor, superstition etc: It has nothing to do with god.

15) Contrary to what the gematria and Pi link suggest and therefore misleads, 3 was not accepted as a crude approximation to Pi by Chazal, rather 3 was believed an accurate value of Pi by chazal. See this link http://www.talkreason.org/articles/letter1.cfma Letter To my Rabbi by Naftali Zeligman who explains:
[....Even in plain geometry we find Chazal determining laws based on homiletics, and only afterwards trying to make the facts fit these laws. In Tractate Eiruvin 14a the Talmud says:
"Anything which has, in its circumference, 3 tefachs, has one tefach in diameter. How do we know this? Rabbi Jochanan said, it is written in the Scripture: 'And he [Solomon] made a molten sea, ten amahs from one brim to the other. It was round all about, and its height was five amahs. And a line of thirty amahs circled it' (I Kings 7:23)."
The Talmud rules that the ratio between a circle's circumference and its radius, known as pi, is 3. In fact, this number is irrational (impossible to represent as a finite common or decimal fraction), and taken to 10 decimal places, pi=3.1415926536.
One might say that Chazal also knew that true pi is more than 3 and only tried to find a Halachically valid approximation of this number -- but this is impossible because of the Gemara in Bava Batra 14b:
"And if you think about the Torah Scroll [of the Temple] which had 6 tefachs in circumference, provided that everything that has 3 tefachs in circumference has one tefach in diameter and provided that the Torah scroll was rolled to its middle [i.e. it was rolled on two wooden shafts like our Torah scrolls are], we have more than 2 tefachs between one handle and another -- so how could it enter the 2 tefachs of free space [in the Holy Ark]? Rav Acha the son of Jacob said: the Torah scroll of the Temple was rolled to its beginning [i. e. it was rolled on one wooden shaft only]. And yet, since it was 2 tefachs in diameter, how could it enter 2 tefachs of free space [in the Ark]? Rav Ashei said: they did not wind all the Torah scroll on the pivot, but left a part of it unwound, put the scroll into the Ark, and then folded the remaining part of the scroll onto it."
They thought a Torah scroll 6 tefachs in circumference to be exactly 2 tefachs in diameter, so they considered it to be practically impossible to put such a scroll into a space of exactly 2 tefachs, unless one does not wind all the parchment of the scroll on its wooden shaft, thus leaving some free space to adjust the scroll in the Ark. Only after he puts the scroll into the Ark does he folds the remaining parchment and put it above the scroll.
Of course, were the Sages aware of the real value of pi -- or at least of the approximation 22/7 known to ancient Greeks centuries before the Talmudic era, they would have understood that the real diameter of a scroll 6 tefachs in circumference is about 1.9 tefachs and that nobody would need any special tricks to put it into 2 tefachs of free space. It is not difficult to determine that pi is significantly more than 3. All one needs is a ruler and a measuring rope. Nonetheless Chazal preferred to determine reality from verses and law instead of basing law on reality....]
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{ETA 1/14/2014 An "amazing" word relation, that proves the divinity of Hebrew - or does it ?}

Modern science is aware that human balance and the inner ear are related. In Hebrew the word "ear" (Ozen), and balance-" (Izun) have the same root. The implication is there is hidden secret knowledge in Hebrew. And that this knowledge must be of divine origin. This conclusion is completely unwarranted.

1) When words and language evolved people used human reasoning. In other words, there could be some built in gematria and other fascinating findings. It has nothing to do with god. Ancient people may have discovered that balance is related to the ear. For example, it was noticed that people experiencing physical trauma to the ear would develop imbalance. This knowledge was incorporated into the language. It would not be surprising if there were numerous other such instances as well.

2) Hebrew consists of 22 letters and typically words have 3 letter roots. (These roots are modified by suffixes and prefixes). There are thousands and thousands of words in the Hebrew language, Statistically it is very likely many pairs of words will end up sharing the same root. Some of these word pairs may later be found to be related in some fashion, for example the ear and balance. (It would not be surprising that many word pairs sharing the same root that have something in common while many other word pairs sharing the same root would have nothing in common.)

{ETA 11/15/2014 Here is a good summary that confirms and elaborates on what is previously written.

Beginning page 8 of Hidden Religion by Issitt and Main 2014 

There are at least four ways of assigning values to letters. Mispar hechrachi,Mispar Siduri, Mispar Katan, Mispar Katan Mispari. [Is it any wonder somebody may find something amazing if you can pick and choose a value scheme ?] 

From page 11 - "Critics of gematria have argued the relationships between number and words may largely be the result of coincidence, creative interpretation, and in some cases, design. Skeptics have noted that seemingly relevant numerical linguistic relationships can be constructed by choosing alternate or unconventional phrases, altering the spelling or value of certain characters, or utilizing combinations of different methods of calculating value. In addition,it has been demonstrated that the historical formation of words, phrases, and translations can input numerical messages into texts that may not have originally had the same values. Some have argued that nearly any text could be shown to have symbolic meaning using a similar numerical system and creative interpretations of relationships between words and numbers"}

Please read Proof of God from Hebrew  for more on this kind of Proof.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Invitation

Being an older former Orthodox Jew I can offer unique perspectives that may help struggling younger people. I encourage you to ask me any questions. Use false names for privacy sake.

 {ETA I no longer take comments. }

I would suggest reading this post for an incomplete index and good overview of my blog Some Reasons to Reject Orthodox Judaism