Torah codes

On Torah, Science, and Using Your Abilities for the Sake of Hashem.

This article is published in the UK paper Hamodia,  22 Maart 2012

Mr Harold Gans is a fascinating personality. An accomplished mathematician, he spent 28 years working for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Fort Meade, Maryland. About 18 years ago, he began to realize that he needed to use his talents to better serve the Ribono shel Olam, and he became involved in researching and disseminating knowledge of the Torah codes as proof of Torah min Hashamayim. Subsequently he developed a series of lectures on Torah and science, which he presented to varied audiences. Many have been inspired by his lectures to learn more about Judaism and have ultimately pursued a Torah life.

The most compelling aspect of Mr. Gans’ philosophy is the message he wishes to give Hamodia readers: Everybody has some talent that he or she can use to serve Hashem and to make a difference in the Jewish community. Even those who do not feel capable of becoming great talmidei chachamiem have been endowed with some other talent which can be put to good use. We visited Mr. Gans in his home, where we were shown fascinating examples of Torah codes, learned about his various lectures, and most of all, were inspired by his lecture.

What is your background?

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and attended Torah Vodaath Elementary School, and Gur Aryeh (a division of Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin) for high school. I received a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Brooklyn College, and a master of arts degree in mathematics from the Belfer Graduate School of Science of Yeshiva University, where I was a National Science Foundation fellow.

In 1968 I was hired by NSA, and eventually became a senior cryptologic mathematician. In that capacity I headed a groep of thirty individuals who were developing mathematical tools to be used by cryptologists to break military and diplomatic codes.

In 1968 I relocated from Silver Springs, Maryland, to Baltimore, still employed by the NSA. In Baltimore, I met Rabbi Shlomo Porter, director of the Etz Chaim Center for Jewish Studies. He was, and still is, heavily involved in kiruv, and is very successful in that capacity. I had never seen anything like that before; I had heard of kiruv, but had never experienced it first hand. I was amazed and even jealous of his positive impact on the Yiddishkeit of the many people he worked with.

Interestingly, he later told me he was given a bracha by Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Twerski zt”l, the Hornosteipler Rebbe of Milwaukee, that people should be envious of and emulate his accomplishments.

I began to wonder how I would be able to make an impact on the world. One of my heroes had long been Rabbi Mike Tress, z”l, a businessman who used his organizational skill to serve the klal. I knew that Hashem gives every person skills and abilities that can be used to serve Him and impact klal Yisrael. I understood how a talmid chacham or a wealthy businessman could serve klal Yisrael, and I even understood how a plumber or a technician could serve by working for a shul or yeshivah or by helping Jewish families, but how could a mathematician serve klal Yisrael?

A few years later I heard about the Torah codes. By nature I’m a skeptic, and I need scientific of logical proof to be convinced of any unusual claim. My wife encouraged me to research the topic, and I agreed = in order to prove to here that it was nonsense. I attended an Arachim seminar, heard a lecture on the Torah codes, and could not find a single flaw in the material. I went home and reproduced their experiment myself, and achieved the same results.

Subsequently I attended an Aish HaTorah Discovery seminar and came to understand how many people were fascinated by these codes and other evidence of Torah min HaShamayim. I also realized the impact that this material was having on their lives, because it was proof that the Torah could only be given by G-d. I realized that I could combine my skills as a mathematician and computer programmer and my expertise in public speaking to research and lecture on the Torah codes.

I felt that I had found my calling – the way that I could serve the Ribbono shel Olam using my unique talents and abilities. Subsequently I volunteered as a lecturer for Aish HaTorah, and was given the opportunity to lecture in cities all around the world.

What are the Torah codes? How does math fit into the picture?

Torah codes refer to information that is encoded in the pesukim of the Torah. Math is used to calculate the probability of finding those letters in that specific configuration and spacing. The average person cannot find and properly evaluate these codes; one has to be looking for specific patterns, and then use computer programs to locate them. We then use statistics to calculate the probability of these patterns appearing randomly in the Torah. If the probability is less than one in a thousand, we reject the possibility that it happened by chance, and the patterns qualify as an authentic code. This criterion was set by non-Jewish statisticians for establishing the veracity of the Torah codes.

The concept of the Torah codes is not new. References to codes in the Torah can be found in the thirteenth century commentary on the Torah by Rabbeinu Bachyei, as well as in the sixteenth century Pardes Rimonim by Harav Moshe Cordovo. Shortly after World War II, Harav Mochoel Ber Weismandl, zt’l, wrote about codes in his sefer Toras Chemed.

In recent years, the first individuals to research codes scientifically, were Dr Eliyahu Rips, a professor of mathematics at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Mr Doron Witztum. They designed what is known as the “Great Rabbis Experiment”, in which they found the names of Gedolim from the nineth to the eighteenth century encoded in the Torah, in unusual close proximity to the dates of each ones birth and death. Over 150 pairs of names and dates taken from an encyclopedia were used in their experiment. Then they calculated the odds of this happening “by itself” and obtained a probability of 1 in 62,500. This is more than 62 times stronger then the 1 in 1000 criterion mentioned above.

I performed a similar experiment and found the names of these Gedolim together with the cities of each ones birth and death. The outcome of this experiment has a probability of 1 in 250,000 of being due to chance.

Whenever there is a major world event, we often find words describing that event, with related dates, encoded in close proximity in the Torah. We have found codes describing 9/11, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011, the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein, the 2004 tsunami in Asia, and the disastrous re-entry of the spaceship Columbia that carried Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

We have done studies by taking the same words found encoded in the Torah and searching for them in many control texts, such as Hebrew translations of secular novels, but the probability never comes out low enough to qualify as significant.

I understand that non-religious Jews find this inspiring, but what about your typical frum-from-birth Jew? Why does he need to know about this?

There are several answers to this question. First of all, it is obvious that these codes are not due to chance, that is something Hakadosh Baruch Hu put into the Torah. How can we not be interested and inspired by them?

Second, Chazal tell us that in the days before Moshiach, knowledge of the Torah will increase. Several Rabbanim, including Harav Moshe Heineman, feel that these codes are one of those ways.

The third, and perhaps the most important reason is, that as much as we hesitate to admit it, there are many of us who can benefit from ways to strengthen our emunah. Often, after I lecture to frum audiences, people come to me saying: “I have always believed in Hashem, but these codes have strengthened my believe.”

I often get calls from yeshiva bachurim who have questions in emunah. They find that the code and some of the other scientific material that I lecture on give them the chizuk they are searching for.

There are significant numbers of frum people who need reinforcement in their emunah, so that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Ribbone shel Olam wrote the Torah and rules the world. The Torah codes offer such reinforcement. This kind of powerful evidence is something that we cannot just ignore.

But weren’t the Torah codes disproven in the scientific world?

The controversy began shortly after Mr. Witztum and Dr. Rips published a paper on their “Great Rabbis Experiment” in the journal Statistical Science in 1994. It reached a point where the same journal published a paper written by an Australian computer scientist who purportedly refuted the Torah codes and claimed the 1994 paper was a hoax.

Statistical Science refused to allow Rips and Witztum to print a defense of their paper – something which is unheard of in professional science literature, where the standard rule is that if a refutation of a scientific paper is admitted for publication, the author of the original paper is always given a chance to respond first.

In fact, Witztum and Rips were told that they would be given a chance to respond, and then the journal backed down and would not allow it.

In 2006, at the 18th International Pattern Recognition Conference, which took place in Hong Kong, there were six papers published in support of the Torah codes. All of these papers were subject to peer review, which means that fellow scientists reviewed the papers and could note any flaw in the research or logic that they might find. Were they to find an uncorrectable flaw, the paper would be rejected.

One of the papers that I co-authored proved that the original paper describing the “Great Rabbis Experiment” was not a hoax, and that the experiment with the rabbis and the cities of their birth and death was valid. That paper referenced the critic’s 1999 Statistical Science paper, so that the reviewers could easily refer to it. According to scientific rules. In order for critics to disprove the Torah codes, they would have to find fatal flaws in each of the six papers presenting a different approach and a different code. This happened five years ago, and to date not a single flaw was found in any of these papers. Therefore, for all intent and purposes, the Torah codes have been scientifically proven, and the debate is over.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know the critics have been disproven. When scientists come up to me and try to dispute the validity of the codes, I ask: “Can you find a fatal flaw?” They pause, and say: “No.”

What about the Jewish world? Do all of the Rabbanim agree to the validity of the Torah codes?

There are critics in the Torah world, but not among the Gedolim. Mr. Witztum and/or Dr. Rips have obtained haskamos for researching and teaching the Torah codes from Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt’l, and, ybl’c, Harave Shmuel Auerbach, Harav Matsyahu Salomon and Harav Moshe Heinemann.

Harav Heinemann stated: “There are sources for the codes in Chazal. The Chasam Sofer wrote about them – without the use of a computer – as did Harav Michael Ber Weismandl. There is no question that they are authentic.”

Can you give me an example of a Torah code?

There is an excellent example of a Torah code that revolves around the Mumbai massacre in 2008. This code was discovered by researcher Dr. Moshe Katz, and has an interesting story.

A few years ago I was in Israel, where is was scheduled to lecture on the codes at Aish HaTorah. The day before the lecture I visited Mr. Witztum, and told him about the Mumbai code. He asked me what probability was associated with that code. When I replied that it had not been calculated, he categorically dismissed the code. When I subsequently told him that I was going to present the code the next day, he exclaimed: “How can you present the code, without a probability having been calculated?” I told him that there was nothing he could say that would change my mind. I had already decided to present it as an “esoteric observation”, rather than as a code, since the associated probability was unknown. The next day, as I was driving to the lecture, my cell phone rang. It was Witztum: “You must present the code”, he insisted. He had stayed up half the night researching and augmenting the code, and came up with a probability of 1 in 666,666 for the words “hatkafah” (the attack), “terror”, “Islami”, “in Bombay” and “b-Beit Chabad”, all encoded near each other.

However, there was more. Dr. Katz had also found a picture of the sefer Torah that had been torn during the attack on the Chabad House. There was a bullet hole in the Torah, in the same place in the Torah where the words k’ra, sefer, en Torah (“a sefer Torah was torn) were encoded in the same pesukim!

Now, what is the probability of that happening by chance? There HAS to be a higher being who wrote that Torah, knew this attack would happen, and placed the code exactly in the spot that He knew the bullet would penetrate thousands of years later. When I presented the code, together with this story, a man literally fell of his chair.

Can you describe the lectures that you present on Torah and science?

I have two different lectures on the codes, one is standard, the other goes into more detail. There are four other lectures I have developed that use science to prove the authenticity of the Torah and the existence of a G-d who created and is still involved in the universe.

In “Searching for G-d in a Test Tube” I present various scientifically based lines of evidence that the Torah is true and that there must be a Ribbono shel Olam running the world. Using statistics, we can proof that things are not happening by chance. One illustration is the miracle of the Persian Gulf war in 1991. It is well known that there were 39 scud missiles fired at Israel. At least 9 of these fell in residential areas, and there was only one death. Can we proof scientifically that this was a miracle? In order to proof the miraculous nature of this event, we need to examine what happens outside of Israel.

On February 26, 1991, fell in Saudi Arabia, killing 27 people. On October 8, 1980, three scuds fell in Dizful, Iran. The average number of deaths per scud was 36.7. In Yemen in May 1994, there were three Scuds, with an average of 14.7 deaths per Scud. Based on these numbers, the probability of nine Scuds killing only one person is one in nine hundred million trillion trillion trillion – that’s a fraction that has 43 zero’s after the decimal point. That is a miracle!

Similar statistical results are obtained with Katyusha rocket attacks, and suicide and car bombings, providing powerful mathematical evidence that there is a Higher Being Who is truly watching over the Jewish people.

The “Signature of G-d” lecture demonstrates that the universe is balanced in such a way as to be perfectly suited for the existence of life. There is a plethora of scientific evidence to show this. It is highly improbable that this could have happened by chance. There are many examples of this fine-tuning. One example of many is that if the electromagnetic force that bonds all atoms and molecules would be four percent weaker, there would be no molecules. This phenomenon, known as “the anthropic principle”, is considered one of the most compelling and intractable problems in theoretical physics today. The existence of a Divine Creator neatly solves this conundrum.

The third lecture discusses the origin of life. The probability that the smallest peace of DNA, an essential component of all cells, began by itself, is so infinitesimal small that for all practical purposes, it is impossible that it could have happened anywhere in the universe since the beginning of time.

Scientists can offer no explanation. They can’t disprove it, and yet, they don’t want to admit the existence of G-d. Biologist and Nobel prize laureate George Wald once said that he prefers to believe in the impossible rather than the alternative – which is believe in a supernatural creation.

Where have you lectured?

I have lectured in eleven countries around the world for Aish HaTorah, as well as several other organizations. I deliver an average of fifty lectures a year in some twenty cities, with about sixty to 120 people attending each lecture.

Before I speak or meet people who will ask me questions on emunah, I daven to Hashem that I will find the right answers. I do not charge a honorarium

for these lectures, they are done solely to help Klal Yisrael.

Are these lectures successful in inspiring people to become observant?

Occasionally I do receive feedback. A few years ago I was in Passaic, New Jersey, for Shabbos, visiting a family member, and we davened in the Bais Torah U’Tefillah, which is under the leadership of Rabbi Menachem Zupnick. Rabbi Zupnick asked me to deliver a fifteen minute talk at seudah shelishis. I used the time to speak about creation.

A year later, I met a frum looking young man, who approached me and said: “Mr. Gans, because of you I am religious today. You see, I live near a shul in Passaic, and I used to look out of my window every Saturday afternoon and see all these Jews go into the synagogue. I wondered what they did in there. One day I decided I would find out. The next Saturday, I donned a kippah, and entered the shul. I saw a table laid out with all sorts of goodies, and decided to stay. Then, I heard you speak. In those fifteen minutes you highlighted so much wisdom from the first three pesukim in Bereshis that I new I had to find out more. Today I am completely shomer shabbos.

This is one story out of many.

This is really very fascinating! Any final message?

I just want to reiterate that one does not have to be a talmid chacham or wealthy to serve Klal Yisrael. I just wanted to serve Hashem, and He showed me the way.

Every person can serve Hashem in his or her unique way. Everyone has some talent, some skill that can be channeled properly. If one has the will and desire to do so, and asks Hashem for help, He will surely show him the way.