Tune into Torahs hidden code at JCC of S.F. workshop

Determined to prove that Judaism is not a religion based on faith, a team of North American scientists and rabbis is heading to the Bay Area armed with evidence they say shows the Torah's authorship is Divine.

On Sunday, using state-of-the-art computer techniques, as well as investigative methodology adapted from the Israeli Mossad, they will present an internationally known seminar called "Discovery" at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Created by Aish HaTorah, a nonprofit Jewish education group based in Jerusalem, Discovery relies on the results of modern computer analysis of the letters of the Torah to uncover its hidden codes.

"We had to give an intellectual presentation to give people a reason to believe in God," said Aish HaTorah founder Rabbi Noah Weinberg.

During the seminar, lecturers will explain how researchers used high-speed computers to look at letter patterns in the Torah. Their analysis found the names of famous figures such as Yitzhak Rabin and Anwar Sadat, and historical events throughout world history such as the world wars.

Using a technique known as skip sequencing, or equidistant letter sequences, researchers discovered words composed of letters at various equal distances in the Book of Genesis.

Led by an internationally known Israeli mathematician, Eliyahu Rips, they programmed a computer to read Genesis as one long string of letters, decoding words with letters separated at set intervals.

The researchers did experiments on other books for control purposes, including "War and Peace," and found that related words didn't appear in proximity as they did in the Torah.

One group of mathematicians, so alarmed by the implications of the results, spent almost a decade running its own tests. The results were published in the journal Statistical Science, one of the world's most respected mathematical statistical publications. There, it later attracted widespread media attention by claiming that the possibility of the codes occurring by chance was less than one in 50 quadrillion.

The introduction to the study in Statistical Science reads: "Our referees were baffled; their prior beliefs made them think the Book of Genesis could not possibly contain meaningful references to modern day individuals, yet when the authors carried out additional analyses and checks, the effect persisted."

The work was critiqued and endorsed by Andrew Goldfinger, a senior research physicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and by Harold Gans, an analyst with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Michael Drosnin, an investigative journalist, capitalized on the findings by writing the best-selling book "The Bible Code," published last year. But the researchers, as well as Aish HaTorah, have distanced themselves from the work, which they claim is inaccurate.

To date, hundreds of North American Jewish community centers, schools and synagogues have hosted Discovery. More than 60,000 people worldwide have attended the seminar.

"We had numerous requests for this seminar," said Yossi Offenberg, the JCC's adult program manager. "This program is particularly interesting because it gives participants the opportunity to dialogue with the individuals directly involved in the process."

According to Offenberg, while the research is currently attracting international attention, rabbis have known of the existence of these special codes for many generations.

Many traditional Jewish rabbis believe the Torah contains within it all the events that have ever or will ever happen.

The Vilna Gaon, the noted l8th-century rabbi of Lithuania, wrote that "all that was, is, and will be unto the end of time is included in the Torah…and not merely in a general sense, but including the details of every species and of each person individually, and the most minute details of everything that happened to him from the day of his birth until his death."

These days, such high-profile Jewish celebrities as talk-show host Larry King and actors Elliot Gould, Kirk Douglas and Jason Alexander are helping to spread Discovery's growing popularity.

"Discovery's rational approach has been like a breath of fresh air for today's university-educated Jew, who tends to view Judaism as a set of quaint rituals at best and, at worse, as an unwanted burden," said Eric Coopersmith, director of Discovery in North America.