Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, nose for a nose, ear for an ear...

Monetary compensation?? Those namby-pamby rabbis just didn't have the nerve to be literal. Here's how it's really done!

Pakistan court orders brothers' noses, ears cut off
LAHORE, Pakistan
Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:55am EST

LAHORE, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani court has ordered that two brothers should have their noses and ears cut off after they were found guilty of doing the same to a woman who refused to marry one of them, a government prosecutor said on Tuesday.

The judge at an anti-terrorism court in the eastern city of Lahore handed down the sentences on Monday in line with the Islamic law of Qisas.

Full article here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Criteria for a Divine Text - Part Deux

The following post, with my comments (in italics), is from a Jerusalem Post article by Yocheved Miriam Russo, published on Dec. 3, 2009.

Mere coincidence or divine truth?
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."
I had to try this out. It's been many years (sigh) since I had to do statistical analysis, so I just bothered with basic scatter plots. Also note that each color is represented by a range of frequencies, and I used the high end for each. (Click on any of the images for a larger, more legible view.)

Certainly this does not display any frequency/gematria correlation. Violet/argaman really throws things off. Something must be amiss, I thought. At first, I decided to play with the numbers; the Mispar Gadol method of gematria (which gives a value of 700 for the Nun Sofit of argaman, rather than 50) gave a little better fit, but still not great. So I did some additional digging and finally found the values that Shore used. This required a number of modifications to my original assumptions. First, he says that "green" (ירוק in modern Hebrew) isn't found in the Bible (contrary to what is stated above!) So for some reason he decided to use ירקון, which is found in Jeremiah 30:6. Mechon Mamre translates this as "paleness" as in "all faces are turned into paleness". Shore states that it is common usage to use paleness for green, such as in English where someone might say “his face turned green” to mean "paleness". UH OH, we are starting to get into major fudge factor territory here, folks! The second change is that he opts to call "argaman" magenta, rather than purple. This means that I had to change the frequency to correlate against argaman. The problem is that magenta is a mixture of red and blue and thus has no discrete frequency! Most sources use a range midway between red and blue, or 500-530 Thz. Shore uses 546 which is actually in the green range. Finally, he omits the vav for yellow (spelling it צהב) but claims that this has no effect on the statistics. Here is a graph with his values:

And here is the resultant graph:

Now I understand that the visual representation of a relationship can be deceiving (for example, the line looks much straighter if one way increases the range of values on the Y-axis), but I just don't see the "straight line" correlation that Shore claims. Statisticians feel free to jump in.

One final important note here, is that the preceding exercise is suspect to begin with, since it is difficult - if not impossible - to state what each color term corresponds to in the spectrum. For example, according to R. Shimson Raphael Hirsch (Collected Writings), yarok represents both yellow and green, while techeiles represents both blue and violet! For interesting discussions on colors in the Hebrew language, refer to these Balashon archives.


"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."
No, it actually IS gematria, regardless of his pseudo-scientific term "color numeric value". Shore is just applying it in a novel fashion. And regardless of his assertion, it is quite similar to Bible Codes since it will almost certainly be used by the same group of kiruv workers that use codes to "prove" the divinity of Torah.
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!'"
Here is the graph that I plotted:

Pretty cool, huh? (Yes, the log scale is critical due to the diameter of Sol being two orders of magnitude greater than Earth.) So I guess that Babylonians were really onto something when they named their sun god "shamash" (this goes back to at least 2600 BCE, more than 1000 years before the traditional dating of the Torah)...
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.'"
This seems like a phony statement. Shore says that he was convinced that it was all superstition and myth, so why would these far-out claims in the Midrash and Talmud make him "think twice"??
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."
The length of a lunar year is closer to 354 days. But that's ok, since with gematrias you can always be "off by 1"! Regardless, wouldn't it be more reasonable to speculate that the word "shana" was derived from observing a lunar year?
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.
Lavan wanted to "mix up" everthing. Lavan is White. Ergo, the Torah knew that White is a mixture of all the colors. Is he serious?? It's a fun Shabbos drasha, but it is neither bizarre nor a coincidence. However it is one of the lamest "Torah science" claims that I've ever seen!
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."
I can't provide sources off-hand, but I seem to recall that this study suggesting a unitary nature of Bereshit was been widely criticized for its methodology, and remains convincing only to those are already convinced!
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%."
The flaw in his reasoning is really apparent with this example. The account in Genesis is:

Day 1: light
Day 2: firmament ("sky" according to Shore)
Day 3: Earth, seas, grass
Day 4: Sun, Moon, stars
Day 5: sea creatures, birds
Day 6: land creatures, human

One doesn't have to resort to any plot to know that there is no way that the scientific ages will correlate with the biblical days. Earth comes before the Sun and stars? G
rass comes before Sun, Moon, and stars? The Earth and the Sun both date to the creation of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. The oldest star in the Milky Way is more than 13 billions years old. If we are liberal with the definition of grasses and just stick with "earliest plants" (Cyanobacteria), those date to about 3.5 billion years before present.

He throws out day 2 (?) and day 5, ostensibly because "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". This is silly and smacks of discarding data that he didn't like.

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.
Although I have not (yet) read Shore's book, a table of contents preview shows that he has many more examples. Although skeptical, I'm still intrigued and will eventually get my hands on a copy. For those who want to check it out, it is available on Amazon: Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrew