(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Mon, 16 Jun 1997 19:09:27 -0400
From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel)
Subject: RE: Codes-They ARE real but NOT Talmud Torah

I have read the last few issues of BM on the codes. I am sympathetic
to both sides: The codes have helped people enter Judaism, they are
statistically real, but..they do appear to be "non standard" and not
the Jewish way.  I tried to articulate these vague feelings and I
came up with the following idea:

There are two distinct mitzvoth:
* Belief in G-d
* Talmud Torah--the Mitzvah to learn Torah

I would like to suggest that the codes ARE a fulfillment of the Belief
mitzvah but they are NOT a fulfillment of Talmud Torah. I think such a
position may help reconcile the various opinions that have been posted. Let
me elaborate.

The Rambam explicitly states (Foundations, 7:1)
     >  >   It is part of the foundations of our religion to know that G-d causes
prophecy..>  >
In 7:6 the Rambam goes into the "higher" level of prophecy of Moses. The
whole book of Foundations deals with the Requirements of faith (which I
have loosely called "belief in G-d")

It seems clear to me that the statistical evidence of the codes showing a
high degree of pattern and design in the Torah increases peoples belief,
love and awe of the Torah(this is the content of many postings). This is
certainly a legitimate Torah activity and it is a fulfillment of the
commandments mentioned in Foundations.

But.. the Rambam (and other Rishonim) are very explicit about the
commandment to Learn Torah:

In chapter 1:11 the Rambam explicitly identifies the 3 types of Torah
learning that are possible:
* Learning to lain and understand the Bible and Tenach
* Learning the oral traditions handed to Moses at Sinai and recorded in the
Mishnah, Shulchan Aruch..
* Learning the methodology by which we derive new "permitted" and
prohibited from existing laws

It is CLEAR (or so I would like to suggest) that Numerology, Gematrias and
codes do not fall into any of these 3 categories (they do not give the
meaning of the text, oral traditions or the methods to generate new laws).
I realize that I am saying that certain well known Torah commentaries like
Baal Turim who deal with Gematrias are therefore not a fulfillment of
Talmud Torah but I don't see how to escape this conclusion. Furthermore I
don't see why I should want to. If a person hears a Gematria or code and
becomes more religious, fine! He / She has fulfilled a Mitvah that is
important (believing in G-d and Torah). But why should we say that they are

I realize I may get attacked for this opinion but I am posting it because
of some of the vehement postings that call the codes "silly" "snake oil
tactics" etc. I am trying within our tradition to focus on what the codes
do and do not have. The do have the capacity to make people religious.
However I wouldn't replace traditional learning of Chumash and Rashi with
codes, Gematriays, or any other esoteric sect. At any rate I would be
interested in a logical refutation of my suggestion as well as a clear
characterization of what talmud torah is and whether the codes should be

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu