4th August 1985
A SINGLE MOMENT in time can change and redefine a person’s life.
Deborah Levy was about to experience a defining moment that could be instrumental in changing the future. Not that she was aware of this in any way, shape or form as she followed Ruth up the steps of the synagogue. She already had plenty to think about, not least of which was last night’s party.
Ruth had been insistent. They had gone and Deborah was sorry they had. It had been a complete wash out from her point of view. She was awkward when approached by any of the young men interested enough to come over. Isolated by her intellect, she just found them irritating. Deborah didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t swear and…well you get the picture.
She wondered if spending the summer with Ruth would be a wise option.
Already she longed to be back at Cambridge, her mother’s, anywhere, and this was only the first week of the holidays. Why in God’s name had she listened to her mother?
Somehow she had to convince Ruth—before they spent the whole summer in London—that backpacking round Europe, or sailing off the edge of the world, would be more fun.
Not for the first time that morning Deborah wondered why she was here. Deborah hadn’t set foot inside a synagogue in eight years. Not since her father had died.
Deborah blinked and entered the thick double doors one step behind her new and not to last long at this rate, friend.
The inside was as she remembered. An interior little changed in over 2,000 years. Rows of pews surrounded a raised central platform with the women separated from the men in an upper gallery. The centrepiece (at one end of the hall) was always an ornate cupboard containing a decorated scroll, hand written in ancient Hebrew. The five books of Moses: the Torah.
The atmosphere at services was always more chaotic than a church; prayers formed a social gathering as well as a religious duty.
Deborah thought if she were to close her eyes, she could be in Palestine at the time of Christ, or medieval German—anywhere Jews had existed. It was a strange and somewhat unsettling feeling.
On this occasion it was north London on a Sunday. And instead of prayers, the attraction was a seminar conducted by a bearded rabbi in his early forties, from Israel. It was perhaps surprising that the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain Immanuel Jakobovits sat in the front row. Ruth had said this was going to be something special when convincing her to come, but Deborah hadn’t quite believed her. Ruth had, after all, said the same thing about last night’s party.
If this obscure Israeli was good enough for an eminent scholar like Dr. Jakobovits, then she too could learn something new. All it would cost her was the morning.
Indeed, the rabbi Ordman had something remarkable to report. The result of five years dogged research by himself and nineteen other rabbis.
He had discovered God existed.
If this nondescript man hadn’t got his audience attention before, he had it now. Deborah went swimming in a sea of possibilities.
To the irreligious it would be a shocking thought. But Ordman went on to explain: in the desert, 400 years before Christ, someone had the intellect to match one of the most sophisticated computers of the 80’s. He was using such a computer—the American Prime Mainframe machine, in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem—to prove his point.
The rabbi and his colleagues believed they had discovered a series of hidden codes, buried in the original Hebrew text of the 2,400 year-old Torah. He said that the codes were so complex to be by any human being, least of all a scribe in the Middle East 400 years before Christ.
Codes? What did he mean codes? Deborah wondered.
Everyone knew the traditional story, of course, that God handed the text of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. But as scholars became more sophisticated in the last century they decided the books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—were, in fact, an edited compilation. A pious fraud put together by several writers over a period of four centuries.
Ordman concluded that his evidence cast doubt on all that, and raised the possibility—quite an awesome one even for the religious people gathered about Deborah who ‘believed’—that it was true: the Torah was the work of someone out there.
Deborah found she had to remind herself to breathe. People were becoming animated and excited all around her. Whispers echoed from one group to the next and back again. But Deborah felt a frown form on her brow. What did it all mean?
The Torah had been written ‘by whoever’ to be read aloud, as it still is every Sabbath in the synagogue. Yet even if you read it, the codes—which were sophisticated word games—were quite invisible without the use of a computer.
So was it possible that they were built into the text as a sign to future generations—who might one day have the technology—that the Torah was more than a few old books?
Were the codes Ordman had found a sign from God? Deborah wondered, looking at Ruth. Her companion had that far away look of someone lost in possibilities, so she turned back to listen. Ordman continued to tell them that even thirty years ago, mathematically inclined rabbis had started noticing some oddities about the Torah that had gone unnoticed. They noticed that the number 7 had a strange significance. Not only was the seventh day the day on which God rested in Genesis, but if you took any passage in the Torah, the main subject of it, be it Adam, God or Noah, was always mentioned seven times. It was a motif that must have been easy, if irritating, for some ancient writer to insert. But he, or they, or someone also played another game. It seemed that if you took the first Hebrew ‘T’ in the first line in Genesis then counted out each following 49th letter, the word Torah emerged.
The same happened in the first line in Exodus.
In the third book, it was the first ‘Y’ and each following seventh letter that produced the Hebrew name of God–Yehovah–out of the text. In Numbers and Deuteronomy, it was Torah again, spelt backwards but still in perfect sequence.
Their next discovery was as weird.
Setting their computer to range over long pieces, they uncovered the most brilliant examples of ancient codification yet. The rabbis punched into Genesis the names of 25 different trees from a dictionary of biblical Hebrew, knowing that trees in general were a major part of the creation story. Thirteen of the trees cropped up, coded into one 43-word section.
Ordman commented that they put more names into the program and a further 18 came up; a total of 31 tree names hidden in one passage and nowhere else in the book. The straight translation would cause no surprise Ordman pointed out, and began quoting.
‘. . .and the Lord God caused to grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge or good and evil. . .’
“To plan this kind of thing would take years,” Rabbi Ordman added, rounding up his talk. “And they had to prepare a text as well, with perfect grammar, a message and with no contradictions.”
“We are not trying to prove the divinity of the Torah here, but that the statistical odds against it being written by a human are impossible.”
There was a moment’s silence before murmurs ran round the room like tinder catching fire.
And what would that prove? Deborah asked herself. That the Jews were ‘right’ and everyone else was wrong? She frowned feeling her arm tugged an excited Ruth as she moved them both to the front to listen to the follow-up discussion.
Were people ready for this kind of revelation? Deborah thought, as she clung to Ruth’s arm for support, only half listening. Her mind racing over infinite possibilities, though she couldn’t quite grasp the importance of the talk she’d just listened to. For now, comprehension was vague at best. At some point hence, she was sure all the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle would slot into place.
Deborah was silent in thought, as the pair finally left the synagogue nearly an hour after Ordman had concluded his talk. Ruth though, who was studying math at Cambridge, couldn’t stop babbling. Math was right up there with God. Deborah answered in monosyllables, yes, no and maybe until Ruth made her stop dead in her tracks.
“Do you think God’s a mathematical abstraction?” The young woman asked with a glint in her eye.
This was tantamount to a heretical statement from Ruth, who laughed at Deborah’s obvious look of shock.
Blinking, Deborah found herself smiling. Ruth’s usual answer to anything was to reduce it to a mathematical equation. Clean, simple, efficient. Ruth had her human side too, all too fallible. Deborah had seen it in action the night before. But in math, she was an angel of light. Pure.
“I think that statement needs further examination of course, but at a later date, for now…” Ruth then went on to reduce the world, galaxy, universe, and, of course, God, into a nice neat, bit-sized string equation.
TO BE CONTINUED …