Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

Rise of the Religious Charlatans

Oh G-d no. Not another Bible codes book.
And this one launched in a full page ad in The New York Times highlighting how
in May 2008 Oprah Winfrey sent a Bible code to Barack Obama that he would
become President.

Surely I as an orthodox Jew ought to
applaud a book that proves that the Torah has encoded prophecy, thereby proving
its authenticity. But aside from the question of whether President Obama is
G-d’s anointed, I have serious objections to the Bible codes.


First, there is the fact that you can
take nearly any lengthy book, put it through a computer, and pull out prophecy.
Prof Brendan McKay of Australian National University found 13 predicted
assassinations of public figures encoded in Moby Dick, including several
presidents and Prime Ministers. McKay also found an encoded phrase in Moby Dick
that predicted “Drosnin (the author of the codes series) will be murdered by
Eli Rips (the Israeli scholar who first discovered the codes) in Athens.” Other
scholars found results that were as statistically impressive as Rips in a
Hebrew copy of War and Peace.


Next, associated with the codes there is
the usual apocalyptic bunkum that has so tarnished religion. The codes
apparently predicted an atomic Holocaust in 1986 and, if that didn’t happen,
that the world would end again in 2006. (It’s worth noting my cardinal rule
about the difference between a real religion and a cult: religion teaches you
to revere life while a cult teaches you to fear death). The codes predicted a
world war in the year 2000 and that Israel would be destroyed in a global
cataclysm (let’s hope Ahmedenijad isn’t reading the book).  The book
further predicted a comet would strike earth and obliterate much of it in 2006.



What makes an even greater mockery of the
codes is that the Torah today is somewhat imprecise in that some of the letters
of the Hebrew alphabet can be replaced by vowels and we are not certain whether
the vowel, or the letter itself, should be in certain passages. Insert a few of
these missing letters and the codes become gibberish.



But none of this has stopped a few Jewish
outreach organizations, most notably Aish HaTorah, from employing the codes as
a principal tool by which to attract young Jews to their tradition. Little do
they realize that Christian missionaries are now putting the New Testament
through computers to demonstrate, through their own codes, that Jesus is the
foretold Messiah.


But my personal objection to the codes is
something else entirely and has to do with the rise of Judaism as magic and
Rabbis as soothsayers. Over the past twenty years we have witnessed a slew of
mostly fraudulent Cabbalists and questionable mystics running around the world
and telling gullible Jews their future. Many are Rabbis who even claim
illustrious pedigrees. The majority employ a classic ‘cold reading’ – where
without even realizing it, you end up supplying the information to the ‘seer’
who can really only see your wallet – and are about as capable of telling the
future as I am of playing in the NBA. You receive a private audience with these
much sought-after Rabbis and they immediately wish you a speedy recovery for
your ailing back. They tell you they know you’re having tension with one of
your children and that your dead mother has forgiven you for the time you
forgot her birthday. They offer sop and comfort, but ask them anything truly
useful, like when will the next bomb go off in Jerusalem so as to save
innocents from dying – and they stealthily change the subject. But that hasn’t
stopped wealthy, educated, and sophisticated Jews all over America from lining
up around the block to line these charlatans pockets and get business and
personal advice.



We are living in an age that desperately
needs religion. Modernity is only a blessing so long as its technological
advances are governed by values. Wealth in the West has ended poverty but has
brought in its wake soullessness and materialism. Putting the professional
before the personal has lead to the decimation of romantic relationships and
the neglect family and children.



This is why the Bible is more relevant
than ever before. Western men and women need to read of a wealthy nobleman
named Abraham who personally sat outside his tent to welcome wayfarers.
Politicians who eviscerate each other in attack ads need to read of Moses who
brought Pharaoh to his knees yet remained ‘the most humble man who walked the
earth.’ Brothers and sisters who haven’t spoken in years need to read of Joseph
who became the most powerful man alive but forgave his siblings their attempt
at fratricide. Men who cheat on their wives must read of King David who engaged
in the most severe penance after his affair with Bathsheba.



But religion as pious sorcery threatens
to undermine its moral dimension. The Bible codes and mystical, magical Judaism
tell us it’s not the inspirational guidance and wisdom for life which makes the
Bible special but it’s hidden numerology and nascent predictions. You turn to
the Bible not to learn how to be close to G-d but to predict the next property



So let me be clear. I couldn’t give a
damn if the Bible can predict the next President and I don’t need the Torah to
forewarn me that I’m about to become nuclear melba toast. Rather, I turn to
Judaism to discover the values by which I should lead my life and maximize my
human potential. I seek not to discern the future but master the here-and-now. Religion
is a roadmap not to some underlying codes hidden in the Bible but my underlying
G-dly nature that sits beneath my ambition, selfishness, and egocentrism and
strives to come out.



If you want a vulgar forgery of faith
there are any number of religious charlatans  who, for a couple of bucks,
are ready to read your palm. But if you’re an adult then you’re ready for
religion as something that attunes you to G-d and humanity’s needs rather than
focusing exclusively on your own.


Comments read comments(4)
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Phillip Smith

posted October 27, 2010 at 4:00 am

I respect your position, Rabbi, but, contrary to popular belief there is nothing at all wrong with mysticism. To paraphrase theologian Matthew Fox “For centuries, and still today, the Church has been scared to death of the word mysticism”, seemingly attaching it to some sort of, I don’t know, cult, but to me, and this is just my opinion, as I don’t pretend to have any more answers than you do, and, like I said, I respect your opinion, but “it just displays an ignorance of history, and I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true”(Marcus Borg). People tend to forget that Jesus himself was believed to be a mystic. Mystics are people who have vivid, and quite often frequent, visions of God/The Sacred.These days mystics seem to be people who practise magic, and people such as clairvoyants,and you don’t need me to tell you how strongly, and quite rightly, the Bible condemns, it’s sad, as it doesn’t do the term justice. Peace to you, Rabbi, good post, and all the best.

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posted October 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Actually religious charlatans have been around exactly as long as religions and they follow religions around quite closely. The hard thing would be to find a religious non-charlatan.

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posted October 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Beware of anyone who claims to have a pipeline to the mind of G-d by any means what-so-ever. The request for solid evidence will expose them all.

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Shannon Davis

posted November 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm

This may be off topic but I am truly seeking help. My name is Shannon and I live in Eugene, Oregon. I will start by being as honest as I can. I am making the best efforts I can to change my life and improve myself through daily moral, spiritual, and physical habituation. . I was recently released from state prison after serving three years for Drug Possession charges. Due to a spiritual experience prior to prison I started studying Judaism in prison as a Noachite under the guidance and help of Rabbi Shmuel Spritzer of the Reaching Out, Lubavitch Prison Out Reach program in Brooklyn, NY. I always hoped that when I was released I would be able to live a Torah true life and fully convert under a Halachic true orthodox rabbi. With the help of my good friend Dr. Samuel Aluwalanah I also learned how to read basic Biblical Hebrew and I spent time every day not only studying Judaism but also reading the teachings of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi and the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson. I still read from lessons in Tonya every morning. I also chose to participate in college correspondence classes by mail through Portland State University and received As’ for my efforts. This inspired me to apply for Government grants to attend college when I was released. I am now working and going to college full time to accomplish a degree in Electronic Technology. I live on my own and I meet with the only Jewish Orthodox Rabbi that lives in Eugene at least three times a week to study towards a Torah true Halachic conversion. Converting to Judaism is my number one priority before anything else. I know that I am not worthy but I am very happy to have the chance to work with such a fine orthodox rabbi as the one here in Eugene. I know that it is a restrictive religion and that I don’t need to convert to share in the world to come. But I truly believe that becoming a Jew is the only path for me. The shul and orthodox community in Eugene is so small it may take up t! o three years for me to fully convert but none of that matters! When I consider the goal involved. The more I study, davin, and learn to change my behaviors and thoughts the more I fall in love and awe of Hashem. The restrictiveness of Judaism is more of a comfort than restriction. I know that G-d’s will for man is truly for his benefit. I am a firm believer that there are powers that exist in this world that thrive off of man’s iniquities. Most people live their lives in complete ignorance of the consequences that happen in other realms due to every positive and negative action that they do. These powers are not like the Science Fiction or Horror movies that we are all used to. The only books that I have found that even come close to explaining some of the true experiences that I have had are written about the sitra- achra and evil influence of the yetzere ha rah in Jewish mysticism. I firmly believe that these powers in my life were fully confident that they had won and I was not supposed to make it out of prison because they had me firmly gripped. I feel now that they are not going to let their mistake go and that I am in grave danger. I wake instantly at nights sometimes with the physical feeling of energy running through my body and the feeling of dread. I can’t explain it but when this happens I have the mental hallucination of knowing that my life and soul are in danger and that the more I try to improve and change the stronger these forces will fight and that they have me. Do to my experiences I know that I can no longer rely on my family because they have already lost the battle. I am doing my best to live the appropriate life through honest repentance, teshuva and tzedakah. I have completely changed my ways but I know that the more I fight the more traps are set and the evil of the other side are as real as your next door neighbor. I have talked with my orthodox rabbi here in Eugene but he is a very down to earth person who doesn’t really understand. From what I’ve read and heard maybe CHa BaD has more of an open mind and literary history dealing with such problems. This may sound like a paranoid delusion but I can swear by the real occurrences that have happened in my life that it is very real. I am truly scared and I ask if you have any advice for me or can help me in any way before it is to late please contact me by email at or call me at 541-221-3127. If anything maybe you can direct me to someone who has experience dealing with such things or maybe just request a blessing for me.
Todah rabbah Baruch Hashem
Sincerely Shannon Davis

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