The Sephardic Heritage Museum Explores THE LIFE AND ESCAPE of the JEWS OF SYRIA

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By: Eliyahu Saltzman

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, three earthquakes in Mexico…

The recent spate of natural disasters caused death and destruction seemingly indiscriminately. Although we know that Gd is running the show, it is often difficult to understand His ways. Sometimes, we can see a glimpse of how He works through nature. This month we take a closer look at some of the recent ‘natural disasters’ and ask, “What is Gd trying to tell us?”

September 20, 2017 – Hurricane Maria Barrelsthrough Puerto Rico

Hurricane Maria formed on September 16th, 2017 as a Tropical Storm east of the Lesser Antilles. By September 18thit had intensified to a Category 3 Hurricane, and within 24 hours it turned into a Category 5 Hurricane, with sustained winds of 175 miles per hours. It has been categorized as the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Maria devastated islands in the Caribbean, including Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the French island Guadeloupe. When Maria directly hit Puerto Rico on September 20th, it caused massive destruction. According to meteorologists, Maria was a “worst case scenario” for Puerto Rico, giventhe intensity of the storm and the fact that it hit the territory head on. The government reported the death toll at
49 people, but many argue that it is not yet certain how many
were killed due to the hurricane. Monetary damages are estimated at approximately $95 billion dollars. Many in Puerto Rico are still without power.


September 10, 2017 –
Hurricane Irma Devastates the Florida Keys

Hurricane Irma formed on August 30th, 2017 near Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Conditions favored the growth of the storm, which quickly intensified, becoming a Category 2 Hurricane in under a day. By September 6th, Irma reached peak intensity at Category 5, with wind speeds of 185 mph. Then Irma fluctuated in intensity as it hit various Caribbean Islands, including Cuba, on September 8th. The hurricane lost intensity due to contact with land, but quickly regenerated to a Category 4 Hurricane over the warm waters on the way to the Florida Keys. Irma was the most intense hurricane to hit the United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Monetary damages are estimated at over $100 billion. 132 people were killed, 72 in Florida alone.

September 7, 2017
Deadly Earthquake Rocks Mexico

On September 7, 2017, Mexico was hit off its southern coast by the most powerfulearthquake to hit Mexico in a century.

The magnitude 8.1 quake was felt as far as Mexico City and Guatemala City. 61 people were killed in Mexico, and one in Guatemala. The quake hit the southern coast of Mexico just as heavy rains from Hurricane Katia lashed the east.

The temblor was felt by about 50 million people across the country, reminiscent of the September 1985 magnitude 8.0 earthquake, which killed an estimated 9,500 people in and around Mexico City.

This one hit shortly before midnight, when many people were asleep. The states of Chiapas and Oaxaca, home to approximately nine million people, are located closest to the earthquake's epicenter. They are two of the most impoverished areas in Mexico, and were hit the hardest.

August 25, 2017 –
Hurricane Harvey Ravages Texas

Hurricane Harvey formed as a very slow moving Tropical Storm in the Gulf of Mexico on August 17th, 2017. Upon entering the Caribbean
Sea, Harvey began to weaken and degenerated into a Tropical Wave north of Columbia on August 19th. Then, on August 23rd, Tropical Depression Harvey resurged into a Category 1 Hurricane and it began to pick up intensity. By August 25th, Harvey had become a Category 4 Hurricane, with sustained winds of 130 mph. Late August 25th, Harvey hit land over SanJose Island, which is in South Central Texas, near Corpus Christi. More than wind, rainfall was the real damaging factor of Harvey. As Harvey slowed and stalled over Texas, it dropped torrential and unprecedented amounts of rain over low level regions. Harvey dumped a year’s worth of rain on parts of Texas in only a matter of days. Flash flooding and rising rivers led to catastrophic conditions, especially in Houston. Governor of Texas, Greg Abbot, has said that monetary damages could be as high as $180 billion. Harvey caused at least 90 confirmed deaths, one in Guyana and 89 in the US.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, and Natural Disasters from a Torah Point of View

Many people have a hard time understanding disasters from a Torah point of view. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes can destroy property and wipe out whole villages and cities, and many innocent people and children may perish. These recent natural disasters killed hundreds of people. If a natural disaster is looked at in a secular way, then the forces of nature are powerful and awesome, and sometimes destroy and kill. Nature cannot be held responsible.            

From a Torah point of view, however, everything, including natural disasters, comes from the will of Gd. Our Torah teaches that Gd isresponsible for everything, and everything that comes from the will of Gd is good.

Rabbi Earl David taught:

Gd knows the minds of people, and that there is nothing in the world that unites people more than natural disasters, and in fact, when we do acts of charity and kindness, we are performing Gd’s will.

This is certainly true, and the recent hurricanes and earthquakes did indeed unite people where the destruction occurred. Also countries from all over the world joined together to help those affected by the natural disasters. They send money, supplies, rescue workers, and food to the stricken areas.

But we may ask: how can it be good that hundreds of people died? We think that certainly not all of them deserved to die. Perhaps a few deserved to die, but not all. What about the innocent ones and the children? How can this be good?

We cannot fathom the depth of Gd’s will. Indeed, for us
there is no explanation that will make us feel like we fully understand why Gd has allowed death and destruction to happen. The seeming inconsistency between the goodness of Gd and the loss of lives and property is beyond our comprehension. Furthermore, there is no conceivable information that might be offered to us that would make what happened comprehensible. Nevertheless, The Torah and our Sages have given us hints. And even if we cannot understand them, it is important to know what they have said. We will see that what they have said is supported by the Torah Codes.

We read in the gemara that punishment (in the form of disasters) comes into the world because the Jews are not behaving in a
Torah-correct way. R. Eleazar ben Abina said: Punishment comes
into the world only on Israel’s account, for it is said:

I have eliminated nations, their towers have become desolate;
I have destroyed their streets without passerby; their cities have become ruins, without people, so there is no inhabitant. I said,

“Just be in awe of Me, accept chastisement, so that her Abode would not be terminated despite all that I have ordained upon her.”

But [instead] they arose early and corrupted all their deeds’ (Zephaniah 3:6-7).

We read in the gemara another reason for earthquakes – the rumbling of the earth. The gemara tells us that when Gd calls to mind the suffering of the Jews among the nations in the world, He lets two tears fall into the ocean and the resulting sound is the rumbling of the earth.

What are earthquakes? R. Kattina said: A rumbling of the earth. R. Kattina was once going along the road, and when he came to the door of the house of a certain necromancer, there was a rumbling of the earth. He said, “Does the necromancer know what this rumbling is?” He called after him, “Kattina, Kattina, why should I not know? When the Holy One, Blessed be He, calls to mind His children, who are plunged in suffering among the nations of the world, He lets fall two tears into the ocean, and the sound is heard from one end of the world to the other, and that is the rumbling.”

In the Midrash Shocher Tov, there is an interesting exchange, which offers two other reasons. The first is that earthquakes occur when the Jews are not giving enough charity. The second is that when the nations of the world are celebrating even as Gd’s Holy Temple is in ruins, Gd peers towards the earth and the earth trembles.

Elijah asked Rav Nehorai:

“Why do earthquakes occur?” Rav Nehorai answered, “Because theChildren of Israel fail to set aside tithes, as ordained.”

Elijah rejoined, “Although things appear to be as you say, earthquakes actually occur when the Holy One, Blessed is He, looks upon the theaters and the circuses of the nations of the Earth where the non-Jews sit unperturbed, although Gd’s Holy Temple is in ruins. At that time He wishes to lay the world to waste, as Jeremiah 25:30 states:

“Hashem does roar from on high and lets loose His voice
from His holy dwelling, again and again He roars because of His habitation.”

However, He does not destroy the entire world, instead,
“He peers towards the earth and it trembles”(Tehillim 104:32).


Hidden Messages

The Torah contains not just the holy words passed down through Moshe, but it also contains a myriad of messages – some of them, in fact, hidden.

Those hidden messages could be hints to events, persons, or even occurrences in other time periods. Over time, those messages can be revealed with the right tools and understanding.

It was only in the past few decades that a new methodology was developed with the help of modern technology to search for hidden messages in the Torah through “codes.” The codes are words spelled out over the span of many words. Those who deciphered these hidden codes claim that there are hidden messages encoded in the Hebrew text of the Torah, messages so complex that no human could possibly have inserted them.

It should then come to no surprise that all of the recent natural disasters, including Hurricanes Irma, Harvey, and Maria, as well as the earthquake in Mexico, are specifically mentioned in the Torah!

The Torah Codes

Only today, with the availability of high-speed electronic computers, can one decipher the Torah codes to reveal these messages. In earlier generations, before the era of computers, no human mind, however brilliant, could have devised such intricate codes. Since these codes could not possibly have been inserted in the Torah by human beings, the codes are seen as further evidence of the Divinity of the Torah.

The popularity of the Torah codes has been phenomenal. Public lectures, conferences, debates, numerous articles, and entire books have been devoted to the subject. Torah code proponents claim that the Torah contains every detail about the life of every human being that ever lived or ever will live.

The explanation by Torah code proponents for believing that detailed information of this kind is indeed contained in the Hebrew text of the Torah is based on a passage in the kabbalistic writings of Rabbi Eliyah ben Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna.

Since the Gaon is famous for his brilliant Talmudic and halachic analyses, it is not generally known that most of his writings deal with the subject of kabbalah. In view of the pithiness and profound nature of the Gaon’s writings, it is not simple to grasp the deep meaning of his works regarding matters of kabbalah. The simple literal translation of his words does not necessarily reflect their full, true meaning. Nevertheless, a single passage in the Gaon’s writings on kabbalah serves as the basis for the claim that the Torah contains all there is to know about the life of every single human being.

In view of its importance, we quote the passage in its entirety:

The principle is that everything that was, is, and will be, until the end of time, is included in the Torah, from its first word until its last word – and not just in a general sense, but even the minutest details of every event that ever happened to everyindividual human being, from his birth until his death. Similarly, [the Torah includes] the minutest details of every event that ever happened to every beast and animal in the world, every grass and plant and inanimate object.

Particularly important is the second sentence, often omitted when quoting this passage, which shows that the Gaon’s statement is not limited to human beings, but also includes all animals, all plants, and even all inanimate objects. Therefore, the claim of the Torah code proponents is even more comprehensive than stated previously, namely, that the complete details of the history of every object in the entire universe is encoded in the Torah.

Additional insights are brought down from the Ramak:

Rabbi Moshe Cordevaro (1522-1570), alsoknown as the Ramak, served in the illustrious position of Head of the Rabbinical Court ("Av Bet Din") in Tzfat, Israel, during the 16th century. The following piece appears in Pardes Rimonim(68a), the Ramak's voluminous commentary on the classic kabbalistic work, The Zohar.

"The secrets of our holy Torah are revealed through knowledge of combinations, numerology (gematria), switching letters, first-and-last letters, shapes of letters, first and last verses, skipping of letters (dilug otiot) and letter combinations."

These matters are powerful, hidden, and enormous secrets. Because of their great hidden-ness, we do not have the ability to fully comprehend them. Furthermore, to see different angles through these methods is infinite and without limit. On this the Torah says, "Its measure is longer than the world."

Scientific research has confirmed that there are hidden codes in the Torah. The Torah code proponents have scored two important coups. First, they published an article in the respected journal Statistical Science that describes their analysis and presents their conclusion that the codes they find in the Torah text could not possibly be the result of pure chance. Second, they obtained a letter, signed by four highly respected mathematicians, statingthat their methods and conclusions seem sound and are worthy of further study. Armed with these successes, the Torah code proponents have circled the globe, lecturing on the validity of their methods and their conclusion that the Torah codes are a real phenomenon that validates the belief in the Divine origin of the Torah.

A Brief History of Torah Codes Research

1. According to traditional Jewish sources, the Torah in general and the Book of Beresheetin particular, contain a wealth of information in cryptic form. This information is encoded in a number of different ways. One of the ways mentioned is in the form of ELS(Equidistant Letters Sequences). What is ELS? Suppose we eliminate all spaces in the Torah, and consider the text as one long sequence of304,805 letters. A computer then finds hidden words, encoded at equal skips of letters. Statisticians call this phenomenon ELS.

2. In 1983 the mathematician Prof. Eliyahu Rips began to conduct quantitative research into the subject. He primarily investigated the occurrence of words as ELS's clustering at an appropriate place in the text. An impressive example of his work appeared in the periodical Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, Vol. 151, Part I ('88), p 165.

3.In the spring of 1985 Doron Witztum and Eliyahu Rips discovered the phenomenon of convergences between pairs of conceptually related words in the Torah. Shortly thereafter they defined a methodology for evaluating the significance of these convergences. The necessary software was prepared by Yoav Rosenberg.

All the Recent Natural Disasters
Can Be Found in the Torah

The Torah Codes definitely exist. They foretell names and places of events throughout human history –the Holocaust, the Twin Towers falling on 9/11, Al-Queda and the execution of Osama Bin Laden, and of course, the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico,
as well as the earthquakes in Mexico.