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Parshas Bo (5770)

The Rambam and the Bible Codes

By now I’m sure you are all familiar with the Bible Codes - a series of messages alleged to exist within the Bible text, that when decoded form words and phrases supposedly demonstrating foreknowledge and prophecy. [To learn more about the controversy surrounding the Bible Codes, see:].

Well, even though there are many skeptics out there who challenge the veracity of the Codes, claiming that these are purely random messages that would likely occur in Moby Dick as much as they do in the Torah, we have a mystical tradition dating back thousands of years that indeed the Bible is encrypted with many secret codes and messages that can be deciphered by those who know how to read them properly.

Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570), one of the great Kabbalists of Tzefas, writes in his classical work on Jewish Mysticism Pardes Rimonim (68a): "The secrets of our holy Torah are revealed through knowledge of combinations, gematria (numerology) switching letters, first-and-last letters, shapes of letters, first- and last- verses, dilug osiyos (skipping of letters) and letter combinations."

Allow me to share with you one famous “Bible Code” involving Maimonides that comes from this week’s Torah portion, Parshas Bo, as well as a short story that took place in the 1200’s involving Nachmanides and a different Bible Code.

Maimonides is recognized throughout the four corners of the globe as one of the most famous Jewish commentators and philosophers of all time. He is known more popularly as Rambam, an acronym for his Hebrew name Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon. He lived in Egypt during the 12th-century, and was a much sought-after medical expert, serving as the personal physician for the royal Egyptian court.

But most of all, Rambam was a prolific writer and commentator on the most important topics of Judaism. His magnum opus, Mishneh Torah - a marvel of Jewish scholarship - is revered to this day as the most authoritative, comprehensive codification of Jewish law. The great 18th-century rabbi and mystic, Rabbi Elijah of Vilna (known as the Vilna Gaon), wrote that every person is alluded to in the Torah. When challenged to locate the Torah’s reference to Rambam, he pointed to a verse in this week’s Torah portion (Exodus 11:9): “G-d said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh will not heed you – l’ma’an Revos Mofsai B’Eretz Mitzrayim - so that My marvels may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.’” Here, (as illustrated in bold) the acrostic RaMBaM is formed by the first letters of each word in the phrase “My marvels may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Mishneh Torah, Rambam’s marvel of Jewish scholarship, was composed in Egypt!

When the computer searched the entire Torah to find any other appearance of four consecutive words which form the acrostic RaMBaM, it was discovered that this is the only occurrence! Out of approximately 80,000 words, this is the only place in the entire Torah where we find this acrostic. Amazing! And now for the story about Nachmanides …

Nachmanides, the famous 13th-century philosopher and biblical commentator (also commonly known by his Hebrew acronym, Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman), had a student named Rabbi Avner. Unfortunately, Rabbi Avner became an apostate. He then rose to a position of enormous power. One Yom Kippur he sent for his former rabbi to come to him. When Ramban arrived, Avner slaughtered a pig right in front him, cut it up, cooked it and ate it. He then asked Ramban how many times he would warrant kareis (spiritual excision) for these prohibited acts. "Four times", Ramban responded. Avner, wanting to enter into a debate, said "five." Ramban glared at him angrily, indicating that he wasn't willing to enter into a debate.

Ramban then asked Avner what had caused him to abandon the way of the Torah. Avner told him that he had once heard Ramban say that according to the mystical tradition, every person who has ever lived or event that has ever or will ever occur in history is hinted at in Parshas Ha'azinu (Deuteronomy Chapter 32). He simply couldn't accept such a thing and it led him to reject everything else. Ramban said that he still maintained this to be true, and he could ask him whatever he wanted and he would show him where it is. Avner took him up on the offer and asked where his own name is alluded to.

Ramban went into a corner of the room and meditated for a while, came back and showed him that in verse 26 of the Parsha, the third letter of each word spells out R' Avner. Avner was astounded, and asked him how he could repent for his great sins. Ramban responded that the verse in which Avner’s name was encoded G-d says: “I had said ‘I will scatter them, I will cause their memory to cease from man’". At this point Avner got the message. He got into a boat, headed out to sea and disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.

If, as the Mystics teach us, each and every person’s name is alluded to in the Torah, that means that each and every one of us is as eternally significant as is the Torah itself. We each have our own special place in the Torah and unique role to play in fixing the world, and it’s our job to find out what that is, and to do our part to effect the Tikkun this world so desperately needs. Where in the Torah is your name alluded to ….?

[Sources: Aish HaTorah’s Discovery Seminar]

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