In News: News Story

Eliyahu Bergstein

Eliyahu Bergstein
  

  
Yaakov Salomon
Yaakov Salomon
  

The Details

Aish Detroit presents a different Discovery Seminar in May. For information, contact Rabbi Alon Tolwin, (248) 593-5138 or (800) Shabbat (742-2228), or visit the Web site www.aish.com/branches/detroit.


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Looking For Proof
Aish’s entertaining Discovery Seminar seeks to apply rationality to Bible study.
Esther Allweiss Tschirhart / Special to the Jewish News

Part show and part lecture, Aish Detroit’s Discovery Seminar drew 300 people Dec. 19 to the Birmingham Theatre.

Many attending had responded to an intriguing postcard that called Discovery “a one-stop extraordinary multimedia presentation that combines philosophy, psychology, history and computer science to take audiences on a journey into the ‘why’ of being Jewish.” E-mail from the New York-based organizers calling it “the Jewish event of the year” created more interest.

With its promise of enlightenment, Discovery is “at the forefront of innovative Jewish education,” said Aish Detroit Executive Director Rabbi Alon Tolwin, whose Orthodox outreach organization, Aish HaTorah, co-sponsors the Discovery Productions seminars.

Three mathematicians at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa created Discovery 15 years ago, said the rabbi. The mathematicians brought a scientific approach to the Torah they hoped would engage uninvolved, even skeptical Jews. Since then, Rabbi Tolwin estimates that “more than 100,000 individuals in 500 locations” have participated in Discovery.

For the free seminars held several times yearly in Detroit, Rabbi Tolwin’s office in Birmingham handles the venue, registration and follow-up with participants, acquainting them with other opportunities to learn about Judaism through Aish.

Speakers at the Dec. 19 event were psychologist Yaakov Salomon of New York City and Eliyahu Bergstein of Monsey, N.Y., a systems analyst on Wall Street. Both travel frequently as volunteer emissaries for Discovery, Rabbi Tolwin said.

Divinely Written?
The presentation was interactive with the audience. The speakers, taking turns as “emcee,” elicited individual responses and often responded humorously. Power Point slides (the “multimedia” aspect) outlined the talk with visuals to illuminate the night’s question: “Why Be Jewish?”

“The basis of our religion is a document over 3,000 years old. Who wrote it?” posed Salomon.

What followed was a rational examination of the Torah to determine its authenticity as a divinely written document, following analytical techniques developed by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.

With Salomon delivering the first and third parts of the seminar and Bergstein, a George Carlin sound-alike, in the middle, the audience was challenged to think about passages in the Bible that might indicate God’s authorship.

Much of the program was devoted to revealing prophetic codes in the sacred text, with Bergstein noting how computers have accelerated this scholarly tradition. He pointed out patterns in names, words and dates that could point to events taking place years hence.

For example, a correlation is found between the deaths of Haman’s 10 sons and one daughter in the Book of Esther and the hanging in 1946 of 10 Nazis plus Herman Goering, rumored to be a transvestite, in Nuremberg, Germany. Strong evidence for the validity of Bible code is said to be in the “Great Rabbis Experiment,” published in the journal Statistical Science in August 1994.

Commented audience member Larry Rood of Southfield: “You’re showing God hid these codes predicting the Holocaust and I’m trying to think of God as being benevolent, and it’s showing God’s plan as evil.”

Bergstein replied, in part: “God may know about this, but we [humans] play out the future as we choose.”

After the program, Rood said the speakers brought a “good human touch to the way they related to the audience.”

Renee Engelson of Birmingham said she “learned quite a bit, but some of it didn’t seem relevant to the topic. What do codes have to do with being Jewish?”

Rood agreed that the seminar had “too much concentration on the codes.”

Discovery actually began as a one-month commitment, gradually shrinking to shorter and shorter time frames to accommodate people’s busy schedules.

Overall, Rood said he’d recommend the seminar because “there’s so much important information, especially for someone not grounded in Judaism.”