|Yaakov Salomon |
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Discovery actually began as a one-month commitment, gradually
shrinking to shorter and shorter time frames to accommodate people’s
Overall, Rood said he’d recommend the seminar because “there’s so
much important information, especially for someone not grounded in