Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Shalit in Thillim?

There are a few systems for the regular recitation of Tehillim. Some divide the whole book by 30 and finish it every month; others divide it by 7 and complete it once a week. Those on the weekly system read chapters 51-72 today, and in chapter 60 the word "Gilead" appears in the sentence following the word Sukkos.  [Gilad Shalit was freed today, Tuesday, during the Sukkos holiday]


This is a classic example of the sharpshooter's fallacy. PLEASE DO NOT BE IMPRESSED BY IT. 

Here's Wikipedia explaining why this "discovery" is insignificant: The Texas sharpshooter fallacy is a logical fallacy in which information that has no relationship is interpreted or manipulated until it appears to have meaning. The name comes from a joke about a Texan who fires some shots at the side of a barn, then paints a target centered on the biggest cluster of hits and claims to be a sharpshooter...The fallacy is related to the clustering illusion, which refers to the tendency in human cognition to interpret patterns in randomness where none actually exist.

On Tuesday 22 chapters of Tehillim are read. These 22 chapters contain hundreds, if not thousands of words.

Even without using  the name "Gilad" it would still be possible to "find" a prediction among the different word and letter combinations (I say letter combinations because the truly creative find such predictions using Roshei Tevot) that fit today's news. For example:
  • The word "save" appears 19 times in the Tuesday Pslams. All of these mentions can plausibly be linked to something Shalit related. For instance: Psalm 59 "Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me./ Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody me
  • Psalm 69, read on Tuesday, mentions the word prisoner and is a heartfelt plea for rescue "from the mire" and defeat of enemies and adversaries.
  • Psalm 70 contains this appropriate line:  MAKE HASTE, O GOD, TO DELIVER ME; MAKE HASTE TO HELP ME, O LORD.
Its really pretty easy to pull this trick -- especially if you want words that relate to someone being saved or rescued as this is one of the primary themes of the book. And just as such examples abound among the Tuesday Psalms, they can be found every day, in every group of Psalms. If you're motivated and imaginative you can always find a way to make it work, and "discover" the prediction you're seeking, no matter what the situation might be.

For example, if someone named Ephraim or Menashe is ever harmed by a resident of Shchem on a Tuesday (or on the 11th day of the month)  you could claim, thanks to this system that the attack was foretold. Both Ephraim or Menashe appear in this Psalm in close juxtaposition to the word Shchem. Of course this coincidence of juxtaposition might also mean that Ephraim or Menashe are supposed to marry a girl from Shchem... or find a job in Shchem... or.... I think you see the problem.

Moreover, if you thought the trade for Shalit was a terrible idea, you can find "proof" of your opinion using the same system.

On Sukkos we read Koheles. In chapter 8 of that book we find Gilad's name אֵין אָדָם שַׁלִּיט בָּרוּחַ closely juxtaposed to a warning against letting people out of jail to soon: (!)
When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong / אֲשֶׁר אֵין-נַעֲשָׂה פִתְגָם, מַעֲשֵׂה הָרָעָה מְהֵרָה
See? Fun, fun. Fake, fake.

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