Thursday, May 06, 2010

A 2010 Scribal Error

A Guest Post By E. Fink

Today, the stock market took the world for a roller coaster ride. At one point, the market was down 9% or roughly 1000 points. Stocks that were trading for $250 dropped below $200 in a matter of minutes. By the end of trading, the market had mostly recovered.

What prompted the intense drop?

[SIMPLIFICATION]: An error. A trader typed M for million instead of B for billion. There are software trackers that monitor the market. The software sensed this typo was a cause for concern and the software began the sell off. Human being traders assumed the sell off was in reaction to the concerns in Greece and the rest of the EU and the sell off worsened. Finally, the market corrected itself as people came to their senses and realized the sell off was artificial and not built on genuine concern.


Typos matter. Especially when others are making really important decisions in reliance of the accuracy of your word.

The Torah has some typos. Perhaps one could argue that we may be making huge mistakes based on those typos. In response, I present 3 (weakish) arguments.

1) God runs the world. Typos that would cause us to sin would not be allowed by God. God would not violate "lifnei iver lo teeten michshol".

2) The errors are irrelevant. Once the Torah left Sinai it was entrusted to the hierarchy of Torah scholars and their best efforts to keep the Torah as accurately as possible. We continue that effort today.

3) The typos in today's sell off caused a reaction by a software program. Had humans audited the information that the software received, in all likelihood they would have caught the error. Due to the gravity of the information, they would have checked it out. We can assume that errors in Torah that would cause giant changes in Jewish practice would have put scholars on high alert and those kinds of errors would not have slipped under the radar. Whereas, typos of little significance would have crept into the Torah.

Search for more information about scribal errors at

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