First-hand testimony from Rabbi Yaakov-Mordechai Greenwald:

Since the 1980's the phenomenon of Torah Codes has become both famous and controversial. I, personally, enjoyed the merit of having an association with Rabbi Michoel-Dov Weissmandl, the Torah sage from Hungary known as "the Father of Torah Codes." You should know that all his work was done in his head, without computers – he was truly a genius.

Once, in the 1950's, I visited him at his Mt. Kisco NY community in the month of Adar, a short time before Purim. He asked me, "Did I ever tell you how many letters there are in Megilat Esther?"

"No," I replied; "I have no idea."

"Well, I know," he continued. "There are 12,196 letters in it altogether."

"...Is there significance to this number?"

"That's incredible," I responded. "But what do we do with this information? Is there significance to this number?"

He smiled. "Bring me a Chumash ["Five Books of Moses" in the original Hebrew]," he said. I brought one to him, whereupon he told me:

"Starting from the first instance of the letter alef (the third letter in the first word of the Torah – Ed.), if you count an interval equal to the number of letters in Megilat Esther—12,196 — you arrive at a letter samech. If you continue another 12,196 letters you get to a letter tof; and if you keep going for another 12,196 you land on a letter reish. And, of course, alef-samech-tof-reish spells Esther! Is this not amazing?"

"It certainly is," I answered enthusiastically. And then I added with a grin, "but is there a connection to Mordechai too? Otherwise, he may feel bad."

He looked crestfallen. "I don't know. Yet. Try me again next year."

The next Adar I made sure to visit Rabbi Weissmandl again. "What about Mordechai?" I asked.

"I also found a hint to Mordechai," he announced. "Our Sages pointed out that there is a hint to Mordechai in the Torah, where the verse states, 'You shall take the finest fragrances: 'mor dror…' [myrrh]."

['Mor dror' has the same first two syllables as 'Mordechai,' and its Aramaic translation by Onkeles, 'mira dichya,' has the same consonants in the same order as 'Mordechai.' The verse is Exodus 30:23, which is in the Torah portion that in most years is read in the week in which Purim occurs! Similarly, in that same Talmudic passage the Sages identified a hint to Esther - in Deuteronomy 31:18 and to Haman - in Genesis 3:11 - Ed.]

He continued: "Now, if from the letter mem in mor dror in that verse you count forward the number of letters in the Megilah, you come to a reish. And if you keep counting successively 12,196 letters you will get a dalet and then a chof and then a yud – spelling out Mordechai! This is truly even more amazing."


A number of years ago, a young Jewish woman appeared at our house. She was not observant, but had recently attended an introductory seminar about Judaism. She was a very intelligent and learned person, and her rapid-fire questions had given the rabbis a lot of difficulty. When the seminar ended, they recommended to her to visit me. My wife and I invited her to come one week-night for dinner and to stay over.

After the meal we entered into a discussion, at her request. She asked all of her questions, and added that she does not believe that the Torah is from G‑d, stating categorically that this is a concept impossible to accept or even grasp.

I told her what Rabbi Weissmandl had showed me about the Esther and Mordechai intervals. She paid close, un-blinking attention. Afterwards she asked to be excused and retired to her room.

The next morning she emerged red-eyed and exhausted looking.

The next morning she emerged red-eyed and exhausted looking. I asked her what was the matter. She said that she had been up nearly the entire night on the portable computer which she carried everywhere and had brought with her. Her field was mathematics and computer science, and she had determined to devise a program to calculate the possibility of such a thing occurring naturally. It took many hours, and the inescapable conclusion she was forced to concede was that the odds were so astronomically vast against that it had to be considered impossible.

Many years after the above incidents, after the chupah ceremony at a wedding where I had been invited to recite a blessing, a woman I didn't recognize called out to me by name. "Excuse me," I said to her, "I don't know you. Who are you?"

"I am 'Mordechai and Esther'," was her surprising reply. "I wanted you to see that I cover my hair. I have a husband who is very religious and studies in a Kollel [advanced yeshiva for married students], and we have children that attend yeshiva schools. I thought you would be pleased…."

Connections to this week: Purim and the Weekly Torah Reading.


Translated and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Ner l'Shulchan Shabbat" #277, given to me on Shushan Purim 5770 in Old City Jerusalem.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Chaim Michoel Dov Weissmandl [1903 – 6 Kislev 1957] made extraordinary but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to save the Jews of Slovakia during the Holocaust. A survivor himself, he moved to the USA and in 1946 founded the Nitra yeshiva in Somerville, New Jersey, an attempt to inaugurate a Talmudic agricultural community. He subsequently moved the yeshiva to Mt. Kisco, NY, where it and the community around it still exists and flourishes. Today he is best known for his pioneering work on Torah Codes in an era before computers.

Editor's note: The "Personal Torah Codes" team in the Ascent Multi-media Center was not able to duplicate the above results from the same starting places, but they did find "Esther" and "Mordechai" at the cited interval in different locations.

Also, some "codes" programs yield a different number of letters for Megilat Esther, such as 13,408 and 12,110. "Esther" and "Mordechai" can be found at these intervals too.