April 24, 2019

The Man Who Rewrote the Torah

Saul Sadka, the 37-year-old single socialite from Tel Aviv who claims to have discovered the "2,500-year-old forgotten structure of the Torah."

“If some guy told you he had discovered the 2,500-year-old forgotten structure of the Torah, you’d think he was crazy, right?”

This was the question posed by Saul Sadka, a 37-year-old single socialite from Tel Aviv who claims to have indeed discovered this structure. 

Originally from northwest London, Sadka is an Iraqi-Ashkenazi hybrid and a descendant of the father of Chasidism, the Baal Shem Tov. When he moved to Tel Aviv nine years ago, he didn’t know a soul. Undeterred by the fact that he wasn’t being invited for Shabbat meals, Sadka started inviting people to his own table. 

Before long, he was hosting 30 to 40 people every week and decided he should inject some Torah into the meals to counterbalance the flirting and drinking. He began researching lectures on the internet and stumbled across a video of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, discussing the structure of the book of Deuteronomy reflecting that ancient convenant. Sadka stayed up all night summarizing Deuteronomy into bullet points and found that he was able to distill it into 13 narrative chunks. 

Two months later, he did the same thing with the Book of Genesis and found that story also divided clearly into 13 sections. His heart racing, Sadka set to work on Exodus and Leviticus, and within a day came up with the same result. The Book of Numbers, however, totally threw him off until he realized that the backward Hebrew letter “nun” acted as a divider, making it four separate books. 

It wasn’t long before Sadka had formulated a comprehensive chart showing that the Torah was divided into 80 sections with patterns of 13 and 8. “Wherever I looked, I saw that these patterns repeated deeper and deeper into the text,” he said.

As outlined by the late philanthropist and biblical scholar Rabbi Solomon Sassoon, 13 is the recognition of monotheism and the oneness of God while 8 represents the covenant, Sadka said. The current division of the Torah into weekly portions was never intended to be a system for study, he added. Rather, it was to reach textual milestones at specific times of the year. 

“Anyone who believes in the unity of the Torah would have to agree that there must be some sort of structure.” — Saul Sadka  

Likewise, the existing chapter and verse divisions are the invention of a Christian archbishop, Stephen Langton, and only became universal with the proliferation of the printed Bible in the early 17th century. That being the case, Sadka said, it seemed completely implausible that an 80,000-word text always lacked an inherent overarching format. “Certainly, anyone who believes in the unity of the Torah would have to agree that there must be some sort of structure.”  

“At some point,” he added, “it struck me that if I was right, then I had accidentally stumbled on possibly the most important discovery in the study of the Torah in recent times.” 

Sadka has laid out his theory in a book, “The Eighty Steps of the Torah,” which will be released in Hebrew this month and in English in April.  

Sadka, who spent three years at the ultra-Orthodox Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem 15 years ago, lamented the fact that in the yeshiva world, the study of Torah and the Tanakh is deemed unimportant and takes a back seat to the study of the oral Torah, the Talmud. 

He added that Orthodoxy today is plagued with a malaise in which virtue signaling through the type of kippah one wears is more important than knowing the Bible. “To me, it’s very sad,” Sadka said. “It seems like we’ve lost our attachment to our source text.”