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The Gimatria of Pi

a short story

by Lavie Tidhar

I first learned of the conspiracy on the fourth of November, Nineteen Ninety five: the day Yitzhak Rabin died. You might not believe me, but that's alright: you don't need to in order to help.

That date, in compressed numerical form, is 04111995. It appears in the 16566962th position of Pi, that number trailing into infinity which is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle: one of those odd constant numbers, like the speed of light or Planck's constant, that define the universe and yet seem almost random, somehow unimportant beyond a narrow use, a narrow definition.

The date Rabin signed his first peace agreement, with Yasser Arafat on the lawn of the White House, was the thirteenth of September, Nineteen Ninety Three. In plain numerical form the date is 13091993. It appears in the 81949158th position of Pi, counting the first digit after the decimal point as 1. A year before Rabin's assassination, American journalist Michael Drosnin discovered a prediction hidden in the bible, with the name "Yitzhak Rabin" read vertically, intersected with the phrase "a murderer will murder." Drosnin wrote to Rabin's friend, the writer Haim Gury, who passed the letter to the Prime Minister and certain senior members of his administration.

A year later Rabin was dead.

It was an autumn day, a Saturday, and the Kings of Israel Square was packed. If it was cold I don't remember: the press of human bodies all around me was overwhelming, and I was soon hot. I arrived earlier in the day, driving from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and by the time I arrived it seemed to me I must have met half the country on the roads: was nobody keeping the Shabbat anymore?

Of course, this was a leftist demonstration, and leftists are notoriously secular. It was an important event, for all of us: showing support in the peace process, daring to believe there might be peace in our time. Willing to get up for once and demonstrate, show our approval of the cranky old man. There were a lot of blue and white shirts, a lot of flags, a lot of slogans.

I found myself standing at the back, next to the curious structure that stands there, jutting over the square like an upended pyramid: the Tumarkin sculpture. There were some people at the top, but surprisingly few, and I decided to climb up there, hoping for both a better view and a release from the multitude of bodies.

It was windy, but the view was worth it. Thousands of people sang and talked and laughed below. A band played on the stage, music relayed by speakers. There was a real sense of hope in the air, a gayness that comes from the unwinding of long-held, unconscious tension.

Next to me stood a short, balding man wearing a plain white T-shirt, a pair of shorts, and biblical sandals. He looked like a kibbutznik, in other words, and I was about to open conversation by asking him which kibbutz he was from, when I saw he hadn't even noticed me: he was holding on to a thick sheet of dot-matrix paper, the one with the holes on the sides, and it was covered in one, continuous string of digits.

The first ten digits of Pi are 14159265. My phone number as I write this is at the 21253299th position. Some institutions have been calculating Pi for years now, almost ever since computing power has become a reality. None have so far penetrated very far into the true depths of Pi, where the numbers begin acting very strange...

'What is that?' I said, shouting over the wind.

The man who looked like a kibbutznik ignored me. I was about to turn away from him, shrugging him off, when he spoke. 'It's a prophecy,' he said. 'I'm here to see if it comes true.' He smiled, a small, sardonic smile, as if expecting me to accept his lunacy and leave him alone. But he spoke in such a matter-of-fact voice that my curiosity was aroused, and I decided to continue the conversation now that it was started. 'What does it say?'

'It concerns the outcome of tonight,' he said. 'Tell me, what do you think will be the outcome of this demonstration?'

'I think it will reinforce Rabin's position,' I said, choosing my words carefully. 'And it might lead, eventually, to a mutual acceptance between us, a mutual peace. It might lead to a new world, where shipments of goods would come down the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia and on the Mediterranean from Tunis and Morocco. A world where you could take a train through Lebanon and Syria. A world...' I stopped. I looked down at the masses of waving, cheering people, and wondered where the messianic intensity had suddenly come from.

My companion, meanwhile, was nodding his head enthusiastically. 'Exactly,' he said, 'you paint it so well. It would have been a glorious, bright future for all. Unfortunately, it won't happen.'

'Why the hell not?' I demanded, caught in the passion of my own words.

'Because when the demonstration ends an assassin will shoot him, three times, and he would die.'

The gun used to shoot and kill Yitzhak Rabin was a Beretta 84F semi-automatic. It was of a .380 ACP calibre. The pistol's serial number was D98231Y.

In Gimatria, the science of Hebrew numerology in which each letter of the aleph-bet is assigned a numerical value, the name of Rabin's killer, Yigal Amir, is 364. The number 364 appears in the 346th position in Pi. It is possible to represent each digit or combination of digits in that infinite string as Hebrew characters, and endless thread of characters that occasionally form themselves into fragments of words and the fragments of sentences. Only an infinitely short length of Pi has so far been explored.


I was a little disappointed. I expected something original, not this. In the months leading to the demonstration Rabin has been vilified again and again by the Right, culminating in a demonstration in Jerusalem where a picture of Rabin in Nazi S.S. uniforms was displayed. It seemed elements of the Right were encouraging violence, encouraging murder. The possibility of assassination was there, but who could seriously believe it?

Nevertheless, I was again determined to talk to the man and draw him further. 'If you know he is going to be assassinated,' I said, 'why don't you warn him? Do you wish to see him dead?'

'Personally?' he shook his head, a little sadly it seemed to me. 'No. But even if I tried to warn him, would anyone believe me? You clearly don't.'

'Nevertheless,' I said, 'would it not be the right thing to do?'

He regarded me with his head tilted to one side, looking slightly ridiculous, totally harmless. 'Who knows,' he said quietly, 'if your version of the future wouldn't have been the better one. I am only here to observe, and see that what was written comes true.'

'Written where?' I said, feeling like I was being led along.

'Where?' he blinked, and looked down at the paper he was holding tightly to as if seeing it for the first time. 'In the words God has left us when he made the universe.'

'Where is that?' I said. I found out I was hot again despite the wind. And he smiled and said, 'in the constants.'

Coincidences make Life possible. Change the relative weights of electrons and protons and atoms will be flying apart. Change the speed of light and humanity could travel to the distant stars. The constant numbers make Life possible. They make the universe work, and allow us to exist in it. And in some of the numbers, my companion on that roof told me on that night of the fourth of November on top of Tumarkin sculpture was that God left notes in the margins.

Beyond Pi lies infinity. Calculate, and the digits behind the decimal point lengthen and lengthen until they disappear into an immeasurable distance. Calculate the square root of two you are faced with the same phenomenon. A different message, embedded within a mathematical constant.

The Life numbers pulsate with language.

On stage, speeches were being made. Below, the massed thousands were quiet, banners waving lazily in the air.

'Why don't you tell him?' I said. There was something about the little man that was compelling, mesmerising. He almost made me believe him. 'Why don't you try and stop it?'

'Because it was decided,' he said. 'Because the future can be influenced, and it can be changed. And for our purposes, Rabin is better dead than alive. And regional peace, as much as I myself would like to see it, is only a short-term achievement. We look at the long-term effects.'

He turned away from me then, and watched the stage. The demonstration was coming to an end; there was no sign of an assassin. I had the sudden urge to grab him by his shirt and demand that he stops this, stop lying to me, stop this ridiculous story that he was telling me, for no purpose that I could see. 'We?' I said, nevertheless compelled to continue questioning him, continue to hear him. 'Who's we?'

And he told me, as on stage dignitaries were rising, and Rabin was being led offstage by his bodyguards.

In the biblical Book of Kings, chapter 7, line 23, a specification for the temple of Solomon is given: "And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about." That first instance of Pi gives it as roughly 3. The Egyptian Rhind Papyrus already gives it as 3.16. Archimedes approximated it to 3.1418. The study of Pi is an ancient one: according to my companion on the roof its true meaning became manifest to certain of the Hebrews during their Egyptian sojourn, the knowledge learned in secret from Pharaoh's magicians and taken across the Sinai desert and the crossing of the Red Sea and into the land of Judea. Those priests, or Cohanim, who had the knowledge began to study it, devoting their time not to scripture but to mathematics: they were determined to reach and to learn the true names of God.

The secret study of Pi was conducted for over three thousand years, but it was only in the days of the Exodus that enough of God's name was gleamed and when His true message began to appear, glimpsed through infinity.

On the fourteenth of December, Two Thousand and Two, Japanese scientists computed 1,241,100,000,000 decimal digits of Pi. They used a Hitachi SR8000 computer, with access to a memory of about 1 Terabyte. Compared to the Cohanim's project, the Tokyo scientists did nothing more than uncover a handful of sand from an infinite shore.

For the Cohanim, Pi was already a wide swathe of the shoreline.

'Hear that?'

I looked at him, and at the empty stage, the departing crowds. We had been standing there for a long time. 'Hear what?'

He smiled, a small, sad expression. 'The gunshots. At this moment Rabin is in the car park. There is the sound of a gunshot, followed by another, and another. Someone shouts "They're blanks!", causing momentary confusion -- who it was will never be discovered -- and the deed is done. The prophecy is fulfilled. The course of history has been set -- at least, one small course, in one small rivulet of history.' The paper he has been clutching all night was sodden with sweat stains. 'Here,' he said, pushing the paper into my hands as if he no longer wanted to touch it. 'It's all in there. As for me -- I was just an observer.' He sounded as if it was himself he was trying to convince.

I looked down at the rows of number; when I glanced up a moment later he was gone. I could see his bald head bobbing several times in the crowd before he disappeared from my view, swallowed by the swell of bodies.

You know the rest. A student, Yigal Amir, was caught and prosecuted for Rabin's murder. In a later testimony Amir explained why he chose to shoot three bullets: "I didn't want any chance of his remaining as Prime Minister. Therefore the first bullet was not enough for me because I might not have hit his spine, that's why I shot to make sure I would hit."

Amir was sentenced to life. To this were added six years for wounding a bodyguard, and another five for conspiracy. In January 2004 it was reported Amir was going to marry.

I need your help.

I need your help in calculating Pi.

There are people out there who have calculated Pi for over three thousand years. There are people out there who make decisions about events that concern you and me. They have the advantage of millennia, and of secrecy.

But I ask only that you read this, and, if you believe me, or even if you are only curious, download the attached program, and let it run. When you don't use your computer, when you're on your lunch hour or on a smoke break, it will work. It will calculate.

Alone, Pi is unknowable. But together we can know it.

And together we will know the words of God.


© Lavie Tidhar 2004, 2005.
This story was first published in Fortean Bureau.

Lavie Tidhar's An Occupation of Angels
Lavie Tidhar's An Occupation of Angels is published by Pendragon Press on 1 December 2005 (ISBN: 095385986X; 90 pages; £4.99).

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