Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Prophets and Prophecy -- What They Are, What They Aren't

I once visited the Grand Canyon; which I found to be a truly awe inspiring experience.  An experience so overwhelming, in fact, that I found even saying the bracha of "עושה מעשה בראשית" (Who does the work of creation) was too much for me while looking directly at this wonder of nature.   I tried saying the brach -- with the siddur open in front of me -- and could only barely stammer out some words.  I found that I had to look directly at each word and concentrate fully on just saying it correctly; that got me through.  Apparently I wasn't the only one who found the experience so awe inspiring, a young man dressed and looking like any other tourist (as opposed to me, in my standard white shirt and black pants) walked over to me to ask what was the appropriate bracha!

When first looking at the canyon, I couldn't really wrap my mind around the fact that it was real.  I had seen canyons before, of course, but this didn't fit even my wildest extrapolation from earlier experiences.  The most accurate description I have been able to muster is: that Grand Canyon is an upside down mountain range.  I don't know if that works for everyone, but it does as good a job as possible for me of capturing the experience.

I mention all this (besides to encourage you to see the Grand Canyon before you leave this world) to give some idea of what the prophetic experience is.  First, it is important to realize that (as Chazal tell us) there were 1,200,000 prophets (600,000 men and 600,000 women).  There were schools of prophecy; basically post-graduate work after yeshiva.  A prophet is not someone who has been designated to deliver a message from HaShem to the world  A prophet is, rather, someone who has refined himself to the point that he is able to see into (some of) the spiritual reality that this physical world masks.  The experience is overwhelming, and while the prophet is experiencing that experience, he is unable to move or even stand.  Since the experience is beyond anything physical, he can only relate what he saw by analogy.  He knows, of course, precisely what he is trying to describe, but picture is fully meaningful only to him.  That is why a prophet might see something as mundane as a boiling cauldron that means "war is brewing", but he might also see a winged lion referring to the rise of the Persian empire.

So why are prophets associated with messages from HaShem?  Simply because only one who has reached the level of prophecy can receive a communication from HaShem.  It is not the fact that HaShem give him a message that makes him a prophet, it is rather the fact that he is a prophet that HaShem gave him a message to deliver.  Why do we believe a prophet?  Because he has the credentials that the Torah lists as requirements,  Why should I believe the Torah?  Wasn't that also delivered to us by a prophet; ie, Moshe Rabeinu?  In fact, and this is an emphatic in fact, the only reason we believe the Torah is because the entire nation was raised to the level of prophets and received the Torah straight from HaShem with no intermediary.

This is of critical importance and separates us from the religions of the world.  We believe the Torah because it was given to us -- each and every one of us -- directly by the Creator.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…