Sunday, October 29, 2006


Posted by Tova

Moshe, who we all know as a prophet, is only first called a prophet in D’varim 18:15; 34:10. Moshe is distinguished from all other nevi’im by God’s revealing Himself directly to him, while He only revealed Himself to other prophets through a vision or dream. This distinction is made between prophecy and dreams because of the common belief that gods communicate to humans by means of dreams (Encyclopedia Judaica). In D’varim 13:2 dreams are directly linked to prophecy which is where we get the concept of prophecy through dreams. However, there are times in the Torah where prophecy through dreams in looked down on, for example, in Yirmiyahu 27:9 where he tells the people not to listen to prophecy through dreams for it can be seen as false. Secondly in Zecharia 10:2 the same idea is told to the people- “dreamers speak lies and console with illusion.” This negativity portrayed in Yirmiyahu and Zecharia may explain why Moshe received direct prophecy, for since he was a higher level prophet, Hashem did not want him to be doubted as a false prophet.

Prophecy in the Torah can be split into two types. First are the prophecies that are meant to foretell future events. For example, Yosef had a dream that eleven stars and the moon bowed down to him; As Yosef interpreted, this was symbolic of his family bowing down to him which indeed came true when he ruled in Mitzrayim. The second category of prophecy is a direct message from God. For example, right before Yaakov ran away from Israel, he had a dream where angels were going up and down a ladder; this was a message from Hashem that He would always be with Yaakov.

One must be sure to note that dreams in the Torah are different then prophecies. Prophecies were only given to selected known prophets, who because of their status were treated with great respect and were considered to be on a higher level of kedusha, such as Moshe. You can make the distinction through the usage of words- if the Torah uses the world “chalom” it is a regular dream, however if it uses the word “chazon” it is a prophecy through vision (Otzar Yisrael Encyclopedia).

In the G’mara there are many different views on the topic of dreams. Most of the rabbis view dreams as a revelation from G-d, while others view dreams more seriously saying that the event of a dream is so powerful that it can be seen as near reality. And of course there is the opinion on the opposite end of the scale which says that dreams and practically completely irrelevant and insignificant (Universal Jewish Encyclopedia).

This is the view on dreams in the Torah. As you can see dreams were taken very seriously when they appeared in the Torah; however, nowadays since we don’t have prophecy, how might the meaning of dreams have changed? Do dreams have any significance today?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Prophetic Experience

Posted by Amanda

As we learnt in class, a navi had to prepare himself intensively in order to qualify as a navi. He had to control his emotions and delve into the spiritual. He also had to be wealthy and independent. However, according to Aryeh Kaplan's book on the Thirteen Principles of Faith, once a navi qualified for nevuah, he received his nevuah through a traumatic experience, which made the prophet's limbs tremble, his body would become faint, and he loses control of his thoughts. In addition, he received his nevuah in the form of an allegory along with its interpretation. For example, Yaakov saw a ladder with angels going up and down on it. This was an allegory for the four nations that would rule the Jews. A navi also had to be extra careful in interpreting his nevuah because according to Rambam in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah ch. 7 if a navi misinterprets even detail in his/her nevuah then he/she is considered a false prophet. Finally, a navi could only receive a nevuah when he was happy. Therefore, he would have people play music for him when he wanted a nevuah.

Why do you think the navi had to go through a traumatic experience when he received a nevuah? Wouldn't you think the navi would not go through a traumatic experience since he is on a high spiritual level? Why do you think the navi received his nevuah in the form of an allegory plus its interpretation? What is the purpose of the allegory? Why did the navi have to be happy to receive his nevuah?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Here's another comment that should trigger some varied responses:

"I totally agree with all of the points-but the point about"nevuah l'dorort" often confuses me-aren't all nevuot somehow directly realtedto some social/ethical/political quandary that we can realte to today? Another thing I was thinking about...Perhaps we only began to keep neviim as they began to get more sparce, when they became mreo special. Kind of like the special attention we give to endangered species. And if perhap the people themselves werent' sparc3e, perhaps there were few nevuahs with "eternal" meaning. (This can be compared to hashem's CONSTANT interfrence with bnei yisrael in the desert and their failure to be "impressed" with it-perhaps it was the overabundance of miracles that densensitized them from G-d's wonders..?)"

Escaping Fate

I saw this comment, and felt that I had to share it with you not only because it's a great comment but also because I thought it would spark some interesting conversations.

"I skimmed over everyone's comments and they all seemed to be saying what first came to my mind: the exceptions of Pikuach Nefsh. But to me, there seems to be a greater message/issue in Hashem's disapproval of Yonah's actions.

According to some Meforshim, a.k.a the Malbim and Rashi, Yonah ran away for the good of the Jewish people. He was trying to stop Ninveh from destroying the Jews, according to Malbim, and from making teh Jews look bad, according to Rashi.

Yet, God clearly says this is the wrong thing to do. No matter what his intentions were, Yonah was wrong for thinking he could escape God and the Nevuah.

This reminds me of the plays some of us are reading in AP lit: Oedipus and Anigone. In each, fate plays an extremely important role. The characters try to deny/escape their fate, but in the end this action really only ends up screwing them over, and causing their fate to happen anyway. The gods in these plays have a clear message: your fate is set, and you can't escape it; trying to escape it would be wrong, no matter the intentions.

Yet, in history, God has made it possible for jews to escape fate many times.Their fate was set; Haman had picked the day where they were to be killed. In esther , for example, God positions Esther in such a way that she can convince Achashverosh to kill Hamna and save the Jews. Then again, Esther tried to avoid her fate when she argues with Mordechai because she doesn't want to risk her lfie for the sake of the Jewish people.

Here, i think we can see the distinction. God allows for changes in fate when it benefits people/the Jewish people; but when it does not benefit them, or rather harms them, he does not allow for anyone to avoid their fate.

Yet, we still have the problem of Yonah having good intentions, and wanting to help the Jews.

I think the problem with Yonah was not the actual running away or avoiding the Nevuah. i think it was his lack of trust and faith in God. He believed God would allow Ninveh to destroy the Jews flat out; they would be extinct from the world. This shows a clear misunderstanding of God and his relationship with Bnei Yisroel. hte persecution by Ashor is just part of the bigger plan god has in store for the Jewish people.

THerefore, the difference between Yonah and everyone else is that Yonah didn't understand God or his intentions, while everyoenn else did."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Islam's Take on Prophecy

Thanks to Debbie for finding this link which gives us a perspective of how at least one Muslim understands the concept of prophecy.

While we clearly don't accept everything he writes, (even beyond the obviously Muslim content at the end), Imam Chirri does raise some interesting points.

Any thoughts?

(FYI, you can find out more about Imam Chirri here.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Era of Miracles & Prophecy

“If it could happen, then it’s not a miracle”

If we are to understand miracles, then we must first realize that Hashem’s essence is in direct contrast with nature and natural law. Hashem, as it were, cloaks himself behind nature. 99% of the time, Hashem’s influence in the world is subtle and often not felt at all. This is intentional; Hashem set up natural systems specifically so that he would not have to interfere in the course of events. These systems include the laws of nature, so-called “laws of nations,” and human nature.

But we must remember that underneath these systems is still God’s direct control. Periodically, He needs to break through nature and directly interfere. These interferences we call “supernatural” occurrences. defines “supernatural” in the following way: “of, pertaining to, or being above or beyond what is natural; unexplainable by natural law or phenomena; abnormal.” And this is entirely the point.

But it is hard to believe in the possibility of something beyond nature. This is true not only because is it beyond our personal experiences, but because there have been few true miracles for over 2,000 years. Was there never such a thing as a true miracle, or – for some reason – has God changed the way He involves Himself with the world?

When one looks at Tanach, one inevitably comes away with the following question: “Don’t the Jews get it? Idol worship is bad, and the inevitable consequence is disastrous. Why don’t they learn?” This question can only be asked from our perspective. While we still have people who are technically idol-worshippers, Chazal teach us that the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah eliminated the desire (or perhaps “lust” is more apt) for avodah zarah. Apparently, when people worshipped idols during the Biblical period, there was some reciprocal ecstatic feeling that the worshipper came away with. Consequently, we must compare the Jews’ desire for avodah zarah to an addict’s desire for his drug of choice.

But again, our gut reaction is skepticism. Can it be that this too has changed? The answer, if we are to take Tanch seriously, must be a resounding yes. In the Biblical era, the divide between the Natural and Supernatural worlds was smaller than it is now. On the positive side, there were more miracles, there was prophecy, and people lived with a constant awareness of the supernatural. On the other hand, there were negative supernatural powers: necromancy, the dark magic of the Egyptian chartumim, and the ecstasy of idol-worship.

The Anshei K’neset HaGedola felt that the risks outweighed the benefits. They davened to Hasehm, and the divide between the two worlds was made greater. A new age emerged, one that wages philosophical war in terms of rationalization not revelation. The era of miracles, magic, prophecy, and idol-worship has ended. From this point on, the encounter of man wit nature is waged in the intellect. From this early period, we get both the rise of Greek philosophy and the logic of the Mishna and the Talmud. Revelation is gone, and we must not forget it.

But just because we don’t have it, doesn’t mean that it’s not real. When we talk about something like prophecy, we look for something in our own experience to compare it too. The best we are able to come up with is a disembodied voice. Yes, if we heard something like that we would look for hidden speakers. But prophecy is much more than that. It was a full body experience, both visual and auditory. In fact, (with one exception) every prophet seems to have immediately recognized the prophetic experience as a divine revelation. It did – and could not – be confused with “speakers behind a bush”.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What Happened to the Other Prophets?

Thanks to Laya for volunteering

We learned in class that there were 1.2 million neviim (double the amount of people at yitziat mitzraim). However, we only know of 50 neviim. What happened to the other prophets?

Perhaps their prophecies were not eternal (we mentioned earlier in the blog that the prophecies we know of can be applied in future times). Maybe their prophecies were similar to those of the known prophets, just not as effective (In the sense of not as powerful/moving because, for the most part, prophets are not so successful). Or maybe they had sinned/rebelled and were then punished by not be recognized as a prophet (although I think we would know about this if it happened). Just something I was thinking about.

Any other ideas?