Monday, January 01, 2007

The Word of God Came To Abram in a Vision

The ברית בין הבתרים between ה' and אברהם opens with the following words:
אחר הדברים האלה היה דבר ה' אל אברם במחזה לאמר

Rav Hirsch, in his commentary on Chumash, stops on the phrase “במחזה” and writes the following:
Far from presuming to wish to penetrate into the methods of any prophetic revelation, we still think that we may go into some consideration of that which is told us of them in the words of the Scriptures themselves. There is surely a difference whether it says “A spoke to B” or “A’s words came to B.” In the first case A is opposite B, is present with him. In the second case th hearer only receives the words, the speaker need not necessarily be present himself, he appears to be in amore distant, less intimate relationship to the hearer.

Equally so, מחזה. "חזה" is seeing in the distance, or seeing that which is not visible to the ordinary physical eye. Hence חזה [also means] the breast, the seat of the heart, with which, according to the Hebrew feeling for the use of language, one sees the invisible. חזה would be to penetrate with one’s spiritual eye, into that which is hidden to other peopled. But it is nevertheless always an actual seeing, not merely mental. It is, in any way, something that is incomprehensible to, and beyond our ordinary experience. Human words can only be heard. God’s words are heard and seen at the same time, thus also רואים ושומעים את הקולות, they saw what they heard and heard what they saw. This is the highest state that the human mind and spirit can reach, that it at once sees realized that which it comprehends, and what it hears with its actual ears also absorbs at once with its “mental ear.”

How does this compare with what we saw in the Rambam? How does this relate to the sublime nature of prophecy? I have often claimed that true prophecy cannot be confused with voices from hidden speakers. Is this quote consistent with that claim?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like what this blog is getting at yet I am not quite sure that I fully understand it. Is Rav Hirsch implying that Avraham not only had a profecy alone, but had a prophecy in which he is also saw Hashem, deduced from the word MACHZEH. Yet from going back and reading the pesukim I agree with the second idea that the words are what came to Avram not God. According to the Rambam Step one requires the person to be wise, in control of his evil inclination, and have an intellectual ability. We clearly know that Avram had all of these characteristics. After typing that I may back track in my thought. From Rambam it is possible to udnerstand MACHZEH as god came to him since overarchingly Avram possesed the neccesary things a navi has begining his 'career.' In accordance with the Brit ben Habetarim we really, I don't think, can not put a line through one option or the other. At first glance it seems that only gods words came to Avram because most have learnt that god only came to moshe but maybe after fully accesing Avram and his character he fits the model of a navi and their prerequisits therefore maybe god and gods image, not only his words, where seen by Avram.

January 02, 2007 8:42 PM  
Anonymous luna said...

its not working!

January 02, 2007 9:43 PM  
Anonymous luna said...

uch i just wrote a whole one and it didnt work! grrrr. anyway what i said was (and i apologize in advance im having problems typing so there are probably gonna lots of typos) anyway what i said was that Rav Hirsch says that there are 2 differnt kind sof nevuahs. one is from farther away and the other is Hashem talking to you directly. we see this in the rambam when he talks about the requirentms to become a "nnavi". he says that once one completes the requirments he gets ruach hakodesh which is indirect communication with Hashem. and only later on the person may or may not get a navuah, which is the closer type of communication.

January 02, 2007 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that true prophecy cannot be confused with voices from hidden speakers b/c just like Avraham and Moshe both knew that they were receiving Nevuah from Hashem (the true sender of all nevuahs/ messages). It would be ridiculous and impossible for both figures to confuse Hashem for some random Navi, especially after Hashem talked and revealed Himself to Moshe with the burning bush and (above) Har Sinai. Also, to mention the fact that both Avraham and Moshe knew that they were truely communicating with the Almighty One(, rather than some unknown prophet). It's not that you wouldn't believe if Hashem was directly communicating with you- unless if you are not used to it or really confused, like the son of Eli. If you received a message from Hashem, of course you would be taken back and ask numerous questions "why me?", "I don't understand what is going on", maybe "I'm going crazy...", and "are you sure you are talking to the right person?"...etc. anyways, once past all those questions, you wouldn't actually ask Hashem to show you some sort of I.D., would you now...? No, although you might be skeptical and ask Him to show you a miracle or something, if you really are being annoying- just have faith and believe that it really is HIM.

January 02, 2007 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Krestt- I see how prophecy, as you define it by the sources of Rav Hirsch and the Rambam can be interpreted as consistent with your claim that true prophecy can not be confused with the said voices from hidden speakers. There are however, a few things that I would like to point out:
1)Chazon is most definately different from Nevuah, Rav Hirsch is primarily concerned with Chazon and not Nevuah. I apologize, I do not have my notes on the Rambam with me, so I do not feel comfortable comparing R' Hirsch to the Rambam.
2) The only background knowledge that I remember of them is that the Rambam is the Jewish poineer of rationalist thinking, while Rav Hirsch is more of a modern rational thinker. This is something worth respecting in analyzing the two texts.
3)I agree with Rav Hirsch.
There is no need or rather we are not worthy of needing Neviem today and thus Chazon is the greatest level of what is comprable to modern prophecy.
For me, the the quote is most obviosly consistent with your claim. He says that Chazon is comprable to seeing from a distance and even if we have visions (connotating a high spiritual plane)the bottom line is that Chazon is not Nevuah. It would be interesting for me to see if Rav Hirsch has a commentary on the word Navi (or some deviation of it). It is true that Rav Hirsch says that Chazon is the highest state that the human mind and spirit can reach, but I believe that he was writing from a very modern perspective. It has long been accepted that we no longer have Neveim, thus Nevuah is a rather abstract concept to envision. Chazon seems to be as a high a state as a modern rational person needs to envision. Let's face it, Rav Hirsch was a modern rationalist and this is what he holds.

January 03, 2007 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so first I'd like to say that I don't think we should be comparing Avraham and other such people to the other nevvim that we see the NaCh, simply because their environment, situation and purpose were too differnt to be compared. Maybe that can be discussed in another blog.
Anyways, I think this does agree with the Rambam because it goes with the idea that before you get the closest form of nevuah, you need a lesser version (like ruach HaKodesh, which is like hearing the words without seeing them).
With regard to the second question, I agree. I think that when one has a true prophecy, it is not something that can be mistaken The feeling that comes with communication with G-d must be so unique an experince that it cannot be confused with anything but what it is. Likewie, I think the quote agrees. Hearing the voice without seeing it, while it may be a lesser level of communication, is still communication, so it still has the
Divine feeling attached.

January 04, 2007 12:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

preveous post was Laya. Sorry, I didn't realize I forgot my name.

January 04, 2007 12:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this blog was very interesting, and when I read it, it sounded a lot to me like a very vivid dream. I don't know about you, but in my own wacky dreams, when dream-people talk to me, they don't quite talk with words, but the images of what they mean sort of float through my head. It is very rare that there are actual words in my dreams. Maybe, since God talks to people in trances, that has something to do with the "mental ear", the other type of communication that hovers above simple words.

Though I am curious about how you distinguish a prophecy from a good ol' fashionned dream. What if you get a dream that is so vivid and clear, you really think it is God talking to you. How do you know if it is? If it isn't? Is it possible there were many people who were Navi Shekers by accident?


January 04, 2007 4:31 PM  
Anonymous RayDott said...

Rav hirshe's explenation that saying the words coming to avram means that it was a closer connection than if it were to say "Hashem spoke to avraham" kind of perplexes me. i would think that rather than one being greater than the other, there are different kinds of ways to recieve prophecy, both equally valid. if God "spoke" to avram, it seems like that would entail something intimate and two sided. When someone speaks to me, i have a chance to speak back, and therefore placing me on a close level with the speaker. with "machzeh" and the words coming to avram, it seems kind of supernatural, or even through some kind of messenger. if Rabbi Krestts words "come" to me, either i'm really slow and didnt get what he said untill a few minutes later (unlikely to be the case with avram and God), or some other device delivered the words to me. Rambam says that even after someone has achieved all of the navi prereqisites (spelling?) he still may not get prophecy. To me, "machzeh" complicates things, and makes it seem like more of an effort or more thinking ahead on Hashem's part. Avrams nevuah was special, and because Avram was a special guy, he got it in this way.

January 07, 2007 8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

from the word "machzeh" wouldn't you automatically think it comes from the word "chazon"? that's at least what came to my mind.
since we learned before that "chazon" means "prophetic vision" then in this case i would think that avraham only recieved a message in an image without words, voices, or sounds. now according to the rambam, after reaching a certain level of course, that you will recieve ruach hakodesh. so to find out if this quote can agree with the rambam then i must ask another question; what exactly consists of a ruach hakodesh? other than the facts we already know, does the person who is recieving the ruach hakodesh only hear words/voices/sounds? or do they only see images? or is it just a unnatural feeling that a person gets? or is it all of them together or at least some combinations of some of them?

January 08, 2007 9:53 PM  

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