Tuesday, February 13, 2007

False Prophets

posted by Naomi

Many times we are told that we do not appreciate that which we are awarded. Whether we take out families for granted or don’t recognize our good health, there are many times we don’t realize what is given to us. So too is this true throughout the history of Bnei Israel. Countless times neviim were sent to warn them that they would soon be destroyed. Besides the fact that Hashem had mercy on their souls, they did not follow the proper path. The overwhelming majority of neviim were ignored or not taken seriously, unfortunately for Bnei Israel.

A Navi can establish himself multiple ways. He could prophesize something that came true, he could have a good reputation, etc. (Rambam), but how could someone really know if they were reliable? Looking back thousands of years it seems much easier to point out the false prophets. With all of the commentaries and ideas about our Jewish history, all it takes is a simple look in a book and they are laid out for you. Imagine if you were back in the time of Moshe or Aharon, chances are it would be more difficult to decipher between the real and false prophets. The false prophets were likely to be good liars. For instance, one “navi” could say to a fellow “navi”: “you attest for me this time, I’ll attest that you’re a real navi next time”. It doesn’t seem so easy to figure out who’s telling the truth, especially if the prophecy is for future months or even years.

When we learned Yonah, one of the reasons for him not wanting to deliver the prophecy was because he didn’t want anybody to call him a navi sheker. He knew that Bnei Israel wouldn’t be destroyed (Divrei Eliezer). Similarly, if other naviim were prophesizing of Bnei Israel’s destruction, then it is likely that they too were not viewed as the most reliable of sources. Clearly Hashem had mercy and did not destroy us-what kind of bad name was that giving the neviim?

Sabbatai Zevi was a Jewish rabbi who claimed to be messiah. He caused many to convert out of Judaism. Zevi convinced thousands of people that he was the messiah, when in fact he proved not to be. How can we know who to trust? Like many of you mentioned before, if you heard God call out to you, then you’d look for the speakers. Is this another issue of faith, or is it something deeper than that?


posted by Shira Z.

There are many interpretations for prayer. A person can define prayer as praise, offering, or to enter into a spiritual communion with G-d (Random House College Dictionary). Although there are many interpretations for this word, it is still hard to grapple with the concept of prayer. Throughout the centuries, the Jewish people have been praying to Hashem day in and day out. There are three established prayers- Ma’ariv, Shacharit, and Minchah. But the oldest fixed prayer is Shema. For in both Duet. 6:4-9, Duet. 11: 13-21, and Num. 15: 37-41, it states, “when you retire and when you arise”. From this point Rashi explains that the commandment is to recite Shema twice a day in both the morning and night (Jewish Virtual Library). Even though we have all these interpretations and sources for prayer, essentially what is the need for prayer?
Throughout history, we have seen our predecessors turn to Hashem in prayer during times of need. In Sefer Samuel, Channah, a desperate mother pleas for a child and we see her from the depths of despair call out to Hashem. She begs for a child and uses prayer as a tool to connect with Hashem and let her express her pain. Similarly, Moshe prays to Hashem on behalf on the entire Jewish nation after the sin of the Golden Calf. He, like Channah, is at the depths of despair, and doesn’t want to see Bnei Israel get annihilated for this sin. Moshe used the thirteen attributes of mercy as prayer to connect and receive mercy from Hashem. Later on in history, the story of Purim happens. Again, as the Jewish nation is on the verge of total destruction, they turn to prayer in order to plea to Hashem. They see that they are about to lose their lives and realize Hashems complete sovereignty of the world. All these stories throughout history are very inspiring, but in these cases, the Jewish nations were in time of need and they saw direct responses to their prayer as Channah received a child and Bnei Israel was saved in both the time of Moshe and Purim. But times have changed and there is much difficulty with prayer in modern times.
Today, difficulties of being a Modern Orthodox Jew are exposed and we have a hard time seeing the need for daily and formal prayer. But many feel that the purpose of prayer is to increase a person’s awareness to Hashem and feel his sovereignty over oneself and the entire Jewish nation. Although one may not see the constant need to pray because maybe their life is going fine and they don’t feel a need to say anything to Hashem, we must continue to pray in order to establish a strong relationship with him. But just reading words is not prayer. We must have kavanah or concentration when we pray to Hashem and understand what we are speaking. Although it is hard, we must find a meaning in such an ancient prayer and try to incorporate it into our lives (Jew Faq). The Jewish nation may not see such a direct impact of their prayer on their lives but in reality, Hashem is just as there as he was in earlier times. Personally, I don’t think a single person can state that they don’t have anything to pray for in the modern world we are surrounded by sickness and war. But how do you feel as a Modern Orthodox Jew? Do you feel that we still have a need for prayer? Furthermore, do you feel as if we have the same connection with Hashem when we pray as the Jewish Nation had during ancient times?

Random House College Dictionary
Rashi Deut. 4:7

Prophecy: When do we Need it?

posted by Shira M.

Throughout history, Hashem has had a unique relationship with the Jewish people often through many intermediaries (prophets) between Him and the Jews. These prophets were an extra step to connect Hashem and Bnei Yisroel. This means “prophecy has a social dimension. It is not simply a personal religious experience” (Schiffman, 1). On the contrary, it is something that assists many people. The prophets would guide the Jewish people and help them when they were doing something wrong. For example, when Bnei Yisroel would commit Avodah Zarah, the prophets would tell them to repent. Hashem has a level of intimacy with the Jews. He intervened, often through prophecy, into our lives when we need help, and these prophets gave Bnei Yisroel confidence in times of trouble.
Nevuah symbolizes our close, unique, and special relationship with Hashem; guiding us in times of need and warning us in times of crisis. For example, when Moshe was by the Sneh, Hashem called out to Moshe and said, “raoh raiti et ani ami asher b’mitzraim v’et tzakatam shamati mipnei nogsav ki yadati et machovav” (“I have indeed seen the suffering of My people that are in Egypt. I have heard how they cry out because of the harshness of their slave-masters, and I am aware of their pain.”) (Sh’mot 3:7). Rashi explains that this shows that Hashem has truly focused his attention on Bnei Yisroel’s pain, and that he will not ignore them. This event, when Moshe was at the Sneh, is also a type of prophecy. The Rasag, a biblical commentary, mentions that when the Torah writes the word “v’araed,” in Pasuk chet, it means that Hashem revealed himself. This shows that he came to Moshe to help Bnei Yisroel in a time of need through prophecy. Additionally, throughout our history, we see that many prophets received prophecies from Hashem to help the Jewish people when they needed assistance. Many prophets told the kings of Bnei Yisroel that the Jewish people needed to do Teshuva, and then we would do it. However, nowadays, there are no prophets and that level with Hashem is missing. If us Jews still need that helping hand and guidance, why do we not have prophets now?
Our generation and the recent generations before us never had the experience of a prophet, as they did in the ancient times. Each generation is further and further from Matan Torah. If we are expected to stay close to Judaism and have spirituality in our lives, why do we not have prophets now? How are we supposed to still have a strong connection with Hashem without direct guidance? If anything, aren’t we the ones who truly need the help of prophets?

Schiffman, Lawrence H. "Revelations From God.” MyJewishLearning.Com. 1991. .

Magic and the Stars

Posted by Lisa

I thought the topic of magic was very interesting in relation to nevuah because they are two very awesome ideas: if you believe in them, almost equal in their possibilities. When struggling with the question of how they can co-exist and such, I came across the topic of astrology, which I would categorize under magic.
A definition of astrology is “the study of the positions and aspects of celestial bodies, in the belief that they have influence on the course of natural occurrences and human affairs”. We talked in class how Jews don’t or can’t believe in astrology. The Gemarah bans astrology and calls it a form of mazalot, which we categorized in class as unscientific, and indefinable… Though we categorized mazalot under Hashems hashgacha of us and therefore it would seem good, this case is talking about worshipping the astrology and not Hashem and making it into avodah zarah, which would be why it is banned for Jews. In the Roman Empire, belief in astrology became very popular, and in fact it also shaped many ancient faiths such as the Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek faiths. Perhaps this was when the Jews decided it was a threat and created “fences” around it- like with kashrut. One problem I had with this was that one of the opinions of hashgacha that we learned, which I hope most Jews believe in, is that Hashem controls the entire world all the time and is all powerful. So therefore, why would Judaism ban astrology? If people could find messages or horoscopes from the stars and such wouldn’t we then assume that they are messages from Hashem? Could astrology be another form of Hashem relating to us like, Nevuah, Ruach Hakodeh or Bat Kol?
Now before I let you answer that question for me, you have to know whether you believe in magic or not. Do you?
If not, you are in the company of Rambam. However, if you do, Mekuhalm agrees with you as well as R’ Yakov Kamenetsky.
I found a really cool explanation about magic, saying that magic truly worked and the real question is- why did magic stop working? The answer given has to do with free will ( I know, I know don’t kill me). But anyway here it goes…. Nevuah is so powerful and awesome that without a counterbalancing force we would all believe it right away and have no free will That counter balancing force is magic.
Some examples of this are:
The Gemorah in Shabbat comments that by Matan Torah it was “kapah aleyhem har kehgigat” – but didn’t we accept the Torah willingly (with na’aseh venishma)? The Meshech Chochma says that this is an allegory, and that it means kri’at yom soof and Matan Torah were so amazing that they had to accept the Torah, and so their free choice was taken by these revelations
Also a reason why Hashem hardened Pharoh’s heart was because the plagues were so tremendous that they took away his free choice, and so the hardening of his heart restored the balance and his natural instincts
So now magic no longer exists because the Anshei Knesset Hagedola asked Hashem to be mevatel the yetzer hora for avodah zara at the beginning of Beit Sheni and Hashem agreed. A consequence of this was that Nevuah ended, so therefore magic ended as well. Do you buy into this one? Let me know.


Jewishworker.blogspot.com/2006/01/how-did-turn-blood-into- water.html
Esoteric.msu.edu/volume IV/articles/astrology.htm
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, fourth edition. Retrieved from Dictionary.reference.com/browse/astrolgy.