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?

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting post Naiomi. From what I learned so far about false prophets, I was under the impression that historically anyway, such prophets only appeard when the Jews were in desperate situations. Shabbatai Tzvi gained so much influence and power in the Jewish community after the Chelminiki massacres. From what I remember, many Jews at that time took on the emerging Kabalistic idea of "Yerida L'tzorech Aliya" (There must first be a tradgedy to secure a spiritual victory/ redemption). In essence, desperate times, in reality, call for desperate measures. To answer your question, I'm not sure if I would call this a deeper issue than that of faith, but merely a more societal and cultural one. Personally, I can not really relate to need for a prophet, false or not, but perhaps under different circumstances I would be able to judge more accurately.
Rachael

February 13, 2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Amalia said...

I think differentiating between the good and the bad neviimm is just another decision that one would have to make in life.However, just as making a choice that allows us to take the "easy route" in the long run is not beneficial to us, I think the same could be said for deciding which neviim to follow. We would probably choose to follow the one prophesizing good times ahead. Why would anyone follow the doom and gloom? I think it's just human nature. We follow that which makes our lives easiest, making our decision on which navi to follow obvious. Naturally we would turn to the false prophet for the true prophets were known for prophesizing doom and gloom! I think that perhaps faith has an element on deciding which prophet to follow in the long run its tied with a persons nature. Do we take the medicine even though we may not need it at the moment even though it will help us in the long run? or do we go for the quick and painless that in the end hurts us more than helps?

February 13, 2007 6:59 PM  
Blogger Sara Lee said...

what you said amalia is definatly true about human nature, but i dont think we can choose whether or not a navi is good or bad, well psychologically we can but now in this day anyone who claims to be a navi will most likely not be one. we learned so many times that we are not on the same level as bnei yisrael was in the times of the naviem and we dont recieve prophecy anymore. although im saying this ive always had a huge problem wth this in another respect. what happens when the actual mashiach comes and people will hesitate to believe that he is the real thing? right now when we here of people standing at the kotel claiming to be the messiah we brush it off and just say theyre a little off or crazy. but what about the reall thing? will we just pass him off as crazy?

February 14, 2007 8:51 PM  
Blogger Debbie said...

In sefer Michah, Michah adresses the fact that false prophets exist and they were helping to ruin the Jewish people. If there are real prophets, there are going to be false prohets. Similar to there being Good Rabbi's, and Rabbi's who frankly, should not have smicha (anymore, or never should have gotten).
A prophet by nature is well known, and popular, and therefore has the attention of the people. This is similar to celebrities today: people worship them, and thefore people will pretend to be them. A good example would be the MTV show "I want a famous face" --people getting cosmetic surgery to have the noteriety of looking like a celbrity.

Additionally, a false prophet is likely to tell the people what they WANT to hear.
------Who would not want that?!??!?!

Debbie K

February 19, 2007 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well why wouldnt you belevie them? it says that a navi has to be rich, so that we wouldnt think they are prophesizing for themselves, well known so that its not just us believing some guy off the street, and some times a son of a navi. so why would they be faking something like this? if they have all the credentials of being real and if they dont seem to have any reason for being fake
- esti

February 19, 2007 8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I think back in the day, when neviim were very vibrant and happened alot, it was easier to figure out who was true and who was lying. For, as we learned, many had a reputation, or went to navi school, or had a father who was a navi, etc. Also an added factor, at least for me, would be aura that this person would send me. Sometimes you can tell when a person is lying or not, but not all the time. So mostly, back in the day, one should have focused on the credentials. But today, in the modern society, it would be a lot harder to figure out who is telling the truth and who is lying. But again, I think it is your intuition. People today know that if they started calling themselves navis and talking about how Hashem spoke to them, then you would be critisized and questioned a lot. Everyone would view you as nuts. So most of the time, if a person in todays modern day society cliamed to be a navi, belive them, bc is it really worth it to them to lie about such a big thing. Furthermore, trust yourself to judge if they are true or not and the rest is in G-ds hands.-Shira Zurndorfer

February 20, 2007 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't throw things at me but...

Maybe this is one reason why we no longer have Navi's today?

Bnai Yisroel lost the privelage of Korbonot because they were abusing them. They were bringing them improperly and without the proper intent.

Maybe since too many people abused the system of Navi'im, it was no longer reliable in the eyes of God. We were no longer worthy of it.

Just a thought. Great blog, Naomi.

~Miriam Meyers

February 22, 2007 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Rachael that your blog was excellent, but also with the fact that most false prophets, and I might also add, evil dictators, came about at a time when the people were most vulnerable. Hitler for instance, in my opinion, would never have been as successful during a time of prosperity or economic growth. He was able to easily manipulate the minds of the German people because they were vulnerable. I think that one way of telling whether or not a prophet is reliable is to see whether or not he seems to be taking advantage of circumstances. Now, there have been times when the Jewish people have been in bad spots and a true prophet has come along and given good advice and all was fine, but we must look and see whether or not the words of the prophet seem to be harming anybody. When a prophet comes around and explains why the Jews have been losing wars, suffering from an economic depression, or are unhappy for any reason, and pins the problem on the Jewish people and says that they must repent, then whether or not he is actually sent by G-d is irrelevant in my mind. He is telling the people to improve their ways and is actually helping in the long run. However, if a prophet or leader comes around and says that to fix the situation one must bring harm on another the odds are great that he is probably a false prophet. With Hitler, the second he started pinning the blame on the Jews and other, in his mind, undesirable, non-Aryans, people should have begun to realize that he was merely praying on their weaknesses.
I think that in order to test a prophet one must step away from the situation and look at the broader picture. Are the results of the prophets words going to harm another? Even if he wasn't sent by G-d, are his words constructive and not destructive?
- Rebecca

February 25, 2007 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many ways to ascertain if a prophet's prophecy is true and accurate. First, as mentioned before the prophet must be wealthy and be G-d fearing and follow the mitzvot.As we learnt in class, a navi may not subtract any mitzvot from the Torah. The only way to decide if a navi was false or not was to tell him "if you are a true navi then you must predict the future." The navi then predicts the future and the Jews waited to see if his prediction/nevuah came true. If his entire nevuah comes true then we know he is true prophet, but if even a single detail of his nevuah does not come true then we know that he is a false navi. Therefore, only after the Navi's nevuahs had correctly come true was he established as a credible and true navi.

Amanda

February 25, 2007 12:54 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

I think a very interesting point that Naomi said was that navi's could get together and say ill attest for you, if you attest for me. So, since im often a very skeptical person, id have to say that i bet that happened a lot. If there were a bunch of neviim i guess that in a desperate time (which was a good point that rebecca added) people are more vulnerable and they want answers quickly, so i would think that it would be very easy for people to mistake neviim shekerim for neviim amiitim. however, in a normal time, when the people had time to really think about who was prophesizing in front of them , the people had time to wait and see whos prophesy's were true and then they would know who was lying. but, going back to the desperate times, i would think then, that that would be the time when bnei israel would rightfully turn to the neviim for help the most. Now, since they had little time to act they might have turned to the wrong navi and had negaativly affected their chances of being saved. why would God create a system where when turning to Him, bnei israel could become confused and accidentaly hurt thair chances of being saved?

February 26, 2007 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldnt say that Yonah's prophesizing is something negative because he knew bnei israel wouldn't be destroyed, because it wasnt necessarely what he was prophecizing about, it was really who he is prophecising to and why. For instance, it's not important for us to know every detail of the exile of the jews-who needs to know that women ate their children (yirmeyahu). It's about the fact that these neviim were trying to get Bnei israel to do teshuva, not about the analogies. Therefore, though yonah perhaps knew that we wouldn't be destroyed, we had to know that we had to change our ways. Over and over again throughout history we see that it takes threats sometimes to motivate people to change for the good, and unfortunately sometimes this is necessary. For instance, in the case of an agunah, the beit din can threaten the husband to give her a get. Therefore, though neviie sheker weren't accurate, it is well known that a lot were credible people, and if people were believeing them, perhaps they had a postitive aspect on the things. The goal wasnt the accuracy of the prophecy, as shown through yonah, but of the messages they brought us.
-arella

March 01, 2007 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Shira M said...

I think this is a very interesting blog. I'm sure there were many fake prophets during that time and its hard to answer how people would know if they were fake or not. However, Hashem is the one providing these prophecies, He is giving it to a Navi, and the Navi in turn is giving it to the People. If there was a navi sheker, Hashem would know he was lying, Hashem is the one behind all of this. We learnt in class what different mphorshim say on how to know if the Navi is speaking the truth or not. I think that the people followed these ways and decided if the Navi was credible. Also, if it was a Navi sheker, and people listened, it probably was not their fault and Hashem would be there to help. I do not think it is another issue of faith because the people decided who to trust based on if they were credible people or not. It is hard to trust people in any sense, not just on the topic of prophecies. And since prophices is a very important topic I think trying to know who to trust was a big issue, but prophecy has Hashem on their side and he is there to help.

March 01, 2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger saragaut said...

i think that there are two extremes that never seem to balance out. One extreme is where bnei yisrael becomes so skeptical that they don;t realize what is right in front of them and the other side is that we let people in way too easily. at the same time i think that a lot of jews don't want to except the word of a messenger b/c our religion is based so much on the belief in one Hashem that it is hard to take the word of Hashem through a normal human being. Sometimes however we don;t know when to put our trust in the neviim and trust our instincts. we all kno that classic story of the man in the flood who is drowning. a boat comes up and tries to save him and he replies "no God will save me," a helicopter than comes along, offers him help and he replies, "no god will save me." a raft comes along and offers him help and he replies, "no God will save me" the man in the end dies and goes up to God when he gets there he says God why didn't you save me. God replies "i tried i sent you a boat raft and a helicopter!"
the moral of the story: this man was a jew and the raft/boat/helicopter are the Navi's. Although we must be careful and make sure they are legit. there are times when we need to embrace Hashem in other ways including Nevuah. of course we cannot believe everyone but there are times when we may be drowning and a boat comes along at the perfect moment we need to put our trust in that vessel as hard as it may be.

--sara

March 04, 2007 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Rachel Dotter said...

Wow--great blog naomi.
I think that the theme here is predominent throughout Judaism as a whole--we need to take that leap of faith and have trust. This makes me think of my questions that arise when i think about judaism--I wonder if this religious is the real deal, and the true way to connect with God, or could this just be a hoax set up by someone really clever?? after all--there are so many religions out there, and many are started by individuals--how do we know that judiasm isnt like that? after searching for definitive proof, and not really being able to find concrete evidence thus far (while the Torah is defiently proof, i wonder if maybe thats made up too...), ive began to understand that in the case of any religion, a leap of faith is required. we need to have trust that it is true. Also---how do we know God actually exists? although one can say that God has helped them in various circumstances, or they feel His presence, that evidence is still not defineite--thus we need to believe. back to the main point---i doubt bnei yisrael could easily tell who was telling the truth and who was a haox. thats why in all situations there are believers and denyers. although many people believed in shabbatai tzvi, there were also people who denied his claim. Its possible that some people who did recieve prophecy ignored it (probably thought they were halucinating) or people who might have actually halucinated and told everyone that God spoke to them. in every situation, there is truth and false. it is our job to trust our intuition and trust our gut. the end.
disclaimer:just cuz i mentioned before how i wonder all of thse things about judiasims legitmicay doesnt mean im a heretic, or that they are my belifs, they are just questions that run through my mind as i try to search for a deeper connection to God. thats all...please dont exile me for herecy

March 04, 2007 11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is to hard to determine why or why not a jew in biblical times would listen to certain neviim if they though them to be fake. But i think it can be understandable. These neviim whether they had credibility or not would annoucne life and even world changing nevuot. Though not beliveing a navi because of who he his but the bigger question is how could someone believe spoken words from avergae joe on the street that said that the nation is going to be wiped out if they dont do teshuva. it is the most farfethched idea ever. i dont think that their really is antyhing deeper than the lack of faith. Faith is the basis of everything if one doesnt believe in hashem than how can they conduct themselves in a proper jewsih manner afterall god is the one that supplied us with the torah and all of the torah laws. Faith is vital and if one doesnt believe than they cant move on to the next level. -iris

March 05, 2007 6:42 AM  
Anonymous lisa amy said...

Shira m made an interesting comment that "god is behind all of this" and that he knows who is a navi and who is a navi shaker. So since God knows and is all powerful, there is a very great chance that he placed the navi shaker on earth purposefully. perhaps it was to test bnei israel and see if they were worthy or following him and paying close attention to him at that point. or perhaps it was to punish bnei israel so they would follow a wrong commandment and feel the results. but then why would god punish bnei israel through a system created to bring them closer to him?! so maybe its not to punish bnei israel- i no this topic touches on/ is similar to a part of my other comment on this post but this issue keeps on reacurring in my mind! someone help me out here!

March 13, 2007 8:06 PM  
Anonymous Eliana said...

Alrite this is going to be a very pronevuah post which is a little surprising coming from me. What I think sets the neviim we learned about apart from people like shabbtai tzvi and any other false prophet is that shabbtai tzvi tried to convince people that mashiach was coming and tried to make the jews do inappropriate and nonjewish things (like stop fasting, he tried ot have relations with the torah or something, he was sketchy). I feel like the minute you start seeing a prophet giving messages like that you know you shouldn't follow him. What i've gotten out of class and these conversations to this point is that a navi is less a "seer" than a teacher. The "messages" he gets are more messages to help Bnei Yisroel grow and to be better than anything else. the messages of Shabtai Tzvi were just too radical for proper growth.

March 14, 2007 11:31 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

we dont know why or why not people back in the day trusted certain neviim over others. but i think it has a lot to do with reputation...as we learned in class there are many different things that can qualify and navi making him have proper credentials. these these also attest for a faithful and beelivable navi. for example, if his father was a navi then we know his has historical background/roots as a navi, or if he went to "navi school" then we know he was trained and has the ability for a navi...and so on...such things only add a strengthen a persons chance oof being approve and trusted as a real navi rather then fake.
the same can be compared to today...everyone is more likely to trust someone who has a good name and reputation. comeplte trust in someone can be based on a simple thing like reputation. if u have a good name then people are prone to trusting in u.
also people base many of theire views based on past experiences. for example, we learnt with yonah that one of the time he gave nevuah about hashem destroying bnei yisrael it didnt come true. although (says pirkei d'rabi eliezer)it didnt come true b/c hashem had pity, in the eyes of the people it was just a navi who prophesized and didnt come true, makign them lose their faith in yonah
no one can know just by looking at the perons if they are a navi sheker or not, which is why views must be based on other things which i talked about above.

March 22, 2007 6:29 PM  

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