Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The חכם and the נביא

The Gemara on Bava Batra 12a writes the following:

Abdimi from Haifa said: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from the prophets and given to the wise. Is then a wise man not also a prophet? — What he meant was this: Although it has been taken from the prophets, it has not been taken from the wise. Amemar said: A wise man is even superior to a prophet, as it says, And a prophet has a heart of wisdom. Who is compared with whom? Is not the smaller compared with the greater? (Soncino translation)
R’ Yosef ibn Migash (the teacher of the Rambam), commenting on this Gemara, writes the following:
. . . a חכם is thus superior to a prophet: for a prophet only relates that which he heard and that which was placed in his mouth to repeat, while a חכם relates a tradition given to Moses at Sinai, even though he had never heard it [from anyone]! (qtd. in The Jewish Political Tradition Vol I. Ed. Walzer et al. pg. 260)
In contrast, the Ramban writes that this Gemara “means to say that although the prophecy of the prophets – by means of image and vision – was lost, the prophecy of the sages – by means of the intellect – was not lost. Rather, they know the truth from the holy spirit which [dwells]
within them." (ibid).