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Shabbat Parashat Vaeira 5775

Ein Ayah: Prophet Serving as Rabbinic Inspiration

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 1:67)

Gemara: If not for [Chananya ben Chizkiya], the Book of Yechezkel would have been hidden, for it contains ideas that contradict the Torah. What did he do? They brought him 300 jugs of oil; he sat in the attic and expounded [on the true meaning of the problematic passages of Yechezkel].


Ein Ayah: It is a tenet of the Torah that a prophet may not introduce a new operative law (see Rambam, Yesodei Hatorah 9:1). However, the courts of the Rabbis are able to come up with previously unknown ideas which they extrapolate from the Torah, according to the understanding of the court of the time.

When everything is in place and the court sits in the Chosen Place, it is not necessary to rely on information from previous generations, except for regarding accepted traditions known as halacha l’Moshe miSinai. Rulings on matters upon which there are doubts are the domain of the High Court. Sometimes they would come up with new ideas which became part of the corpus of Torah, for the Torah left provisions for a system that included the influence of the Torah and the agreement of the members of the court.

Although prophecy is not able to create new rulings, it is able to see into the future. Therefore, it is possible for a prophet to see that in the future the Rabbis will derive something from the Torah that will appear to be contradictory to the Torah, but will actually be a revelation of the depths of the Torah as seen in their time. The prophecy will reflect these ideas in advance of their being extrapolated, which will remain beyond understanding (which is fine, since the matter is not operative based on the prophet), until the generation comes that will be able to explain it properly.

As long as the aforementioned extrapolation of the Torah is not understood, there may be a call to have the book of the prophet hidden. We believe that the impact of the prophet is positive, but that it could be only in the distant future, when the ability to expound on it correctly will be arrived at. Therefore, if people want to keep the book in use and not hidden, they will need to find someone who can be elevated beyond the level of the generation. Then with his tremendous intellect, along with the Hand of Hashem providing Divine Spirit, he can arrive at ideas that are newly acquired, which will enable the words of the prophets to be reconciled with those of the Torah.

This is what they did with Chananya. They brought him 300 jugs of oil because oil represents Divine Wisdom, which is the reason it was chosen for anointing. This hinted that he would not succeed according to his human abilities alone, but he needed to be elevated by the ways of Divine Wisdom. He sat in the attic, which represented that only because of the dynamics of his special generation were they worthy of obtaining true understanding of Yechezkel’s prophecy. Once he expounded on the p’sukim as he did, it became possible to reconcile the differences between Yechezkel and the Torah, and all were then allowed to learn from the Book of Yechezkel.

When we will merit a return to a full Sanhedrin, along with a Beit Hamikdash and a king, we will be able to use that which was learned as the basis for applying the ideas practically. Chananya, in his time, succeeded in reaching the levels of expounding on that which seemed too difficult to reconcile only when he was in an aliya (attic), in a lofty state, and with the help of the great quantity of oil, representing wisdom, which allowed for the singular achievement.

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