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Shabbat Parashat Terumah| 5766

Moreshet Shaul

From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Prophecy - From Perakim B’machshevet Yisrael, pp. 238-239
 On the topic of prophecy, it is important to appreciate the differing approaches of the Rambam and R. Yehuda Halevi (=Rihal). Rihal sees prophecy as a sort of sixth sense, by which a prophet sees, hears, and knows things that others are not able to. As a sense, prophecy cannot be learned, but is a capability one must be blessed with. Just as one cannot explain color to the blind, so is it impossible to explain the feelings of a prophet to those who are not prophets.
 According to Rihal, prophecy provides a cognitive connection between the Creator and man, enabling the prophet to “see” Hashem as a reality within the world. This closeness to Hashem brings with it the most pleasant feeling a person can feel, and his life becomes focused on maintaining it. Although an individual is chosen to be a prophet, the nation whom the prophet represents shares in the prophet’s stature, which is not intended for his personal use, but to serve the nation. He is the vehicle for the flow of Divine influence and the creation of connection between Hashem and the nation. Those who come in contact with and follow the prophet also “taste” the special relationship with Hashem.
 It is this feeling of spiritual closeness to Hashem that Rihal sees as the major goal of prophecy, something which is at the heart of the difference between the concept of prophecy and that of philosophical attainment, or, if you will, between the G-d of Avraham and the god of Aristotle. To the latter, the Divine is cold and distant, and our interest in understanding Him is primarily scientific and does not obligate the inquirer to act any differently as a result. The G-d of Avraham becomes that which gives man his living spirit, for whom he is willing even to give his life. Rihal stresses the external conditions that need to be present in order for prophecy to occur. Just as in the natural, physical world, a combination of factors is needed in order for certain phenomena to take place, so too in the natural, spiritual world, conditions must be ripe for prophecy to exist.
 In contrast to the above, the Rambam views prophecy as the highest intellectual achievement a person can reach in recognizing the truth. Prophecy requires learning about the world and the person, being able to see on the broadest level and being maximally discerning on the individual level, based on the rules upon which the world runs. It is a bright illumination that allows the truth to be revealed so that the world lights up with a clarity that is normally allusive. The truth always exists; it is we who are unable to see it. Clearly, according to this approach, whatever impedes a person from reaching full intellectual development will hinder his capacity to prophesy. Prominent among these impeders are personality flaws.
 The Rambam scoffs at the opinion that denies the need for a prophet to be intellectually prepared and claims that Hashem speaks to whomever He desires. This is an outgrowth of his thesis that prophecy is the highest intellectual level. It is impossible for one who lacks the intellectual background to become a prophet. The Rambam has no problem contending with the difference between prophecy and the attainments of great philosophers like Aristotle, as he views love and fear of Hashem as intellectual characteristics that work through emotions.
Although the Rambam’s conception of prophecy resembles that of the philosophical approach, he notes the fundamental difference that separates them. Prophecy requires such a high intellectual level that no one can attain it without Divine Assistance. The opening of the final “gates of wisdom” is fully up to Hashem. Man’s job is to break through the preliminary locks and approach those gates. This view illustrates the convergence within the Rambam of the philosopher and the man of faith. It is for good reason that he views prophecy as the pillar of wisdom and a foundation of religion.
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This edition of
Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory
R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m.
Hemdat Yamim is also dedicated by Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois
 in loving memory of Max and Mary Sutker and Louis and Lillian Klein,z”l.
May their memory be a blessing!

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