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Why Are There No More Prophets?

Why Are There No More Prophets?

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The Talmud explains that with the death of the latter prophets Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi at the very beginning of the Second Temple era, “the spirit of prophecy departed.”1 Why did that happen?

Maimonides: Lack of Joy

The Talmud states, “Prophecy does not come upon a prophet when he is sad or languid.”2Maimonides (1105-1204) in his Guide for the Perplexed explains that every faculty of a person's body at times grows weak and at other times is healthy. The “imaginative faculty,” through which the prophet receives prophecy, is no different than the other faculties. Prophets were thus unable to prophesy when they mourned, were angry, or were similarly affected, as can be seen with Jacob when he mourned Joseph’s perceived death. This, Maimonides explains, is the “primary reason” why prophecy ceased during the time of exile. For what could bring a person to sadness more than being in servitude to sinful nations?3

Although prophecy departed at the beginning of the Second Temple period, when the Jewish people were technically not exiled, they were beholden to foreign governments.

Wickedness

Others disagree with Maimonides’ designation of prophecy as a mere “faculty of the body.”4 Instead, it is seen as a divine gift. Thus, on an individual level, “prophecy does not rest amidst sadness,” but prophecy does not rest on the on the nation as a whole due to the wickedness of their deeds. As G‑d says about such a time of spiritual failings, “I hid My face from them.”5

Prophecy: Counterbalance to Idolatry

On a more positive note, Rabbi Judah the Pious (1150-1217) explains that the spirit of prophecy departed during the Second Temple and subsequent exile (which we are still in) because the passion toward idolatry had ceased. In earlier times, when the idolatrous priests were performing wondrous feats, if G‑d’s prophets wouldn’t have countered them with miraculous feats, all would have turned toward idolatry. However, since idolatry is no longer much of a temptation, there is no longer a need for prophets.6

Did Prophecy Really End?

At first glance, the statement that the spirit of prophecy departed “with the death of the prophets Chagai, Zechariah and Malachi” seems to contradict many other traditions.

We find numerous accounts of sages who were able to perceive beyond that which the eye can see with the divine spirit, such as Rabban Gamliel,7 Rabbi Akiva,8 Rabbi Meir,9 and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.10

As late as the medieval times, we find a number of rabbis, such as Rabbi Ezra the Prophet (Moncontour, France, c. 1230)11 and Rabbi Shmuel the Pious (Speyer, Germany, 12th century),12 who were given the appellation “prophet.” In fact, Maimonides himself, whose explanation for the departure of prophecy was quoted earlier, attests that a contemporary of his predicted a number of future events, which “proved to all that he was most definitely a prophet.”13

So what are we to make of the Talmudic pronouncement that prophecy has departed?

If we read the Talmud carefully, we note that it uses the term “departed” rather than “ceased.” For, in truth, prophecy never totally left; rather, it was no longer as commonplace as it had been in earlier generations. Yet, there remained exceptional individuals who did experience prophecy, albeit not on the level of biblical prophets.14

Preparing for the Messianic Era

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, explains that this is a crucial step in readying the world for the messianic era. During the age of the biblical prophets, there were wondrous miracles, but the effect on one who witnessed such revelations wasn’t necessarily internalized and lasting. Whatever spiritual awakening came about was almost forced by the magnitude of the revelation.

The Second Temple period, when open miracles and prophecy were diminished, was a time for the Jewish people to mature and come close to G‑d—not from some sort of imposed revelation, but rather from within their own selves. The same can be said, to an even greater degree, about the time of exile—without revelations, we must seek out a connection with G‑d, which comes from a deeper place within ourselves.

On the other hand, although witnessing prophecy has the shortcoming of being an “imposed” spiritual awakening, it does have the benefit of being a powerful, tangible experience of G‑d’s eminence.

These two stages are a preparation for the messianic era, when both of these aspects will be combined. On the one hand, we will experience palatable wonders and prophecy with all of our senses. But at the same time, our connection to the divine will be a natural, unimposed experience.

As the prophet Joel proclaims,15 “And it shall come to pass afterwards that I will pour out My spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy . . .”16

May it be speedily in our days!

Footnotes
1.
Talmud, Yoma 9b, Sanhedrin 11a, Sotah 48b.
2.
Talmud, Shabbat 30b.
3.
Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 2:36.
4.
Abarbanel in his commentary on the Guide for the Perplexed 2:36.
6.
Sefer Chassidim 544.
7.
Talmud, Eruvin 64b.
8.
Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 21:8.
9.
Jerusalem Talmud, Sotah 1:4.
10.
Jerusalem Talmud, Shevi’it 9:1.
11.
See Tosafot on Talmud Gitin 88a
12.
See responsum from Rabbi Sholomo Lura, Maharshal 29.
13.
See Maimonides’ Letter to Yemen (this part is missing in some editions).
14.
Rabbi Reuven Margolis in his introduction to Sha’alot Uteshuvot Min Hashamayim; see also Likkutei Sichot, vol. 14, p. 73.
16.
See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 20, p. 97, fn. 63; vol. 17, p. 94, fn. 20; and p. 97, fn. 34.
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Marvin Finkelstein Kew Gardens hills , ny January 14, 2018

Inventions are point wise prophecy Can’t one say that invention is point wise prophesy .

Here a thought of just the innovation to improve a common process becomes part of a vision for a new life style .

They will be borne on eagles wings , can anybody deny the prophetic vision of the invention of the airplane . Reply

Rabbi Z. USA January 13, 2018

Prophecy Today I would like to add three things

In a famous talk on the subject, on Shabbos Shoftim 5751 (1991) Rabbi Shneersohn who was certainly most knowledgeable in every aspect of Jewish law, history and mysticism, a. quoted that the Rambam said that toward the end of his life (in anticipation of the messianic redemption – in other words, as we are getting closer to the messianic redemption when the verse states, “Your sons and daughters will prophesize“) prophecy will return. B. The Rebbe speaks of the well-known fact, that (technicalities aside – if we simply consider a prophet someone who can see what others cannot, and certainly foresee) the great Rebbes in Poland / Russia (beginning with the Holy Baal Shem Tov ) were; c. It is obvious that the Rebbe had a prophetic ability – in fact, it is fair to say, that he announced based on prophecy, that the time for our redemption has come (this is notwithstanding the valid point of the article that the ultimate connection to God should not be prophecy Reply

Cindy North Wales via jewishmc.com January 13, 2018

What a wonderful thing to read. It affirms the goodness of life! Prophets point the community in the right direction. Reply

sunil subba India January 11, 2018

Thanks for your detailed explanation of the pitfalls with regards to prophecy and the shortage due to the changing times.The ruach lives on and i guess that spirit through discipline could be cultivated so that the inner flame never departs and its role fully utilised.The inner refuge is always within and that could be easily cultivated as its a sancturay from the outside world. Reply

Bob Boise, Idaho January 10, 2018

Amos 3:7 "....For the L-rd Adonai/Elohim will not do anything unless He has revealed His secret to His servants the prophets."
To me, that indicates that every prophecy that needs to be has already been given to the prophets of old. It just takes someone with enough insight to search the prophets to see what will happen in the future for the current world and Israel. Reply

Anonymous Israel January 10, 2018

There are prophets alive and well today.
And they have plenty of powers to see the future.
I am a scientist with patents and I have college degrees at major universities. Regardless if you believe me or not, I have met a prophet. I met a Tzaddik who can look at a person, and he knows their past and their future. I cannot explain the experience in words, for words cannot adequately express. But this man was definitely a prophet with amazing visions of the future. Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico January 9, 2018

As I see this issue now, prophecy has not departed, nor ceased rather it has been transformed. Those who declare the G-d's will for an entire nation or for a simple community, are the Rabbis or the Rabbinates.
This idea has left in my mind a doubt; What is the point of studying the Haftarah for each Parshah. Is it merely a historical curiosity? Reply

Ruth M Coconut Creek, FL January 10, 2018
in response to Jorge:

Historical curiosity? Certainly not. The prophets did not speak out of their own will...but spoke according to the message G-d was sharing with them for the nation of Israel...Some of it has come to pass...but their is still much that needs and will be forfilled. Because the Word of our G-d does not return void. It always does what he purpose for it to do.The question we need to ask ourselves : Do I believe without a shadow of doubt. The Hafatorah speaks of the Mashiah coming to redeem us. I believe with all my soul and wait for His appearance. Why, because He was promise to me by Elohim. Ruth Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico January 11, 2018
in response to Ruth M:

Dearest Ruth,
Let me take this point to analyze; Some prophecies have come to pass, others will.
Like that one of our awaited Moshiach. However, meanwhile our sages have told us we have to work to make this world a better one, to be a house for our G-d, and behaving that way we'll be accelerating his coming.
Our sages, our Rabbis, the Rabbinates, all they are the ones who are declaring how we should understand these prophecies; they are, in fact, G-d's voice on Earth, as the prophets were in the days of old. A prophet is an individual, a Rabbinate or a Rabbis' association is an institution, stronger by farther than an individual.
When someone gets a message from G-d intended for his/her sole benefit that doesn't make him a prophet. It's a grace bestowed upon him.
May our G-d pour His blessings upon you Ruth and have your name inscribed in The Book of Life.
With love and best wishes from Qr Mexico. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, New York January 12, 2018
in response to Jorge:

In response to Jorge At a time, the government ruling the Jews forbade them to read the Torah on Shabbat. They set up guards at every synagogue to listen for the Torah reading, and make sure the Jews would comply.
To prevent the weekly and holiday Torah readings from being forgotten, the Rabbis established that instead of reading the Torah, a portion from the books of Nevi’im (Prophets), related to either the Torah portion or the holidays.
Since then, even when the Torah Reading was once again permitted, it has been the custom. Reply

Ruth M January 17, 2018
in response to Jorge:

jorge, Qr Mexico
May our G-d pour His blessings upon you also Jorge and yes my name is inscribe in the Book of Life. Why? Nothing that I have done but because of His loving kindness. Chesed ! I keep His commandments and Love him with my whole being and love my neighbor too . All who love Him and walk in Torah and believe like Abraham believed there names are written in the Book of Life. It is all Elohim's doing as we walk in obedience to His Holy Word. He gives us everlasting life. Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico January 18, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

Thank you for your time and for your words and for having cleared away my doubt. I perceive in your words the story of the Dreidel that I once read here in Chabad. Since it is a custom, the benefits that bring to us studying the prophets are the same benefits that studying The History brings. Is it like that? Reply

Jorge Qro. Mexico January 18, 2018
in response to Ruth M:

Hi Ruth,
Thank you for your words and for your time.
I hope next year in Jerusalem. Reply

Ruth M. Coconut Creek, FL January 9, 2018

Why are there no more Prophets What? Idolatry is no longer much of a temptation so there is no longer a need for Prophets? I totally disagree. We live in a world full of idolatry. Idolatry does not only have to do with the worship of other gods. It has to do with breaking the Law of G-d. Think of David when he committed murder and adultery, think of King Saul, think of Ahab. I can go on and on. God send them Prophets to show how they had broken His laws. Prophets were sent by Elohim to show the nation and individuals how sin abides in their inward heart. "Our sins do affect one another." Outwardly one can look so pious, inwardly it's a different song.
G-d still speaks today, whether we acknowledge it or not. G-d is speaking today through His eternal Torah, Haftarah and writings. Joel is still speaking the message of G-d. Isaiah is still speaking, Moses is still speaking. Did we listen to the message of the Prophets of old? Even when He sent a new Prophet we did not heed His word.
Reply

Yosef leja Seattle January 10, 2018
in response to Ruth M.:

Thank you Ruth !
Your exactly right. We are to be a called out people separated, and sadly I see no difference between us and the world. Israel as a nation is no different then it was in the time of the prophets, in fact I’d say it’s worse ... we have the Torah and the Tanakh, we have no excuse for what we do . The world at lest has an excuse, it does not have the words of Hashem so they do what ever they feel is right . We as a people have not heeded the words of our fathers or turned from our wicked ways . We have found rabbis and teachers who condone our actions who change scripture, who value a title rather then G-d’s Word . We are still building our golden cows and worshiping on the high places, we love Baal and make ourselves as gods . If we still have not listened to what our father the phrophets had to say in the first place, why would Hashem say anything new now. Thank you for being honest, its nice to know someone out there still has a heart of flesh . tshuva Israel! Reply

Anonymous January 9, 2018

Chabad rabbis have said that 'lesser prophecy' still exists in dreams for example, in various things that are actually divinely inspired,including in people's creative works.

Moshiach himself is supposed to have remote viewing, remote sensing, psychic abilities, an extra sensory perception. Professor Targ at the Stanford Research Institute was a military contractor who worked with N.A.S.A. and documented that those types of phenomena can exist; Dr. Targ, a physics PhD gave some TED talks about the subject which can be seen on youtube.

Rabbi Schneerson had some of such abilities including in his dream interpretation abilities. Reply

Moshe Woodland Hills January 9, 2018

Good people like Daniel were given prophecy but by themselves are not prophets. The prophet was a spokesperson of Hashem.
It was not about a prediction of the future but about delivering devar Hashem.
Some of our sages achieved the level of RHK and that as high as it gets.
But Hashem yitbarach shmo has messengers that he sent that can deliver the message.
But we can remember that during time when we were slaves to pharaoh and did avoda zara (practiced idolatry), Hashem raised us a prophet Moshe Rabbeinu. So can be any day or time. Reply

David Telliho Kalona January 9, 2018

In answer to the articles headline question. Perhaps the delusion that there are no more prophets derives from people not paying attention and writing them of as 'crackpots'. Reply

Jeremy Stack Everett January 9, 2018
in response to David Telliho:

True, the prophet in his own eyes feels crazy. So a friend in Israel told me. Being connected to G-d is more normal than anything else. Don't lose hope. Reply

Frankiel Vancouver January 11, 2018
in response to Jeremy Stack:

Yes, this age is so dark that prophecy is not recognized.
And so the end of the age of prophecy.
But then this greater darkness also allows more stars to appear, if one looks.
G-d dims the lesser lights so the children learn to use their eyes. Reply

Anonymous January 9, 2018

Please include a “like” option. :) Reply

Andrelise Meir ing January 9, 2018

Thank you, this is a thorough explanation. Joel's prophesy about prophesy is something one often tends to forget. Reply

John USA January 9, 2018

I must politely disagree with this article in regard to there being no more prophets. The "Spirit of prophecy" is at work todayーjust as in times of oldーamong those who have kept the Lord's commandments and sanctified themselves.

Read what Moses said in Numbers 11:24-29. He also clearly states that "If only all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would bestow His spirit upon them!"

We all have the opportunity for the Spirit of prophecy as long as we keep the commandments Lord has given us. Moses knew it and he was correct in telling this to the children of Israel, but most of them failed to live up to their privilege to have the same gift bestowed upon them. The words of truth Moses spoke are as valid for us in 2018 as they were back then. Reply

Elisabeth Calgary AB January 9, 2018

Prophesy " passion toward idolatry had ceased" "since idolatry is no longer much of temptation........."
Unfortunately front of our eyes so many Jews turning toward all the kind of idolatry in many different way, Including "Jews for Jesus" All of us can give here so many example. We are living in a time when the evil go wide.
I am praying that HaShem will give real Prophets and "shake up" the lost Jews and to realize that "Jews light of the nations". Reply

Anonymous Wisconsin January 9, 2018

II would think Maimonides had meant; Departed, rather than ceased. When the Shekinah moved away, departing from Eretz Yisroayl, the Spirit of Prophecy went with the Jewish people wherever they went, even to the 4 corners.of the Earth.
As it is written, "....if they love Me and keep my Laws, My Name shall abide among the Children of Israel forever, even to the ends of the Earth."
The meaning of 'Imma-nu-el'.
It's been many centuries since that was written, so I can only imagine how far along the Jewish people are now, as a whole.
But I have seen His Light in all of you, and I know He has been with me by the fact that I am alive at all. Blessings to all of you my friends and family. There is much work to be done before The Age arrives. Reply

Tom Oregon January 8, 2018

To the open question about prophesy after the later prophets: This is my opinion only:
In any generation there are many people who seem to get "special" insights that seem miraculous. I think Gd still helps here and there. In the "old days", there were prophets who were ordered by Gd to speak to the population on His behalf. Big difference. Reply

Stuart Weisberg Wilmette January 8, 2018

Many other cultures acknowledge additional prophets. And what is to be said of the delusional? As a mental health professional, I met dozens of "prophets." Most were truly insane, but some gave me at least a tilt of the head. Bringing me to, I suppose my own conclusion, that it's possible prophesy continues to happen, but we are not able to elevate its magnitude above the general din of society - at least not yet. Reply

Simple Answer NY January 16, 2018
in response to Stuart Weisberg:

People see with their minds not their eyes. They see with their pockets, the relationships, their jobs, their spouses, their likes and their dislikes. They do not see with their eyes or hear with their ears. No you will see no prophets. God never sent one, yet out of god they all came. Truth is not a thought, certainty is an expression of being. There are prophets, you just have to have heart to here them. Most people buckle like a house of cards anyway. The truth is not for the faint hearted. Imagine. Suddenly you achieve a sense of certainty.

What do you do?

At first it is a rush. Then it becomes a burden. It takes over your life. You are in turmoil. You don't know which way to turn because you are trying to create the optimum. Knowing each movement creates a ripple. If you don't act it can happen, if you do you change it and you look like a fool. Then there are those things which are far bigger than you. What would you do with those? What would you do? Reply

Mike Wallin January 8, 2018

More importantly why the lack of profits Reply

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