Jeffrey Kimball is a lawyer and an active member of the Lubavitch community in Springfield, Mass. When asked to describe his connection with the Rebbe, he tells a story that goes back several decades ago. Several of his associates came to him with what appeared to be a no loss proposition. A major investment was being made in the infrastructure of a Central American country with profits that could be realized in a relatively short period. So secure an investment did it seem that the banks were willing to put the money up front without any guarantors. All they needed were people willing to take responsibility.

Before signing, Mr. Kimball decided to consult the Rebbe, detailing the offer in a letter and asking for a blessing. The Rebbe replied with a two page letter discussing the importance of adhering to a Torah lifestyle. After his signature, he added a short postscript: “Regarding the business offer, it is not advisable.”

Mr. Kimball had not anticipated such a reply. Nevertheless, having asked the Rebbe, he resolved to follow his advice. His associates were very insistent. How could he pass up such an opportunity! Mr. Kimball, however, had made his decision and he stood by it.

Two years later, the soundness of the Rebbe’s advice became overtly apparent. Mr. Kimball had been asked to invest in Nicaragua. Despite the country’s previous stability, it was overthrown by Communist rebels and many private concerns were nationalized.

Parshas Shoftim

This week’s Torah reading relates: “G‑d, your L‑rd, will establish a prophet from within your midst.” As Maimonides relates: “One of the foundations of the faith is that G‑d communicates by prophecy to man.” Indeed, “One who says that prophecy does not exist and knowledge is not communicated from the Creator to man” is considered as a heretic who will not receive a portion in the World to Come.

Why is prophecy so important? Because man and G‑d do not run on skew lines. Instead, there is an interactive bond connecting them together and man can receive guidance from G‑d concerning his concerns.

Nor is prophecy a matter that involves only the spiritual dimensions of man’s existence. Quite the contrary, a prophet’s guidance relates to man’s material concerns as well. Thus the Bible tells us that the initial meeting between Saul, to become Israel’s first king, and the prophet Samuel came about because donkeys belonging to Saul’s father had been lost and Saul wanted the prophet’s guidance where to find them.

Now, donkeys were rather valuable in those days. But are these the things you speak to a prophet about?

Apparently, yes. Since they are a matter of concern to man, they are a matter of concern to G‑d and G‑d communicates information via a prophet to assist man in this realm as well.

This is not merely a matter of the past, pertinent to Biblical times. Instead, it is a principle of eternal relevance. In this vein, in several texts, we find Maimonides and other distinguished Torah luminaries speaking of prophets in their age. This is particularly true in the present era, brief moments before the coming of Mashiach. Again to quote Maimonides, in such a time, “man’s merit and his desire for G‑d will increase and his wisdom will grow.” This will create a setting more appropriate for prophecy to be manifest.

To state the matter simply: As there was in the past, in our times, there are individuals who because of their spiritual development have been chosen by G‑d to serve as mediums. They will give mankind directives with regard to Divine service and guidance with regard to their material concerns.

Looking to the Horizon

There will be a fundamental difference between prophecy in the present age and prophecy in the era of Mashiach. As mentioned above, in the present age, prophecy is granted only to unique individuals, people whose spiritual development places them in a category of their own, fit to hear G‑d’s word.

In the era of Mashiach, that will change. As the prophet declares: “I will pour out My spirit over all flesh and your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” In other words, prophecy will be the natural condition of all mankind.

What will bring about this change? In our present condition, man — even the most refined — views G‑dliness and spirituality as new developments, augmentations of his mindset. For his mindset is focused on material entities. In the era of Mashiach, by contrast, G‑dliness will be perceived as the truth of our existence. His presence will be as apparent to us as material existence is today.