And how to spot a real one…

There are many things that I loved about Rav Trugman’s latest book, ‘Prophecy and Divine Inspiration’, but one of my favourites was his discussion about false prophets – because in this time of geula blog madness, it’s still very much a ‘live’ issue.

After the last round of terrible, blood-curdling predictions on one side, and reassuring if concerned statements from our true Tzadikim that the situation is indeed grave, but that teshuva, tefilla and tzedaka can still sweeten everything, I decided that we could probably all need some help, to work out which modern-day ‘prophets’ are actually the real deal, and worth listening to.

Enter Rav Trugman. In the chapter on clarifying prophecy and Divine inspiration, he brings down the Rambam’s pre-requisites for someone claiming prophecy to even get past the starting gate.

According to the Rambam, an individual needs to have the following qualities in order to qualify as a ‘potential true prophet’:

  1. Deep wisdom
  2. Broad-minded knowledge
  3. The ability to be in control of his or her physical urges, as well as to be unaffected by the vanities of the material world.
  4. The prophet-in-waiting has to be involved in holy pursuits at all times.

Rav Trugman also explains that the Rambam says that a prophet has to prepare themselves carefully to receive the flow of Divine information, and that they have to be in a state of absolute joy. “Prophecy does not come to one who is sad or lazy.”

That’s a lot of food for thought, isn’t it? Let’s break it down even further, and make it even more crystal-clear.

Deep wisdom

Deep wisdom doesn’t mean someone once read a book of kabbalah, had a funny dream, can translate Hebrew to English (or vice-versa) or correctly predicted who was going to win Israel’s last elections.

Broad-minded knowledge

Finding allusions to the latest autistic  pronouncements in the latest Brad Pitt film they just watched doesn’t count. (By way of comparison, the sages of the Sanhedrin had to know 70 languages, and be whizzes at maths, logic and natural science before they’d even be considered for a place.)

The ability to control their physical urges, and be unaffected by the material world

Any wannabe-prophet who is giving over their ‘nevua’ via Facebook, or who has their own twitter account, is clearly not meeting these requirements.

Has to be involved in holy pursuits at all times

There’s a lot of people trying to wave their ‘real prophet’ credentials in our faces, without a whole lot to back it up.  I’ve also been taken in by these people in the past, sadly. It was only when I got to Jerusalem and I saw really holy people like Rav Shalom Arush and Rav Ofer Erez in action, and the humility they have, and the utter simplicity and sweetness they have, and the lack of arrogance and superiority they evince, that the penny dropped that

Rabbis with their own YouTube channel, blog, Facebook accounts and personal agenda to be the next Moshiach are simply not anywhere near the same playing field, kedusha-wise.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be holy, and still doing good work online, or still be holy and coaching little league, or visiting chocolate factories, or riding horses in your spare time. But it definitely does mean that you aren’t in the really big leagues when it comes to kedusha, where the potential prophets are hanging out.

You need to be prepared to get prophecy

Some half-baked idea you had while washing up that WW3 is starting tomorrow is just not going to cut the mustard. Ditto some vague dream that you had, where Obama was riding a white donkey into Jerusalem (unless you spent the 40 days prior to having that dream fasting and praying in the desert somewhere…)

You need to be happy

And this, dear reader, is where so many of today’s false internet prophets are really falling down. When Rav Arush or Rav Berland says ‘trouble’s brewing’ you can believe they aren’t just scaremongering or going on a power trip so fifty people will comment on their post.

The only time they say hard things is in order to get us to make the teshuva we need to turn things around.

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