Are you talking to me?

abraham-and-isaac-on-mount-moriahFriday night at the table, my son was talking about Avraham and how he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. My son said ‘if that were me, I would say, Dad, you hearing voices again? They told you to do what? You seriously need professional help.”

While we all laughed and I shared the story with friends because it is funny and cute – how did the people back then believe that these leaders / prophets were communicating with God and not just hearing voices?

If Avraham were alive today – would he be incarcerated in a mental institution for having delusions, and medicated for schizophrenia, locked up for attempted murder? What about the other prophets? Moshe talked to a burning bush – in this day and age we wouldn’t look at these events in the same way as they did.

What changed? How could we trust that nevuah (prophecy), and not trust someone who today says they spoke with God?

(Asking the question because it’s bothering me, I am not looking to be a kofer at all)

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27 responses to “Are you talking to me?

  1. I think nevuah generally comes in a form understandable to “the age” (it may be part of the concept of miracles occurring as much as possible within the confines of nature), so if there were nevuah today, it would come in a form that is closer to the way we live today than in a form of the way we lived 3500 years ago.

    • how do you think nevuah would appear today?

      • I don’t know. Perhaps it could be in the form of being granted the ability to make extraordinary scientific discoveries? Perhaps being granted a golden tongue to enable you to mediate peace? Perhaps the ability of a doctor to make spot-on diagnoses of complex issues? Who knows, it could be anything!

        • “Perhaps the ability of a doctor to make spot-on diagnoses of complex issues?”

          OMG Dr House could be a prophet!! lol 😉

  2. My Professor of Criminal Law, Laurie Levenson is a religious (not orthodox) Jew. She speaks every year at some conference and she “puts a biblical figure on trial”. Avraham is not the only one that would not pass our judicial system…

    As to your question. The Talmud says that Nevuah ended at a certain point and anyone claiming to be a Navi is clearly a charlatan.

    So there ya go…

  3. I think I learned that at the time of the Avos many people had the ability to hear G-d’s word. Moshe Rabbeinu was different because he was the only person who was able to get nevuah while standing close to G-d. More commonly people were asleep, or unconscious or something like that. This seems inconceivable to us because when Nevuah left the world that closeness to G-d presence that everyone felt, left also.
    So specifically to answer your question, in those days it didn’t seem so crazy to anyone that G-d has spoken to him.

  4. “What changed? How could we trust that nevuah (prophecy), and not trust someone who today says they spoke with God?”

    Not to contribute to the koferness of this blog…but the simplest and most obvious answer would be that nothing changed, and they weren’t hearing god back then either.

  5. I think that they people trusted in nevuah because they SAW the yad Hashem on a daily basis.
    There were open miracles and the prophets had a “track record” to back them up.

  6. the Rambam (in hilchos yesodei hatorah) explains that to all the neviim, they saw a vision and had to translate that vision into a proper nevuah [there are those that argue with the details in the Rambam, but basically the same idea]
    He also says that before a Navi was to be accepted there was some sort of trial period, where he would have to preform a miracle for the people, make a prophecy, have it come true, before he is proven to be a proper Navi. After which his word is accepted as the word of G-d, and must be obeyed.

    Going back to Avraham, that may be why its called Akeidas Yitzchak, because Yitzchak accepted the interpretation of a confirmed Navi like Avraham, and for him it was a test as well.

    And yes, its good to ask questions, especially those that are tenets of faith.

  7. This is a great question and one I have been asking / talking about for a long time. I like to joke that Moshiach has already come but he is doped up in a mental ward. I am probably the wrong person to get involved in this discussion. I am not an athiest, more an agnostic, but I doubt the voice of god (if he does exist) was ever heard by people.

    I also have a hard time understanding why, if people had nevuah and saw the yad hashem regularly in those days closer to the actual giving of the Torah, why would god not show himself now when we need it more than ever? I am basing that question on the assumption that there is a god and that the Torah is true. I don’t believe it is but religion is a topic I am fascinated with and I am always looking to learn more.

    I don’t think there should be any issue with you asking these questions, they are important and having questions does not make you a kofer. It makes you normal.

  8. two points on this – one: read Dostoevsky Brothers Karamazov, which discusses this idea with reference to another religious figure. two – someone told me a long story about a man in a psychiatric ward. the doctor was concerned that he might not be mad, but rather be a tzaddik and if he medicated him, then his tzidkus would disappear. one of the then gedolei hador told him that if he was careful not to disturb other people or damage their property, then he was a tzaddik….

  9. abandoning eden: Are you an Athiest or an Agnostic?

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