What is Prophecy?
It is a basic concept in Judaism that God communicates with us, all day, every day in the way he orders our lives and our world. And, while we don't experience a thunder-on-the-mountaintop scene, we understand that if we run out of gas, miss the bus, find $50 on the street or meet a long-lost friend in the mall,
it was God Who structured our lives for those things to happen.
That's the first of the 13 Principles of Judaism compiled by Maimonides (The Rambam).
I believe with complete faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone made, makes, and will make everything.
God communicates with us constantly in the way He orders our daily lives. Yet there are times when God may communicate with a person in a more direct way. This is called Prophecy and the purpose is to send very clear messages when the situation warrants it.
The prophet may receive his prophecy when awake, in a trance or sleeping. And though the prophecy may be conveyed in a symbolic form, the meaning is always clear to the prophet who is charged with the duty of communicating it to the population.
The task of the prophet is to guide people in their lives, urging them to add goodness as they keep away from things that separate them from God.
The prophet is often a source of information which would be unobtainable otherwise, at times warning of coming punishments which may happen if the population does not re-focus on God, but also giving clues and even clear information about future events.
This website is most interested in the words of the Prophets that relate to the "end of days" and the next phase of world history that involves the Moshiach and the changes that will take place on the world scene. It's good to know what the Prophets said way back when, because it helps us put present-day events in perspective.
Who can be a Prophet?
Historically, prophets were people great in righteousness, wisdom and self-discipline. A prophet would ready himself by meditating and placing his mind in a joyous state, since our sages tell us prophecy can only come when a person is happy in his service to God.
They spent a great amount of time immersed in the study and practice of Torah statutes (God's desire for how we interact with the world around us) eventually bringing their mind and soul to a higher spiritual level in which they became capable of receiving a direct communication from God.
A prophet had no control over whether or when he would receive prophecy. It was his mission to simply ready himself by meditating and focusing his mind in a joyous state. There was no guarantee that a person who had prepared himself would ever receive prophecy.
Although there were many prophets in the history of the Jewish people the Torah only records those prophecies which have a message for all generations.
Prophecy was not restricted to men. There have been many holy women who have attained the level of prophecy, many to an even higher degree than men. According to at least one source the number of women who reached the level of prophecy is equal to the number of men. Some of the more famous prophetesses are: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, and Esther.
The Special Status of Moshe (Moses)
Moshe Rabeinu (Moses our Teacher) has a unique status among all the prophets. Indeed, his stature is so important that the Rambam included it as one the thirteen principles of Judaism by itself.
I believe with complete faith that the prophecy of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him, was true, and that he was the father of the prophets - both those who came before him and those who followed him.
He is referred to as "the chief of all prophets". The higher status of Moshe's prophecy is due to the mass revelation which occurred at Mount Sinai, an event unparalleled in history, which firmly established the authority of Moshe Rabeinu and his prophecies.
The prophecy of Moshe Rabeinu is the basis upon which the validity of all other prophecy rests. Any prophet who contradicts the prophecy of Moshe is inherently false.
Moshe was an exception to many of the rules regarding prophecy. Unlike all other prophets, Moshe received prophecy while awake and in full control of his faculties. The prophecies of Moses were explicit, not couched in symbolism. And Moses was capable of experiencing prophecy whenever he chose to.
Prophecy is a difficult state to obtain because, in addition to the demands it makes on the individual, it also requires a very high state of holiness in the general environment. When the Jewish people lived in the land of Israel and the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark) was kept in the Beis HaMikdash (The Holy Temple), this state of holiness existed in the land of Israel.
Since the time of the destruction of the first Beis HaMikdash, prophecy and other forms of Divine Inspiration have become progressively more difficult to obtain. Today, for all purposes, true prophecy does not exist. It will return to the Jewish people in the time of Moshiach.