Can prophecy ever cease?

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From the Rebbe’s explanations:

– In the Torah portion of “Shoftim” (“Judges”), there is a commandment to obey “your judges” at all times:

“And you shall come… to the judge who will be in those days.”

Similarly, there is a commandment to obey the prophets, as it is written separately in the Torah portion:

“G‑d will set up for you a prophet from your midst, from your brothers, like me [that is, like Moshe Rabbeinu], and you shall hearken to him” (“Devarim”, 18:15).

In this context, the Rambam explains:

“One of the fundamentals of the religion is to know that G‑d sends His prophecies through people.”

Since this is one of “the fundamentals of the religion,” we can understand that this affects Jews in all generations. Our Sages tell us “that from the time the later prophets, Chaggai, Zecharia and Malachi died, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.” Nevertheless, the word “departed” does not mean that it was abolished completely.

The spirit of prophecy did not cease, but rather ascended to a higher plane.

Indeed, even after the era of the later prophets, the spirit of prophecy permeated very many people. This can also be understood from the fact that, in the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam does not mention the cessation of prophecy, nor that the spirit of prophecy can flourish only in a specific time.

Moreover, in his “Message to Teiman” (“Iggeret Teiman”), the Rambam writes that “as a preparatory step for Mashiach’s coming… prophecy will return to Israel.” This can be understood in connection with the explanations above. To prepare us to be able to receive the revelations of the Era of the Redemption, we must experience through prophecy, a foretaste of the “advice” that will be communicated in that era.

It is therefore important for later generations to know that it is “one of the fundaments of [our] faith to know that G‑d sends His prophecies through people.” Always, in all generations, the revelation of prophecy is possible. Moreover, this will include even a level of prophecy which is akin to the prophecy of Moshe as implied by the verse, “I will set up for them from their brothers like you.” Moshe’s level is the zenith of prophecy, as the Rambam explains at length. Nevertheless, it is not exclusive to him, but reflected to others as well.

This enables us to comprehend why the Rambam deals with the prophecy of Moshe at such length, explaining that it reflects a higher level of prophecy than experienced by all other prophets.

On the surface, this is merely a historical fact. Of what purpose is there in discussing it in a book of law for the Jewish people of later generations. And if this only refers to the time after Mashiach has come, when Moshe will arise, the people will see Moshe’s uniqueness themselves. Of what purpose is there to mention this ruling now?

The explanation is that in all generations, even before the Resurrection of the Dead, it is necessary to know that Torah law prescribes that G‑d sends His prophecies through men, that the verse, “I will set up a prophet… like you (Moshe)” applies in every generation. Every prophet is a continuation of the prophecy of Moshe and his Torah (except that in regard to revelation, there are different levels as the Rambam explains).

In our generation, these concepts were personified by the leader of the generation –

the Rebbe Rayatz [and the Rebbe himself, although he does not mention this fact directly in this talk].

We can now understand the uniqueness of the time in which we are living, an age when all the service required of us has been completed, to borrow an expression of the Previous Rebbe, “the buttons have been polished,” and we are in the final seconds before the Ultimate Redemption…

Find more in the Rebbe’s talk on Parashat “Shoftim”, 5751.

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