PROPHET AS PARADIGM

Our Essential Questions:

  • What are the unique skills and characteristics of a prophet?

  • Who can become a prophet?

  • What are the steps that one must take to embody the role of a prophet?

  • How is the prophet a paradigm of holiness?

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

​Questions to ponder:

  • What prompts the author of the song to write these lyrics?

  • What is he/she experiencing?

  • What message is he/she trying to convey to the people?

  • How are people responding to him/her?

  • Is the author of the song a prophet?

WHAT IS A PROPHET?

Adapted from www.jewfaq.org.

Many people today think of a prophet as any person who sees the future. 

The Hebrew word for a prophet, נביא comes from the term ניב שפתיים meaning "fruit of the lips," which emphasizes the prophet's role as a speaker.

The Talmud teaches that there were hundreds of thousands of prophets: twice as many as the number of people who left Egypt, which was 600,000. But most of the prophets conveyed messages that were intended solely for their own generation and were not reported in scripture. Scripture identifies only 55 prophets of Israel.

A prophet is not necessarily a man. Scripture records the stories of seven female prophets, listed below, and the Talmud reports that Sarah's prophetic ability was superior to Abraham's.

A prophet is not necessarily a Jew. The Talmud reports that there were prophets among the gentiles (most notably Balaam, whose story is told in במדבר כב, although they were not as elevated as the prophets of Israel (as the story of Balaam demonstrates). And some of the prophets, such as Jonah, were sent on missions to speak to non-Jews.

According to some views, prophecy is not a gift that is arbitrarily conferred upon people; rather, it is the culmination of a person's spiritual and ethical development. When a person reaches a sufficient level of spiritual and ethical achievement, the Shechinah (Divine Spirit) comes to rest upon him or her. Likewise, the gift of prophecy leaves the person if that person lapses from his or her spiritual and ethical perfection.

While the gift of prophecy certainly includes the ability to see the future, a prophet is far more than just a person with that ability. A prophet is basically a spokesman for God, a person chosen by God to speak to people on God's behalf and convey a message or teaching. Prophets were role models of holiness, scholarship and closeness to God. They set the standards for the entire community.

Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed
By the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs
That voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence

"Fools, " said I, "you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
And the words that it was forming
And the sign said,
"The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls."
And whispered in the sound of silence

HIRING A PROPHET

Based on this information, let's create a job description for a prophet of Israel. What are the skills and characteristics necessary to fill this role?

Based on what we know about a prophet, work in chevruta to create a job listing/description for the purposes of hiring a prophet for the Jewish people. Each chevruta will address a different aspect of the job listing:

  • How will the position of prophet contribute to the organization and overall purpose?  

  • Key responsibilities include

  • The methods used to complete the tasks

  • The purpose and responsibilities of the job

  • The relationship of the job to other jobs

  • Qualifications needed for the job

Let's dig a little deeper into the idea that "prophets were role models of holiness."

© 2016 by Rabbi David Paskin

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