Thursday, May 3, 2012

THE 13 PRINCIPLES: Moshe was the greatest Prophet.

Previously, we analyzed the Sixth principle of the Jewish faith which describes the nature of prophecy and the character of the prophets of Israel (see here ).

The Seventh principle is also about prophecy. But it discusses the particulars of one Prophet: Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest prophet, before and after him. 

Our Rabbis explained that the level of prophecy of Moshe Rabbenu was higher than the level of all others. 

All other prophets received their prophetic message by the means of a vision in a sort of trance, or in a dream.

Moshe Rabbenu, however, was able to receive God's messagedirectly, while conscious and awake, not in a prophetic trance. This is what the Tora calls: panim el panim, literally: "face to face", which means that Moshe Rabbenu could listen to God's words in the same way that a man listens to another man. "in full possession of his faculties, not in visions and not by parables" ( R. Hayim Pereira Mendes)

The possibility of being conscious allowed Moshe Rabbenu to 'talk back' to God. Once, for example, Moshe even asked God a "personal" question. After the sin of the golden calf, an intense encounter took place between God and Moshe. Moshe prayed to HaShem to forgive the Jewish people. At one point, Moshe Rabbenu said to God: "Show me Your glory". Our Chakhamim explained that Moshe was asking God a poignant question: "Why do You allow bad things to happen to good people?" Perhaps on behalf of all humankind, Moshe expressed to God the question that so often troubles the mind of many believers. 

God's answer to Moshe is a matter for a long analysis. But as it refers to our subject, God taught Moshe (and us) that the answer to that question was beyond man's understanding (ki lo yrani ha-adam vachai), a living human being cannot perceive/understand God, i.e., there are matters which are even beyond Moshe's understanding.  Moshe Rabbenu, the greatest prophet, was still a man, not a human-god.