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7 on Seven: Voices for Eternity

Monday, October 06, 2014

I climb into the taxi, slam the door and, breathless, ask the driver if there’s traffic in the direction of the Kosel. “Am I the son of a prophet?” he grumbles. A quintessential Israeli answer. As he fiddles with the radio I think about how no NY cabbie or British black taxi driver would reference the spiritual concept of prophecy when they could simply refer to the traffic report. Prophecy, it seems, is not merely the domain of disgruntled taxi drivers. It’s a phenomenon deeply ingrained in our nation’s psyche. And for good reason. Although only 55 neviim (48 neviim, 7 nevios) are mentioned in Tanach, the Gemara tells us that the number of Jewish prophets was double the population that left Egypt! Which means that we’re talking hundreds of thousands of prophets — such a feature of everyday life that prophets were the first address when something was lost (think donkeys, or in our lexicon, wallet). But a prophet was much more than a living, breathing lost-and-found center. Prophecy was attained only after an intense process of spiritual refinement. Prophets were in a sense like the gedolim of our generation: both inspirational leaders and living role models who demonstrated the lofty spiritual levels a human being can achieve — the soul refinement that Hashem envisions for mankind. Joyous Connection These levels were not the exclusive purview of men — far from it. Not only were there numerous prophetesses, according to the Netziv, women have a special affinity toward ruach hakodesh, a lower level of prophecy. He notes, for example, that Sarah Imeinu excelled in ruach hakodesh. And it is no accident that Sarah was known for “dwelling in her tent.” She spent significant time in the confines of her tent; away from the rush of everyday life, she was able to turn her thoughts to inner contemplation. Her lifestyle allowed her to develop a rich inner world and a profound — and joyous — connection with Hashem.

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