Friday, July 14, 2006

Rambam vs Maharal: is nevuah guaranteed? - the promise to Pinchas

Guaranteed not to have too many comments today, as I'm going back to more standard Torah dicsussion : ) Maybe more some other time - I would just encourage anyone interested to follow my snippits of quotes to the sources themselves. Reminder: please learn and daven as a zechus for Eretz Yisrael.

Hashem instructs Moshe to SAY regarding Pinchas "Hininei nosein lo es brisi shalom", I am giving him my covenant or peace. Why does this have to be a public proclamation and not private news? Perhaps it was because of the rumbelings of disapproval that questioned how Pinchas could kill a leader of a sheivet, but perhaps there is something more. The Rambam writes in in into to Peirush haMishna that what Hashem privately promises a Navi is subject to not coming to fulfillment. We find that although Hashem promised to protect Ya'akov, he was nonetheless worried over encountering Eisav because he thought his sins would negate the promise. Yet, the Rambam writes with respect to nevuah, words that the prophet is instructed to deliver to the people, there is a gurantee that what is said will be unconditionally fulfilled (see Rambam Yesodei HaTorah ch 10 that a Navi can be tested by whether his words are fulfilled). The Meshech Chochma writes that Hashem asked Moshe to SAY that Pinchas receives the bris of shalom so that this promise would be unconditionally guaranteed for eternity and not subject to the personal zechuyos of Pinchas.
The Meshech Chocham cites this idea in many places, e.g. Why is it that Avraham laughs when told that he will have a son and nothing comes of it, but Sarah is chastised? M.C. distinguishes between the promise told to Avraham in private which depends on her merit for fulfillment, and the nevuah spoken to Sarah which was a guarantee.
What the Meshech Chochama does not tell you is that the MaHaRaL strongly disagrees with this Rambam - see ch 7 of Gevuros Hashem. The MaHaRaL argues that any nevuah by definition is guaranteed to occur. So why then was Ya'akov afraid? MaHaRaL writes that there is a difference between nevuah and a havtacha. The former reveals something fundemental about the nature of the beriya which is not subject to change. The latter is based on the personal relationship between the tzadik, prophet, or people and Hashem. If I had to offer an analogy: nevuah would be like predicting that my 5 year old daughter would grow from 4 feet to 5 feet as she gets older. A havtacha would be like promising to buy my 4 year old daugher an ice cream because she is a good girl - even if unstated, it is understood that if she misbehaves, all bets are off. The MaHaRaL develops a number of key concepts in that chapter - yosef chacham v'yikach lekach.


  1. Anonymous12:53 PM

    What about the Rambam's distinction between prophecies of a negative outcome and prophecies of a positive outcome--that the former are conditional (that is, a punishment that will be administered only if the sinful behavior continues) and the latter are not?

  2. True - I was thinking of that myself. The context here was positive outcome, so that's why the focus was on that.
    You made my day - someone actually read this posting about a meshech chochma that has nothing to do with issues of belief in G-d! Am I being too cynical?

  3. What you are pointing out is the difference in their understanding of nevuah. Rambam understands that the information is out there (sechel hapoel) and the navi gets it. The fact that it happens is proof that the navi did not go off into incorrect conclusions.If it is personal and not to be disseminted there is no need for proof. The issue about good and bad is more complicated because it has to do with yediah and bechirah. It is an idea for a good post.

    Maharal goes in derech of R.Yehudah halevi where nevuah is an emanation that God sends. He therefore has to find a different explanation . God's word cannot be wrong ever.

    Great post and good food for thought.

    You are right there certain buttons that we push that elicit interest and others just get ignored, not necessarily the ones we as authors think are the best.

    Shabbat Shalom U'leartzeinu

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  5. William Dwek4:18 PM

    1. The Dweks from Aleppo, Syria, are the only family of the true Cohanim.

    We are the only true descendants of Aharon HaCohen, the Cohen HaGadol.

    And, we are the only true descendants of Pinhas ben Elazar ben Aharon HaCohen.

    It was the great act of Pinhas, who stopped the plague in Am Yisrael, when he struck the spear into Cozbi and Zimri. 24,000 died in a plague from the sins of idolatry and immorality with the Midianite women.

  6. William Dwek4:19 PM

    2. Anyone who has taken on the surname, ‘Cohen’/’Kohen’ is clearly identifiable as a fraud, a liar and an imposter of the true Cohanim.

    This goes right back to his original ancestor who LIED, and said he was a Cohen when he was not.

    Anyone called, ‘Mr. Cohen’ or ‘Rabbi Cohen’ is definitely NOT a Cohen. Someone who calls himself, ‘Mr. Cohen’ or ‘Rabbi Cohen’ is effectively calling himself, ‘Mr. Torah!’

    3. The Kohanim are part of the Torah – but they are not called, ‘Mr. Torah.’

    It is preposterous for a man to call himself, ‘Mr. Torah!’

    If someone makes you a cup of coffee, or sells some bread to you, will you say, ‘Thank you Mr. CoffeeMaker!’ or, ‘Thank you Mr. Baker?!’

    4. The coffeemaker and the baker have a Family Name.

    Similarly with the true Cohanim.

    And that family name is, ‘DWEK.’

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