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From: Root & Branch Association
Subject: THE DIMENSIONS OF PROPHECY AND THE ETERNITY OF THE TORAH
THE DIMENSIONS OF PROPHECY AND THE ETERNITY OF THE TORAH
by Rabbi Dr. Natan T. Lopes Cardozo
The David Cardozo School (Machon Ohr Aaron)
7 Cassuto Street, Jerusalem 96433
Commentators have often wondered why the Torah makes use of several expressions when discussing prophecy. Two main expressions used are "Zeh Hadavar" ("This is the word") and "Koh Amar Hashem" ("Thus says God").
We find an example of the first case in Bamidbar (Numbers) (30:2), where the Torah states the laws related to making a vow.
"And Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the children of Israel and said, 'This is the word that God has commanded, if a man makes a vow...'"
An example of the second case is in Shemoth (Exodus) (11:4). There Moshe informs the people of Israel that G-d will soon take them out of Egypt.
"Thus says the Lord, 'About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt'".
When discussing the second case, Rashi makes the following comment:
"Moshe prophesied with 'Koh Amar Hashem' ('Thus says G-d') and the prophets prophesied with 'Koh Amar Hashem'. Moshe, however, added (another kind of prophecy) with the words, 'Zeh Hadavar' ('This is the word')".
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (1440-1525), in his classic commentary on Rashi, explains that this relates to the difference between Moshe's prophecy and that of the other prophets. Rabbi Mizrachi hints at the famous Talmudic observation that the prophets prophesied "be'aspeklaria she'ena me'ira" via an unclear glass, meaning that they were only able to receive prophecy while in a trance, in a dream or asleep. Moshe, however, was able to receive prophecy at any time, even when he was awake, and it was as if nothing stood between him and God, i.e. "be'aspeklaria sheme'ira" ("through a clear glass").
In that case, the expression, "Koh amar", would mean "So says G-d", as an example of prophecy revealed through "an unclear glass" as in the case of the other prophets. Commentators make the point that such a prophecy does not have to include the literal word by word repetition of the divine prophecy, and, therefore, it says, "Koh Amar Hashem" ("This is about what God said", while "Zeh Hadavar" means "This is the exact word", a literal, word by word conveyance of God's word .
Based on this principle one could argue that before Moshe received the Torah he prophesied on the level of all other prophets ("Koh Amar Hashem"). Once he spoke with G-d "in person" on Sinai, his prophecy became of a higher quality, and he started to prophesy with "Zeh Hadavar" ("This is the exact word").
Maharal  however, makes the correct observation that we find cases where Moshe prophesied with "Koh Amar" even after the Sinai revelation. In that case, the earlier distinction cannot be justified.
Consequently, Maharal suggests another differentiation, which touches on the very nature of the Torah and its supreme prophecy.
There are two kinds of prophecy: One is of a temporary nature, and one is of an eternal nature.
When Moshe tells the people that G-d said that He would take the Israelites out of Egypt, this is of a temporary nature. In that case the words, "Koh Amar Hashem", "So says G-d" are sufficient. But when G-d reveals His will in the form of mitzvoth (commandments), these are of an eternal nature, and therefore require a different and more direct expression, "Zeh Hadavar" ("This is the word (forever and therefore eternal").
Maharal, with his usual profundity, states that such a distinction is of great significance.
The first kind of prophecy is one of change, for instance, our case, where Moshe tells the Israelites that G-d will bring about a change and take them out of Egypt. This is a finite affair and belongs to the world of time and space, since change is a function of the physical.
The second case of prophecy, the revelation of mitzvoth, is, however, not rooted in finiteness. The mitzvoth are the result of the world of eternity touching on the physical without becoming part of it. As such, they have no part in the physical world. They only have an influence on this world.
Therefore, they are introduced with "Zeh Hadavar" ("This is the unchangeable eternal word") ...
Shalom from Yerushaliyim,
Rabbi Dr. Natan T. Lopes Cardozo
1. See, however, Haemek Davar of Neziv, who rejects this interpretation (ad loc).
2. Gur Aryeh (ad loc).
NOTE FROM EDDIE:
Rav Sha'ul was an Orthodox Jew. In speaking about prophecy, he says these words in I Corinthians 13:
KJV 1 Corinthians 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
KJV 1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
KJV 1 Corinthians 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
KJV 1 Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Therefore in talking about prophecy, the Apostle Paul (Rav Sha'ul) likened it to "seeing through a glass darkly" which is an Orthodox Jewish perspective of prophecy.
END OF NOTE
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