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Who is a Prophet?

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Topic: Prophet, Definition

Tzilah Bernstein wrote:

I understand that there were many more prophets than those listed in the Tanach (Bible). What then is the criteria for a prophet to be considered one of the 48 prophets in the Tanach and his prophecy to be considered necessary for future for generations?

Dear Tzilah Bernstein,

As you wrote, there were many prophets, over a million. Most of them received a personal prophecy directed solely to them, or to specific others. For example, when Saul's father lost some donkeys, Saul went to a prophet to find out where they were.

The main purpose of these prophecies was not the message, but rather the prophetic experience itself. During prophecy, the prophet shed himself of everything physical and reached incredible heights of awareness and connection to Hashem.

A prophecy needed for future generations was all of the above. But, in addition, it contains a message that either clarifies some halachic detail, or encourages the Jewish People to return to the ways of Torah.

  • Tractate Megilla 14a, Rashi
  • Shmuel I 9:6
  • Derech Hashem, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato
  • Rambam, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 7

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