Magicians vs Prophets


Moshe Ben-Chaim


Reader: What exactly is the difference between Moses and any of the other prophets?

Mesora: See Maimonides 13 Principles, Principle VII. Moses (Moshe) differed in four manners:

1) All other prophets G-d spoke to them through intermediaries. By Moshe it was without one, as it says, “face to face I spoke to him”.

2) Regarding all other prophets, prophecy came to them at night while they were asleep in a dream as it says “in a dream of the night” and other such references; or in the day but only after a deep sleep-like state came over them, and all their senses were shut off except their thoughts. Not so by Moshe. Moshe would receive a prophecy any time when he would stand between the two figures on the ark as G-d attests to it, “and I will make it known to you there” and “not so my servant Moshe. Face to face I speak to him.”

3) When a prophet would receive prophecy he would not be able to stand the intense effect and he would shake and not be able to stand. As it relates regarding Daniel in his encounter with the angel Gabriel. Regarding Moshe, he did not suffer from this. As it says, “Face to face do I speak to him as a person speaks to his friend”. And even though this is the greatest connection to G-d, still he did not suffer.

4) All other prophets could not receive prophecy at their will – but only when G-d desired. Some would go days or months without prophecy. Even if they wanted or needed something, sometimes it would be days or months or years, or even never, that they would be told. Some would have people play music to put them in a good mood such as Elisha. But Moshe peace be upon him received prophecy whenever he wanted as it says, “Stand here and listen to what G-d will tell you what to do” and “G-d said to Moshe tell Aaron your brother that he can not come to the holy of holies at any time [he wants]”. Our rabbis said, “Aaron was prohibited to come whenever he wanted, but not Moshe.


Reader: You write that Israel did not believe Moses because of the miracles he displayed.

Mesora: Israel did not believe Moses because of the miracles”, is a quote from Maimonides.


Reader: In fact, you disparage the concept of a warlock in general. On the other hand, one of the tests a prophet has to pass in order to be accepted is the prediction of the future - exactly the type of miracle being performed in many of the stories, some having been corroborated, that people have written to you about. Yet when people write you about that, you respond with Maimonides’ criticism of astrology.

Mesora: Let me first say that today’s astrology is not divine, it is man’s invention, as opposed to prophecy which is G-d’s Divine, informative gift. If I am clear, what you are asking is how a warlock is of no validation, yet a true prophet who predicts future events is accepted, and even warranted. It is a good question.


I would make this distinction; a warlock and one who accurately predicts the future are doing two qualitatively different acts. The prophet who forecasts events - all of which come true in fine detail - demonstrates a perfection in the realm of knowledge, and only attainable by G-d’s Will. This validates him, as operating in line with the Creator. Additionally, he is not spoken of in the Torah as one who derails another from following the Torah, as opposed to one who performs tricks in order to cause others to defect from Judaism. Here alone we see why G-d tells us not to follow the “baal mofes”, the warlock. He is speaking against the Torah. Here, G-d teaches that when a warlock and Torah come into conflict, the Torah is always to be followed. Torah is the absolute truth. (Saadia Gaon dismisses all the signs of Pharaoh’s magicians as merely slight of hand.)


To reiterate, only a true prophet can forecast the future with 100% accuracy. This is because one who is not a prophet, has no means by which to forecast. A human being has but five senses, and no others. Therefore, he has the future closed off to him. He is as a blind man is to vision. For this very reason, that knowledge of the future is unavailable without prophecy, does the Torah validate one as a prophet when his forecast comes true with 100% accuracy, to the finest detail. Only in such a case do we know that he must have been informed via prophecy.


Why then isn’t a forecast of 50% accurate enough? He has in fact forecasted something properly! The answer why we require 100% accuracy is simple: a person may make guesses, and reality may coincidentally parallel one’s guess. This can and does happen. This is how warlocks attracted people. If they say enough generalities about the future, a few are bound to be somewhat similar to events that eventually happen. Followers of warlocks and fortunetellers are emotionally driven, and latch on to any small statements the warlock makes, if it smacks of similarity to reality. But these followers don’t realize that there is such a thing as coincidence. They view coincidental phenomena as actual forecasts, which have come true. The Torah tells us how we verify a true prophet; ALL predictions must come to be. If even one detail is not realized, he is a false prophet, and is killed. (Deut. 18:20)


One might ask, “what if an accurate predictor of events tells us to follow idolatry? Do we then follow him, as he predicted future events accurately, is he now completely validated by his forecast?” The answer is that one who forecasts accurately, will never oppose the Torah. Why? It is because his forecast demonstrates that he is receiving knowledge from G-d, and G-d will never give a true forecast that one opposes Torah. This is the case, as G-d instructs us that one who forecasts with 100% accuracy must be accepted by Torah standards. “Torah standards”, not idolatrous standards.