click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Tzav
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Re'eh(Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

Feats of Amazement

A man turns up in London claiming to be a prophet. He does some groovy stuff: levitates, revives the dead, heals the sick, turns lead into gold. Then he tells you that at noon tomorrow, it will begin to rain. At 11:00 there isn't a cloud in the sky. 11:30, 11:45, 11:55 and it's still a beautiful day. Shame, he seemed pretty good. Suddenly at 11:59, a cloud materializes out of nowhere. By 12:00, it's filled the whole sky. At 12:01, a most torrential downpour begins.

What do you say? "Oh, that's England for you." Apart from that, though, I think you would give him a little leeway. He didn't do all that badly.

But what does Jewish law say: Is he a prophet and should you listen to him?

Well, Jewish law has a very simple formula for such a guy. You put him out of commission. He is clearly a false prophet, for if God had said it would rain at 12:00, it would not begin to rain at 12:01. God doesn't make mistakes. To be sure, this "prophet" is a very clever man, possibly even in touch with spiritual forces we are not aware of. But in touch with God, he ain't.

Judaism has rules for establishing the credibility of a prophet - and they are not in any way based on the miracles he is able to perform. We Jews are not impressed by miracles. We don't judge a person on the cleverness of his tricks.

Of course, when someone comes with such an impressive repertoire, it is very hard not to be moved. When someone can really heal people, it is difficult not to want to believe. But there are many healers and miracle workers out there. All have different agendas. Be it those who are selling themselves or those who are selling a way of life. Judaism doesn't doubt for a minute that people are able to perform wondrous deeds. What Judaism says is that this is not any proof He is a messenger of God. There are many people out there who appear "successful," but that does not mean that they have God's approval.

The path to a relationship with God in this world is a difficult one. There are no shortcuts. It is a matter of using our freewill to overcome the myriad challenges that we constantly meet. It is human tendency to look for simple solutions to difficult problems. The preponderance of cults, faith healers and so-called 'kabbalistic' groups is very understandable. They may offer simple answers. They may even perform what appear to be miracles. But in the long run, the answers will not satisfy. They are merely escapes from life's real challenges.

Judaism says: Use your mind. Don't judge by "miracles." Judge by evidence. In the primitive world, miracles impressed. Surely in the 21st century we should know better.

August 9, 2009

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Visitor Comments: 3

(3) Anonymous, August 21, 2014 11:18 AM


This is great! Thank you so much for posting it!

(2) Inbar, August 2, 2013 5:36 PM

Not all predictions have to be true

From Summary: Maimonides explains that the Torah provides us with a method by which we can determine any prophet's credibility. In order for us to accept a claimant as a true prophet, we assess how accurate his prophecies are. Every prophecy he communicates must be fulfilled. If all his predictions become reality, then we are to assume that the claimant is an authentic prophet. If he offers a prediction that is not fulfilled, then we must assume that this person is a false prophet.
Maimonides adds two significant qualifications to this rule. First, the requirement of absolute accuracy only applies to his positive predictions. If he warns of disaster or tragedy and this prediction does not materialize, we do not assume that he is a false prophet. We know that a prediction of disaster is intended as a warning to repent, and that repentance and forgiveness are always possible. We must accept that repentance and forgiveness may have prevented the disaster. Therefore, although the claimant must be absolutely accurate in his prediction of positive outcomes and events, inaccuracies in predictions of tragedy and disaster do not undermine his credibility.
Second, it is important to recognize that there are two types of prophecy. Some prophecies are designed for communication to others, when the prophets serve as Hashem’s spokesman to humanity, or to a group or nation. Other prophecies are personal, in which the prophet receives information from Hashem for his own benefit. These prophecies are not intended to be communicated to others, and need not be absolutely accurate. The true prophet himself knows that he is communicating with Hashem, and he does not need proof as to the veracity of his prophecy and neither does he need to prove it to the public. Therefore, it is possible that some personal prophecies will not be fulfilled.

(1) flor, August 11, 2009 3:53 AM


Same as i have experience with - i live with "THE one " she claims to be - for 4months - i observed, lived and breathe with her, i was amazed and almost believe - until such incident - when she says - no one will be saved if not of her own choosing!! thats crazy ... i was sad to think that it all ends because of her own personal interest..

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment