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    Prophets like yourself – Shof’tim

    death of mosesThe Torah portion tells us that God will raise up prophets from our midst (Deut. 18:18-19).

    The Hebrew wording is, navi akim lahem… kamocha, “I will raise up a prophet for them… like you”.

    “Like you” basically means, as we learn from Rashi, “a fellow-Israelite”. Rashbam understands “like you” as “like Moses” – i.e. a prophet who will teach the Torah and not mislead the people.

    The Meshech Chochmah commentary adds a further element, that like Moses (called “the chief of the prophets”), any prophet appointed by God will be answerable to the Almighty. He will retain his own individuality, his own personality, his own capacity to comprehend and convey the message and recognise the needs of the people, but he will be a nobody without God.

    When Psalm 90 announces itself as a poem by Moses “the Man of God”, so any prophetic word or work will be valid only insofar as it clearly shows it is from God. The same must be said about a rabbi, any rabbi, in our own generation.

    In early 20th century America there were controversies about whether a rabbi had what was called “freedom of the pulpit”. Actually in traditional Judaism the pulpit can never be free. A rabbi is bound by his pledge to God and the Torah.

    A community must recognise that a rabbi who does his own thing is no rabbi. That’s one of the reasons why Judaism could not accept the claims of Jesus when he said he had personal authority – “It has been told to you such and such, but I say unto you (something different)”.

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