So in fact there’s a specific process for coming to prophecy that’s
comprised of a number of steps, some of which are quite open and above-
board, and others that are rather arcane and only open to initiates.
But it would seem to be exceedingly important that a prophet knew that he
was being communicated to by G-d. After all, there have been false
prophets who have wreaked a lot of havoc.
For while Moses taught us at one point that “G-d your L-rd will raise
up for you a prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Listen
to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15), there are nonetheless other things to be
For we’re taught later on that “if a prophet, or one who foretells by
dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or
wonder, and … he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ -- gods you have not
known -- ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of
that prophet or dreamer” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3). And we’re told that if
“a prophet who presumes to speak in My name anything I have not
commanded him to say, or … speaks in the name of other gods, (he) must be
put to death" (Deuteronomy 18:20).
And so the overarching principle behind prophecy, as Ramchal depicts it
here is that, “the prophet is absolutely sure that G-d’s Glory has
appeared to Him” in the course of his revelations. That is, the prophetic
experience would have to be so patently real and lucid that the prophet
knows that he hadn’t been deceived, and that he didn’t imagine anything to
have happened. He had to be sure that he’d indeed been communicated with
by G-d. Of course a prophet didn’t come to that from the first; but that
was the ultimate outcome of true prophecy.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.