The Way of G-d
Part 3: "The Soul, Inspiration, Prophecy, and the Supernatural"
Ch. 5: "Moses as a Prophet"
Paragraphs 3 & 4
Here's what would happen to an individual who'd fall into a prophetic
trance. He'd suddenly find himself to be in a dreamlike state while not
necessarily asleep (since one could experience a prophetic trance while
awake). Perhaps the closest experience we have to it is the quiescent,
semi-somnambulant state we ourselves drift off into right before actually
falling asleep or coming awake, when we know who we are but aren't quite
prepared to do anything about it.
The experience might be very short-lived or it might last a while, but the
prophet would always be unconscious for the duration, since one couldn't
be communicated with on a prophetic level while in a conscious state.
Once he'd be in that state he'd begin to sense something appearing before
his eyes, but indirectly so. Things would appear to be filtered through a
series of subtle or more blunt skeins of vapor, and the prophet would have
the sense that he was looking through smudged lenses.
That's to say that he'd indeed be "seeing" something and would be aware of
everything it was doing, but he wouldn't be able to quite catch the
thing's outlines or many of its finer details.
Hence, prophets (other than Moses, as we'll see) could never quite clearly
make out G-d's Glory outright because of all the "signal interference" as
we'd put it. But that's what they'd be seeing, in its various
manifestations. Throughout it all and despite the impediments the prophet
would still and all be very aware of what he was seeing and confident in
the veracity of his experience.
It's just that some prophets would be able to see more, and more clearly
than others. Since the lenses varied with each one. Despite his level of
prophecy, though, every true prophet was able to catch sight of the
essence of what he was seeing and would know for certain that he was being
communicated with by G-d Almighty.
The prophet would indeed understand that his perceptions were being
affected by the number and depth of the lenses accompanying them, but he'd
also be aware of the makeup of each lens and why it had to be there.
Another element entered into the picture as well. For not only was what he
saw affected by the lenses, the images were also expressed metaphorically
and where thus open to interpretation, much like dreams are (after all, as
we said, a prophet was often communicated with in dreams).
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.