‘The Divine Presence Rests Only On One Who Is Wise, Strong…’
The Gemara, on our daf, states that the shechinah (i.e., prophecy) rests only on someone who is wise, strong, wealthy, and tall. The Gemara in Nedarim (38a) cites this statement in the name of R. Yochanan but adds one more attribute as a prerequisite for prophecy: humility.
The Maharsha (Nedarim ibid.) explains that although wealth and strength are not necessarily positive attributes, a prophet must possess them since the populace glorifies them (and it is necessary that people look up to a prophet).
A Matter Of Rebuke
Similarly, Derashos HaRan explains that since the populace admire rich people, the prophet’s words of rebuke will be more readily accepted if he is wealthy. Indeed, we find in the Gemara (Succah 29b and Rashi) that wealthy individuals have a special responsibility to rebuke the errant because their words will be readily heeded.
The Main Attribute
Ben Yehoyada (ibid.) explains that the only trait that is actually required of a prophet is humility. Wealth, wisdom, and strength are only necessary to test his humility – to ensure that he remains humble even in an esteemed position.
The Rambam (Shemoneh Perakim, 7; Hilchos Yesodei ha’Torah, 7) interprets the Gemara’s requirements of strength and wealth metaphorically, based on the well-known mishnah (Avos 4:1): “Ben Zoma says, ‘Who is strong? One who overcomes his desires. And who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.’” A prophet must be someone who stands firm against his evil inclination and is content with his lot in life.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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