Rabbi David Samson
Rabbi David SamsonTzvi Fishman

Part II of a two part article. For part I click here.

Recently, I wrote about a new book by Rabbi David Samson called “Contact: Prophecy Explained” which deals with Prophecy and Divine Inspiration in our time. Rabbi Samson informed me that he received many inquiries from people who read the article. One reader asked to join the small group of students he teaches about the subject. Another inspired reader volunteered to pay the costs of another book of Torah insights which he is preparing for publication. Since the subject attracted a lot of attention, I would like to quote another excerpt from the book which indicates that Ruach HaKodesh (Divine Inspiration) is very much with us today.

Rabbi Samson relates that his Rosh Yeshiva at Mercaz HaRav in Jerusalem, the late HaRav Tzvi Yehuda HaKohen Kook, encouraged students to visualize the image of the author of the Torah commentary they were studying or the image of the Rabbi who presented some teaching from the Mishna or Talmud. This meditative practice is based on the Jerusalem Talmud which states that a person should envision in his mind that the master of the teaching he is learning is standing before him (Yerushalmi, Shekalim 2:2. See also, “Special Edition of Mesillat Yesharim,” by HaRav Shlomo Aviner, Chava Library Publications, Beit El, pgs. 223-226).

Meditating on the face of a Sage is also recommended by the author of the “Pele Yoetz” who writes: ”The Kabbalists relate that one should constantly imagine the face of his Rabbi and this will promote his grasp of wisdom, (Rabbi Eliezer Papo, Chapter “Tziyur”). The sixth Admor of Lubavitch, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef Schneerson, would often tell his Chasidim at gatherings to imagine the image of his father Rabbi Shalom Dov Bear Schneerson as a segula to enhance one’s learning, (Rabbi Moshe Dov Bear Rivkin, “Ashkavta D’Rebbi”). Obviously, since we don’t have photographs or paintings of every Sage of the past, our ability is limited, but, according to these sources, one should try to grasp this level of Divine Inspiration as much as he can.

We find an amazing and surprising first-person account of this phenomenon in an article written by Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, of blessed memory. I use the word surprising because HaRav Soloveitchik is not generally consider a mystic. He writes:

“I would like to relate a personal experience that will exemplify this idea of the Mesorah (the chain of Torah tradition handed down from one generation to the next). I remember that as a youth I was an isolated and lonely child. I was scared of the world. Society seemed to me cold and alien. It seemed to me as if everybody was ridiculing me. Nevertheless, I had one friend, please don’t laugh, he was the Rambam. How did we become friends? We simply met. The Rambam was a standard guest in our home…

“My father would learn Torah day and night. A small group of eager and outstanding students would gather around him… I would listen to his words with great thirst. I couldn’t understand a word regarding the matter at hand, nevertheless in my young naïve mind I formed two impressions. First, the Rambam was being attacked by enemies that sought to harm him! Second, his only savior is my revered father. If not for my father, I thought, who knows what would happen to the Rambam?

“I felt that the Rambam himself was in the room listening to my father. The Rambam would sit with me on my bed. What did he look like? I didn’t know exactly… When my father successfully explained a difficulty in the Rambam, the Rambam was vindicated! My father’s face expressed delight and joy. He had successfully protected his friend Rabbenu Moshe ben Maimon. A smile of comfort was observable on the Rambam’s face as well. I also participated in the happy occasion. I would jump out of my bed and run to my mother’s room with the heartwarming news. ‘Mommy, Mommy, the Rambam is right! He beat the Rivad! Daddy helped him!! Isn’t Daddy great?!’

“But the Rambam didn’t always have such good luck. Infrequently his ‘enemies’ would surround him. The questions where wrought iron. My father was mystified. ‘The matter is yet unresolvable and needs further study,’ my father would grimly concede. My eyes too would tear. I could observe shining tears forming in the eyes of the Rambam as well…

“This was my childhood experience. But it is not simply the precious imagination of a little boy. This is not a mystical experience. It is an absolute historic psychological event that lives with me in the depths of my soul to this very day. Today when I sit down to study, I find myself immediately in the company of the Rabbis of the Mesorah. Our relationship is personal. The Rambam is to my right. Rabenu Tam to my left. Rashi sits at the head of the table and explains. Rabenu Tam questions. The Rambam codifies. The Rivad objects. They are all in my small room sitting around the table. They gaze upon me with admiration, taking pleasure with me in their thoughts and study. They encourage and embolden me…

“The Rambam wasn’t merely my childhood friend. We are still friends today. The only difference between my childhood experience and my experience today as a grownup is this - as a child only the Rambam was my friend. My companions have increased and are now many. They include all of the Rabbis of the tradition from Moses till now. They have befriended me and are now my friends and colleagues. When I resolve a difficult Rambam or Rabenu Tam, I can see their shining faces expressing their satisfaction. I constantly feel as if the Rambam and Rabenu Tam are kissing my forehead and shaking my hand.

“I reiterate this is not a figment of my imagination. This is a deeply profound experience. This is the true experience of the transmission of the Oral Law,” (Rabbi Chaim Dov Chavel, “HaDarom,” special RCA Edition, Tishrei 1979, New York, “Ubikashtem Misham,” Ch.21; see also, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, “And From There You Shall Seek,” pgs. 143-44, translation by Naomi Goldblum, Ktav Publishers, Jersey City).

It’s hard to believe that these are the words of the author of the books, “Halakhic Man,” and “The Halakhic Mind,” the grandmaster of the rational analytics of Brisks. Yet in this rare essay, HaRav Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, invites us to join his very personal interaction with the Rishonim, the early Torah authorities. Yes, Divine Inspiration is very much with us today. According to Rabbi Samson, prophecy is soon to follow. The return of prophecy is a promised stage in the Redemption of Israel. When it happens, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the L-rd as the waters cover the sea” (Habbakuk, 2:14). May it be soon!

[The book “Contact: Prophecy Explained” is available at Pomeranz Bookstore in Jerusalem and Amazon Kindle.]