This week’s parasha deals with the leadership roles in בני ישראל— מלך, שופט, כהן ונביא. I want to look at the nature of the authority of the נביא.
אליו תשמעון could mean that if the prophet gives you advice, you need to listen to it, not necessarily that the prophet has the authority to decide הלכה. But the gemara says that they do:
We know the story of אליהו בהר הכרמל:
The problem is that he was not allowed to offer a sacrifice on הר הכרמל:
So we develop this idea of a הוראת שעה of a נביא:
Much of this shiur comes from Rav Copperman’s קדושת פשוטו של מקרא.
Now, the question is not about the נביא; they cannot make a message from G-d up. The issue is for us, the ones listening to the נביא. If they say, “I have a message from G-d. He commands you do [something]”, are we obligated to obey? Only if the message meets these four criteria.
Note that there are two aspects here: הוראת שעה and זמן מסויים בלבד. The latter means that a command that is part of a נבואה is limited in time to that moment only. The הוראת שעה means that the very nature of the decision is for the nonce; it does not create a precedent for future halachic decisions.
This is the הוראת שעה of a נביא. We don’t have any contemporary examples, for obvious reasons, so we look to תנ״ך. However, the only example that is cited is אלייהו בהר הכרמל. Every time הוראת שעה is mentioned, it has to end with כגון אליהו בהר הכרמל. But it seems that there are other examples in תנ״ך. For instance, when Elisha tells Judah and Israel to go to war with Moav, he says:
But that violates a halachah in this week’s parasha:
The Radak says that it might have been a prophetic הוראת שעה, but חז״ל went out of their way to interpret it differently:
Dr. Elman’s article analyzes Reb Zadok’s view of נבואה in the time of the first בית המקדש, that it was so common that no one asked a halachic question; they went to the local נביא for a פסק. It was only after the חורבן and the loss of prophecy that תורה שבעל פה as a human, intellectual, process came into its own. But we don’t see any of that in the record of the first בית המקדש, the books of נביאים and כתובים. Why not? Because that is the meaning of הוראת שעה:
The הוראת שעה of a נביא by definition does not create a precedent. There is nothing to learn from it. Therefore, it has no place in ספרי נבואה.
So why is אליהו בהר הכרמל different? Because it really is part of the halacha, not of נבואה, but of קרבנות, of שחוטי חוץ.
The centralization of עבודה, the establishment of a בית המקדש and any exceptions to that centralization, need to be done על פי נביא. It is inherently an exception to לא בשמים היא. Why? The משך חכמה says it’s connected to the purpose of the קרבנות. There is a famous argument between Rambam and Ramban about the underlying
purpose of the קרבנות. Rambam says it was to wean בני ישראל from idolatrous practices; they were used to sacrifices, so ה׳ allowed them but kept them limited. Ramban says that sacrifices have inherent value, which is an appealing thought, but there is a midrash that supports Rambam’s view:
The משך חכמה says both are correct, but it’s only the sacrifices in the בית המקדש that have real value:
So שחוטי חוץ have a “taste” of עבודה זרה. A נביא should not be believed if they say that ה׳ said to offer on a במה. ה׳ would never do such a thing. The halachic דרש on בכל מקום אשר תראה tells us that this is not so, that ה׳ may send a נבואה mandating a במה.
And this is because the very existence of נבואה reflects a weakness in our קבלת התורה and our relationship with הקב״ה:
נבואה and במות are both concessions to human frailty. The הוראת שעה of a נביא is ה׳ telling us that, even though the Torah was supposed to be given to us, and we should determine what it means, we never actually received it completely. Sometimes ה׳ needs to give us a nudge to push us back on track, and will send a נביא למיגדר מילתא.