By Nachum Danzig
The tenet that the Torah possessed by the Jews was dictated by G-d to Moses has been firmly established as part Jewish belief at least since mediaeval times. The Bible is then a prophetic book. Implicit in this assertion is the belief that, in deed, prophecy exists. From a political perspective, it is obvious why mediaeval Jewish philosophers claimed that the Bible is a work of prophecy. This claim gives the Bible binding and immutable authority. However, from a theological perspective, it may still be questioned, why is there a need to insist upon the existence of Divine communication with man? Could not a true religion believe in one G-d who does not communicate with man? Simply put, why must prophecy exist?
A possible answer to this question is that prophecy exists simply as a means, a means of communicating true ideas and laws to man. It is a method G-d employs to tell human beings information about which they would otherwise be ignorant. It would then appear that the state of prophecy, of itself, has no intrinsic value; it is a means to the end of revealing law and truth. If prophecy has any intrinsic value according to this view, it is as a proof to the existence of G-d. When G-d speaks to man, man is compelled, at least, to believe in G-d’s existence. It is, then, not the information of prophecy that gives prophecy its significance, but the very fact of its occurrence. In either case, prophecy exists because it has a specific external use.
Alternatively, prophecy may exist as an integral part of the natural world. Just as all nature exists as a complex intricacy in which every part is necessary for the proper functioning of the whole, prophecy, too, exists as a necessary part of nature. It is the culmination of human existence. Prophecy is the state of being in which man can truly claim to be a man. Prophecy is then an ideal existence irrespective of what external benefits it may produce. It is the natural human perfection of man. This is not to deny that incumbent with this individual perfection is the perfection of man’s social arrangements. It is natural to man to live in a political community and to be governed by a system of laws. Therefore, mediaeval philosophers infer from Aristotle that the natural perfection of man includes as a byproduct the establishment of laws. If prophecy is man at his perfection, it must generate perfect social laws. In this view, laws are the necessary outcome of prophecy, but not the reason for the existence of prophecy. In fact, the laws may be designed to facilitate prophecy for a certain class of society. Thus, the goal in itself is prophecy.
Rabbi Nissim of Gerona presents the first of these two views of the purpose of the existence of prophecy in his fifth homily. Maimonides takes the second view, which, generally speaking, is an Aristotelian view, and, more precisely, a mediaeval Arabic Neo-Platonic view. Although Ran never actually states this explicitly, it can be seen from his writing that his opinion that prophecy is a means derives from his desire to assert G-d’s freedom to act in the world. According to this view, G-d is not bound to act by any rules of nature. That all the supposed laws of nature are, in fact, the result of G-d’s constant decision making is a proposition that preceded Ran by several years. Natural prophecy is hereby ruled out. Ran instead is able to affirm the belief in the freedom of G-d’s action. Maimonides, on the other hand, by his claim for the existence of natural prophecy is able to assert the perfect and unchanging nature of G-d.
These two starting points carry though many of the issues Ran and Maimonides differ on. For example, the desire to affirm the principle of G-d’s freedom explains Ran’s choice of the prerequisites of prophecy, which includes things that are inessential to natural prophecy, but are instead concessions to the preference of G-d’s will. The assertion of the principle of G-d’s freedom of action justifies, for Ran, G-d’s overlooking imperfections in man, such as His overlooking the speech impediment of Moses, the paradigmatic prophet, when granting him prophecy. It also explains his assertion that all the Israelites had prophecy at Mount Sinai. And more subtly, the principle of G-d’s freedom of action underlies Ran’s reliance on proof through miracles, miracles being the clearest display of G-d ability to act.
Maimonides asserts the unchanging perfect nature of G-d and therefore Maimonides sees it as man’s job to emulate G-d in this perfection. Thus, Moses, the “Divine man,” is the man who has perfected himself. The process of this perfection is perceived as occurring in a natural way. In fact, nature, too, is perfect and unchanging, and therefore miracles, which are aberrations in nature, are signs of imperfection and do not teach man true knowledge.
The topics that relate to the question of the need for prophecy from a theological perspective are treated diversely by Ran and Maimonides. These topics include the following: Is the purpose of prophecy to allow man to serve G-d, or to elevate man; Does prophecy come to those people who most please G-d or to those who possess natural preparedness; Is the restraining of prophecy from those who are naturally worthy explainable, or is it inexplicable; Are the prerequisites for prophecy more than just moral and intellectual; May G-d over-look the prerequisites; Was Moses unique in his lack of fitness for prophecy or unique in his exceptionally high level of preparedness for prophecy; Is the authority of Moses derived from witnessing his prophecy or from experiencing his wisdom; Should one rely on empirical or logical proof; Does G-d consider aesthetics when granting prophecy. Ran and Maimonides answer these questions differently from each other but in a consistent fashion such that come to light two different understandings of the necessity for prophecy.
Although neither Ran nor Maimonides claims to be lead to his opinion by anything other that the plain meaning of Biblical and Talmudic dictum and logical reasoning, there is a consistency to the explanation each philosopher chooses which indicates each is conforming to a preconceived opinion. At the core of Ran’s reasoning is the idea of an unlimited G-d. A G-d that is not bound by any rules whether self imposed or otherwise is an assumption upon which Ran bases his answers to the above questions. Alternatively, Maimonides bases his approach on a conception of an unchanging G-d. This paper will show that the debate between Ran and Maimonides can be explained in this framework.
Purpose of Prophecy:
In order to conduct an intelligent investigation of the nature of prophecy a definition of the term prophecy is needed. As might be expected, Ran and Maimonides have different definitions for prophecy. In fact, what is prophecy corresponds to what is the purpose of prophecy. Neither Ran nor Maimonides tries to define prophecy by describing its outward signs as demonstrated by empirical examination. Rather, they define it by its theological use, just as one may define a chair by its use, i.e. sitting on. Prophecy is whatever is its role in the theological system of Ran and Maimonides.
Ran begins his discussion of prophecy in the beginning of the fifth homily by describing the purpose of prophecy. Ran quotes the Talmud: "אמר רבי יונתן אין הקב"ה משרה שכינתו אלא על חכם, גיבור ועשיר ועניו, וכולם ממשה." Ran continues: “It is well known that since G-d wanted to create this world for His glory, and that His objective in our regard is that the human species should serve Him. It was thus necessary that He should give to man an emanation/overflow that is beyond the intellect, an emanation which is called prophecy. Its goal is to perfect the soul so that it should be illuminated with the Light of Life. A mere intellectual emanation is insufficient for this [goal].”
Ran sees prophecy as the means to bring man information about how he can serve G-d. Since, after all, man was created for G-d’s service, he has to know how to serve and glorify G-d, and therefore he needs a mechanism to tell him what to do. What this mechanism reveals is beyond the human intellect because G-d’s service is not necessarily fathomable by the human being. Perhaps, Ran continues, one might say that a human being can come to know how to attend to his body but he certainly cannot on his own come to know how to attend to his soul or how to attend to G-d. Man cannot come to know on his own those things that G-d desires nor that which remedies his soul. As Ran puts it:
הדברים הנרצים אצל השם יתברך והעושים רושם בנפש.
Thus, Ran does not perceive of prophecy as man’s evolution into a perfect state, but only as the conveying of a knowledge external to himself. Since G-d’s will is completely free, there are no signs in nature of what G-d desires. Man cannot learn what G-d wants because G-d’s desires are not bound to any natural or logical rules. It is the freedom of G-d’s action that forces Ran to conclude that man can never determine G-d’s will. G-d’s will is inherently undetermined.
When Ran writes, “Its goal is to perfect the soul” he means that via prophecy man can come to know things that will, in turn, enable him to perfect his soul. Thus, receiving prophecy is not conceived of as a constituting a state of perfection, but only as leading to one. Quite the contrary, the fact that prophecy comes to perfect a man implies that the man is not yet perfect.
Because man cannot perfect himself on his own, he also cannot work up to being a prophet. Prophecy, when it does occur, must come to the imperfect and serve as a vehicle to bring him to perfection. But Ran is equivocal on this point. He writes that the purpose of prophecy is to allow man to fulfill his purpose which is to serve G-d by observing the Torah. In this way Ran de-emphasizes prophecy’s role as bringing human perfection in isolation. Prophecy is for G-d’s sake more than it is for man’s. In fact, it is conceivable that an imperfect man can also serve G-d. So, if prophecy is only to enable man to serve G-d, logically, it does not necessarily bring him perfection. Whatever perfection prophecy does bring, it is only because Ran has defined perfection as observing the Torah. Serving G-d is man’s perfection and prophecy affords this. We will see that prophecy has a very different role for Maimonides.
In Maimonides’ discussion of prophecy in מורה נבוכים, he describes prophecy:
Prophecy is the highest level that man can attain. It, itself, is the perfection of man. This is in contrast to what Ran writes, that prophecy is a method for gaining the מצוות so that man can then know how to serve G-d. Prophecy is not, as Ran contends, merely a means towards the end of human perfection that is only achieved by serving G-d by observing the מצוות. For Maimonides, being in the prophetic state is the perfection itself. It is the highest level that man can attain. Once a given person is a prophet, he has achieved perfection. The prophetic state itself is the perfection of man; it is the goal. It is not that man is created to serve G-d and therefore needs information on how to do so, but that man is created to elevate himself toward G-d; his goal is to be a prophet as an end in itself. Of course, once a prophet is a prophet Maimonides will concur that he will bring laws and share his perfection with others, since that is an expressing his perfection. But first and foremost, it is the self-perfection that prophecy is synonymous with, that makes prophecy a valuable goal. G-d as an unchanging perfect being cannot initiate any communication with man. The most that can occur is that man can achieve an affinity with G-d. He can rise to G-d’s level, but G-d cannot lower Himself to man’s level. G-d can be likened to a radio transmitter that is always broadcasting. Once a man builds himself a receiver, he can tune in to G-d. All the while, G-d never changes. Prophecy is then the highest expression of the natural state of man; it is the sate where man has built himself into the perfect receiver.
Prophecy as Part of the Natural Order:
Later in this same chapter, chapter thirty-six, Maimonides discusses the natural character of prophecy. Prophecy can be said to be natural if it conforms to observable and rational laws. Maimonides writes that just as all natural perfections require certain preparations, prophecy too requires preparations. Since it is a natural occurrence, but does not come to everyone, it is necessary to identify its particular causes or conditions. These conditions must be in place before prophecy can obtain in any person. Thus, Maimonides writes in talking about the coming of prophecy to a person: "ואז ישפיע עליו קצת שפע כפי ההכנה." Here "ההכנה" is the point bearing emphasis. The person has to be prepared for prophecy, and the better his preparation, the more pure and perfect will his prophecy be. This kind of explanation gives prophecy a causal character, like other natural phenomena. Just as certain physical abilities have causes that must be prepared, prophecy as well, has causes. This makes prophecy natural and not spontaneous and without cause.
Maimonides then makes a comparison worth noting. He asserts that the true dream that is fulfilled, is the same as prophecy. That, just as dreams, in a sense, are natural occurrences, since one dreams about what he sees in the day, so too prophecy is a natural occurrence in the mind of a prophet. He writes: “ אמנם יתחלף ברב או במעט, לא במין.” The difference between prophecy and dreams is in purity, in level, and in quality but not in class. They are the same type of thing; they are both natural. This seems to imply that prophecy too is dependent on the imperfect qualities of the natural creature, and not the direct product of a perfect God. This may lead us to question the authority of prophecy but, at the same time, to strengthen the belief in an unchanging perfect G-d. For G-d to directly communicate with man in the framework of time would imply change in G-d, something that Maimonides considers impossible. Rather, it is man who must change and understand the Divine Truths.
Prophecy as Super-Natural:
Ran does not view prophecy as a natural occurrence. He views it as direct communication from G-d, but he does agree that certain conditions must hold for prophecy to come to a person:
"ואין ספק שלמי שיבוא עליו זה השפע, יצטרך שיהיה שלם במעלות השכליות, ובמעלות המידות, מצד שאין ראוי שיחול [שפע] רוח השם יתברך על איש חסר המידות, כי תועבת השם נלוז"
Here we see that on the surface Ran agrees, that one has to be perfect to receive prophecy. But his reason is that it is not “fitting” for a person who is not perfect to get prophecy, because a disgusting person is an abomination to G-d. Ran’s reason is not that the person cannot possibly have prophecy, but that the person would be a disgrace to G-d if he were to have prophecy, i.e. he is an unfit representative of G-d. The only reason why a person needs to be perfect to have prophecy is because it is aesthetically pleasing to men or to G-d. The imperfect man is not essentially unfit for prophecy. There is no essential necessity in being perfect, it is merely “ fitting”. In Maimonides’ view, if there were such a thing as an aesthetic consideration to receive prophecy it would be completely irrelevant. If a person has the necessary “הכנות” it does not matter if he is a disgrace, or is not a disgrace, all that matters is whether he is technically prepared. Therefore Maimonides will require a person to be not disgraceful as an essential requirement. A disgraceful person is incapable of receiving prophecy because he is imperfect, not because G-d chooses not to grace him with prophecy.
Maimonides’ position can be illustrated be the following example. An Olympic champion needs to be physically fit and able in order to represent his country. Ran contends that even so, the country may choose not to allow him to go to the Olympics if he is an immoral person even though being immoral will not prevent him from competing effectively. To say that he cannot go because he is not moral, is to say that going is not determined by inherent ability. We can call this type of exclusion artificial. Only if we conceive of his role in the Olympics differently, if he becomes a moral representative of the State, can we understand the need to choose someone who is honorable. Nevertheless, the fact that he is immoral has nothing to do with how fast he runs. By adding this requirement, we add an inessential meaning to the Olympics games. Maimonides believes that there is no external reason to prohibit a person. For Maimonides, the Olympics would have to be a morality competition, as well, in order for a person’s morality to be relevant.
These two type of bases upon which to exclude someone are distinguished as aesthetic versus natural. Ran believes that prophecy has to conform to aesthetic principles. It has to come to a person who is aesthetically pleasing, not just to one who is naturally deserving. When Ran does justify intellectual and moral perfections on a natural basis he does so only as a secondary reason, and as what seems to be a concession to appearances.
Maimonides also restrains the granting of prophecy only to those whom G-d chooses. However, there is a difference from Ran’s view. Maimonides writes in the Moreh Nevuchim:
והדעת השלישי והוא דעת תורתנו ויסוד דתנו הוא כמו זה הדעת הפילוסופי בעצמו אלא בדבר אחד - וזה שאנחנו נאמין שהראוי לנבואה המכין עצמו לה, אפשר שלא יתנבא, וזה ברצון אלוהי, וזה אצלי הוא כדמות הנפלאות כלם ונמשך כמנהגם. שהענין הטבעי - שכל מי שהוא ראוי לפי בריאתו והתלמד לפי גידולו ולימודו, שיתנבא, והנמנע מזה אמנם הוא כמי שנמנע מהניע ידו
Here, Maimonides agrees that a prophet must not only be physically fit, not only have the necessary conditions that the philosophers say, but also must meet a seemingly extraneous requirement. The prophet must be chosen by G-d to get prophecy. Thus, Maimonides also adds conditions to prophecy that are not part of the conception of natural prophecy. However, there is a difference between Ran and Maimonides. Ran disqualifies a potential prophet if he is a despicable person. This is why G-d will not choose him, and this is a logical understandable reason, a Divine preference. On the other hand, Maimonides gives no reason why G-d does not want this person to have prophecy other than G-d’s will. For Maimonides, it is just as possible for prophecy to be prevented as for any miracle to occur. Just as Maimonides believes that G-d can do miracles in nature, here too G-d does a miracle; G-d prevents someone from getting the prophecy that is due him according to the rules of nature. Maimonides does not try to explain this in any logical way. For Maimonides, this preventing really should not happen whereas for Ran it is quite logical a person may not get granted prophecy since it is always dependent on G-d’s will in any case.
It is because Ran has a view of prophecy as an aesthetic achievement that he asserts that G-d may will not to grant prophecy to a person. For Ran, it is not an exception to G-d’s rules, or a miracle, when G-d does not grant prophecy; a disgusting person should not be a prophet; it is not pleasing to G-d. G-d is exercising his freedom to act and is following no other rule than doing that which is pleasing to Him. This is derived from Ran’s initial axiom that the purpose of prophecy is to glorify G-d. Thus, only that which better glorifies G-d can be allowed.
If, on the other hand, the purpose of prophecy is to perfect man and prophecy is the perfection of man, then if being disgusting, by definition, is an imperfection and therefore a prophet cannot be disgusting, then a disgusting person cannot receive prophecy. This is not subject to G-d’s will and, in fact, denies G-d’s freedom. For Maimonides, to be a prophet is to be perfect. There is no such concept as being a prophet and being disgusting at the same time. Therefore, Maimonides agrees with Ran that such a person will not be a prophet, but this is by nature and not by G-d’s free will decision. Moreover, any prevention of a worthy man from being a prophet is completely inexplicable. He is perfect after all. Ran however leaves room for the prophet to be imperfect. G-d may overlook one perfection, but not another, this being subject to G-d’s free will. There are certain aesthetic imperfections that are the reason G-d may not wish to give an individual prophecy. There is thus an expanded list of criteria that G-d prefers when selecting a prophet , but a shortened list of criteria that are required to become a prophet.
The Prerequisites of Prophecy:
In determining the prerequisites for prophecy, Maimonides quotes the same statement that Ran quotes:
This teaches, Maimonides asserts, that a person has to be perfect in his intellect and mostly in his morals. Maimonides divides up these three terms the following way. He claims that a person needs all the intellectual perfections and most of the moral perfections. חכם implies all the intellectual perfections and עשיר is one of the moral, or non-intellectual perfections. Being rich one of the moral perfections because being rich means one is satisfied with what he has – in accord with what appears in פרקי אבות –" איזה הוא עשיר, השמח בחלקו. " גבור is also a moral perfection because it is “one who conquers his desires.” Based on these passages, Maimonides constructs a short but strictly adhered to list of prerequisites to natural prophecy.
As regards the ignorant man, Maimonides writes in summing up - שינבא אחד מהם אלא כאפשרות הינבא חמור או צפרדע. זה יסודנו: שאי אפשר מבלתי ההתלמדות והשלמות, ואז יהיה האפשרות הנתלית בו - גזרת האלוה If first a man has the הכנות, then G-d can choose to give him prophecy. However, an ignorant man or a frog cannot prophesy because he is imperfect and there is no way that he can be ready. It is as though he is physically not fit for it. A frog or an עם הארץ does not have the necessary preparations and therefore cannot be a prophet. A worthy person who does not get prophecy can only be understood as being prevented because of something completely external to him, such as his being in Exile or his generation not being fit but nothing to do with him personally. If he is a prophet, then by definition he is perfect in every way and is fitting to prophecy, otherwise he is not a prophet at all and therefore, there cannot be any logical reason why he will not receive prophecy.
Since for Ran prophecy is a non-natural occurrence he can add requirements other than moral and intellectual perfection. But Ran agrees with Maimonides about what constitutes natural readiness. Yet, he feels the need to add aesthetic considerations. How does Ran explain the list of requirements for a prophet? He agrees that חכם is intellectual perfection, and he finishes the quote that Maimonides left un-finished, with the word עניו. Ran claims עניו refers to all moral perfections. He brings a proof from the Talmud, .וענוה גדולה מכולם He learns from this that the עניו has all other subordinate moral qualities as well. Having derived the need for all moral perfections and all intellectual perfections, Ran is left with the question: What areגבור and עשיר?
גבור ועשיר צריך טעם. . .קצת המפרשים פירשו שרצה באמרו גבור שמגביר שכלו על תאותו. ועשיר שתהיה לו מדת ההסתפקות. . . ואין דבריהם נכונים. 
Once Ran defines עניו as all moral perfections, then גבור and עשיר cannot also be moral perfections. Since Rabbi Yonatan’s statement includes עניו, the other qualities in the list must be something other than moral perfections. Ran uses this Talmudic proof to promote his contention that there are criteria to prophecy other than what the philosophers would require for natural prophecy. Thus, prophecy is not natural. Ran’s need to include such criteria is consistent with his view that prophecy is given at G-d’s will and therefore shows G-d’s freedom to act.
Over-Looking the Prerequisites:
One problem facing the claim that there are pre-requisites to receiving prophecy is the apparent meaning of the Torah to the effect that all the Israelites heard the Decalogue. This implies that everyone had some level of prophecy. Maimonides in the Moreh Nevuchim (2:32) writes: לא הגיע למדרגת הנבואה אלא הראוי לה . He asserts the text does not mean what it seems. In reality, only those people who were fit for prophecy achieved prophecy at that time at Mount Sinai, but those who were not fit for it, did not receive prophecy since, as he explains, G-d cannot do the impossible. Someone who is not fit cannot receive prophecy.
In chapter thirty-three, Maimonides claims that not everything that went to Moses went to all the Israelites.
אבל הדיבור - למשה לבדו. ... הדיבור היה לו והם ישמעו הקול ההוא העצום, ללא הבדל הדברים.
As Maimonides explains, at Mount Sinai the Israelites heard some kind of noise but they did not hear clearly the words of G-d. Maimonides is compelled to say that those who were not fit did not have prophecy, because natural prophecy requires human perfection and readiness. There is no other concern than being perfect. The explanation for this is that prophecy is not so much something that happens to a person, but something that one does to oneself. It is a self-elevation, a self-perfection, a going up to G-d and into a state of prophecy. If one has not elevated himself, he cannot be made elevated, just as the frog cannot be made to think. There is no room for an exception. The requirements cannot be overlooked. One must train himself to become ready. G-d can prevent, but He cannot allow a thing that is inherently impossible. One who is not ready, cannot have prophecy, and G-d, himself, is bound to this rule.
Thus, Maimonides explains that the first two דיברות were not actually heard by everyone. Since these דיברותwere intellectual apprehensions, once they were explained to everyone then they are as valid as if heard through prophecy. Whenever prophecy is purely intellectual, then when one knows it, he knows it in the same way that the prophet knows it, and hence is equal to the prophet as regards this particular prophecy. In a similar way, if a prophet knows a halacha through his intellect, he knows it the same way that the chacham knows it and this justifies his being able to teach it in the Sanhedrin. To the extent that he knows something through his wisdom, he and the wise man are the same. If Moses teaches every Israelite the idea of G-d’s unity, then they know it just as well as Moses, since it is a provable thing, and so, their knowledge of it is no different than Moses’. Essentially, neither is based on prophecy any longer, but on the intellect. The prophet has superior knowledge of only those things which the human intellect cannot understand by reason and which are revealed to him. These things the prophet has a surer knowledge of than one who merely hears them from the prophet and not directly from G-d. Maimonides therefore explains the equation of Moses to all the Israelites in the first two דיברות as derived from the intellectual nature of these דיברות. They know it via prophecy just as much as Moses knows it via prophecy; in reality it is know via the intellect. Thus, the prophecy of Moses has become redefined as wisdom.
במציאות האלוה והיותו אחד, אמנם יושגו בעיון האנושי. וכל משיוודע במופת, משפט הנביא בו ומשפט כל מי שידעהו – שווה, אין יתרון.
Something that is logically provable is understood equally by the prophet and one who understands it from a prophet. This is the meaning of all the Israelites hearing the first twoדיברות . It is not that they received it through prophecy, but through wisdom, through Moses teaching them as a teacher and this puts them on the same level of understanding as Moses. This is not the case with a law like tefillin that one cannot understand purely intellectually. Maimonides forces this interpretation on Scripture in order to maintain his principle of natural prophecy and reject the idea that the untutored can prophesy.
Ran totally disagrees with this approach. Ran claims that all the Israelites heard the first two דיברות and G-d made an exception to the requirement that a prophet meet certain prerequisites:
כדי שידעו באמת שהוא נביא השם יתברך ולא מצד האותות
They should believe that Moses is a prophet of G-d not just because they see that he did miracles, but because they themselves experienced the prophecy together with Moses. Just as the witness who witnesses an event sees the other witnesses who are witnessing that event, so too did they, as prophets, see Moses as a prophet. They then knew that anything else he would tell them would be true and they would not listen to the philosophers if the philosophers would disagree with Moses. Ran goes on to write:
ואע"פ שלא היו ראויים לאותו השגה, וגם שהיו רבים ביניהם שלא היו ראויים למדרגת נבואה כלל, היה זה כדי שתתחזק אצלנו נבואתו
The people were not at the right level but they were made at the level for a moment so that they could understand that Moses was a prophet. For Maimonides this contention is untenable. Although G-d can prevent someone from being a prophet through a miracle, He cannot grant someone understanding, i.e. prophecy, that he cannot understand in any way. If, however, prophecy is for G-d’s glory, then it is logical that He can grant it whenever it is glorious for Him. Moreover, to the extent that prophecy is to perfect an imperfect soul, it primarily comes to the imperfect. Additionally, granting prophecy to the undeserving demonstrates G-d’s freedom to act.
However, if, as Maimonides holds, the state of prophecy is man’s self-perfection, then by definition, one who is imperfect cannot be in this state. G-d cannot give him prophecy; G-d’s actions would then be imperfect. A teacher may give a student an A on a test that he failed, but he cannot make him know the information. If the grade is just an honor from the teacher, then the teacher can give any grade, but if it shows what the student knows, then the teacher is not free to grade as he wishes. If the teacher would give the A, it would show the teacher’s lack of constancy and perfection. G-d is also not free to grant prophecy to the untutored. Ran understands prophecy as being for G-d’s glory whereas Maimonides understands it as man’s self perfection. Ran stresses G-d freedom whereas Maimonides stresses G-d’s constancy.
The Uniqueness of Moses:
Ran writes that Moses was unique in that he attained a level not humanly possible, at least not possible by natural means. His proof is the verse:
ספר דברים פרק לד: וְלֹא קָם נָבִיא עוֹד בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל כְּמשֶׁה אֲשֶׁר יְדָעוֹ יְהֹוָה פָּנִים אֶל פָּנִים
Ran argues that if this level were attainable naturally, then the Torah could not guarantee that no one would ever again reach that level, since G-d will not hold back a benefit from one who deserves it. He thus uses Moses’ uniqueness to prove that his level of prophecy is super-natural. Maimonides uses this same uniqueness to prove the opposite. Moses’ uniqueness is based on the very naturalness of his prophecy.
In chapter thirty-five of Moreh Nevuchim, Maimonides writes:
ששם נביא אמנם יאמר אצלי על משה ועל זולתו בסיפוק וכן הענין אצלי עוד לפעולותיו בנפלאות זולתו כי אותותיו אינם מכת נפלאות שאר הנביאים
Maimonides believes that Moses and other prophets are both called prophets but the word “prophet” has distinct meanings in the two instances. In reference to Moses the term “prophet” does not mean prophet as it does for every other person. What exactly is different about Moses’ prophecy? Shem Tov Ibn Shem Tov and Moses Narboni in their commentaries write that Moses is unique because he did not use the imaginative faculty. Narboni lists four differences in Moses’ prophetic level: (1) Moses had prophecy not by means of an angel, (2) Moses was awake, (3) Moses was in control of his senses, and (4) Moses had prophecy whenever he willed to. In this connection let us refer to Aristotle’s only description of the possibility of direct prophetic communication from G-d to man.
And these stimuli produce mental pictures from which men predict what will happen about such events. This is why this affection occurs more readily to ordinary men and not to those who are specially intelligent. If it were G-d who sent them, they would appear by day also and to the wise; but as it is, it is natural that ordinary men should foresee; for the minds of such men are not given to deep thought, but are empty and vacant of all thoughts, and when once stimulated are carried away by the impulse.
Aristotle, like Maimonides, divides prophecy into two distinct types. Aristotle believes that normal prophecy only occurs in unwise people because unwise people have more vacant minds, and therefore are influenced more by small stimuli that they apprehend. Whereas, thinking persons, people full of thought, have no room for prophecy in the sense of foreseeing the future based on small stimuli, because their minds are cluttered with all their deep thoughts. Simple people, who have empty minds have the room to know about the future. This is what Aristotle calls prophecy. Aristotle also entertains the possibility that there could be a second type of prophecy, some kind of a real communication from G-d. He writes that if it would be from G-d, then it would be by day and to the wise. Since the minds of the wise are in tune with G-d, they can perceive true thoughts while awake.
Aristotle’s second type of prophecy is distinguished by two characteristics. It is by day and it only comes to a wise person. Only then is it called communication with G-d. G-d will communicate by day and to the wise since the mind of a wise man may be more perfect by day. Maimonides stresses that Moses prophesies in the day, and that he is a different kind of a prophet from the other prophets. Maimonides also frequently writes that Moses is wise. Perhaps Maimonides believes Moses is unique in that his prophecy is directly from G-d. Aristotle defines prophecy as that type which he is familiar with which comes to ordinary people and which is predicting the future in dreams. This is the normal meaning of the term “prophecy” that Maimonides applies to ordinary prophets. It is regular people finding out about the future, and those people do not have to be the extremely wise people. Moses is a completely different prophet.
Moses is that kind of prophet that Aristotle refers to as the prophet who really speaks with G-d. This is why Maimonides emphasizes that Moses communicates with G-d during the day; it shows that his is true prophecy and not just the result of the vacancy of his mind. Rather, his mind is full because he is a wise person, and thus the uniqueness of Moses’ prophecy is that Moses is really a wise man. Moses is not truly a נביא in the normal sense of the word. According to Maimonides’ claim, in reference to Moses, נביא is used amphibolously. Moses is not a נביא in the same sense that all the other נביאים are. His prophecy is the result of what he thinks about in his conscious mind all day. Moses is, or represents, pure wisdom.
Moses as the most wise is the one capable of knowing and disseminating the law. This giving of wisdom from the wise man is the practical meaning of his communicating directly with G-d. Moses has become the lawgiver rather than the law receiver. In what sense can we say Moses’ law is Divine? Joseph Kaspi in his commentary equates the intellect of the perfect individual with G-d Himself.  Real prophecy is the wisdom of the individual. The other prophets fall into the category that Aristotle describes as people who do not communicate with G-d but merely apprehend things because their minds are vacant. Surely no binding, valuable or even coherent law system can be based on their vacuous ravings. Perhaps this is the reason Maimonides puts such an emphasis on the difference between the prophecy of Moses and the other prophets. Moses is the prophet whose prophecy is equated with wisdom - to quote Kaspi, Moses “has G-d in his head.”
Maimonides’ explanation of the first two דיברות supports this hypothesis. The first two דיברות were accepted not on the basis of Moses’ authority as a prophet, but on the basis of the intellect of the individual. The sages of the Talmud claim that all the Israelites heard the first two דיברות on the same level as Moses. If Moses’ level is distinguished by being human wisdom, then the Israelites having been on the same level as Moses means they, too, understood the דיברות via wisdom. This is in deed what Maimonides believes. Moses’ communication of the content of the first two דיברות was education. Moses is foremost משה רבנו, the paradigm teacher. This is the meaning of real prophecy. Moses’ authority is based on the intellect. The basis for the law of the ideal society is intellect and wisdom. Consistent to this view is the principle that Maimonides codifies in the Mishneh Torah that a future prophet cannot explain a halacha on the basis of prophecy but only based on his wisdom.
As stated previously, Ran writes that the Israelites experienced the first two דיברות as נבואה in order that they should believe in Moses as a true prophet and that they should not listen to the philosophers if they contradict Moses. Maimonides presents a similar argument. He, however, qualifies his argument that the prophecy of the Israelites and the prophecy of Moses were unequal. Moses’ prophecy was a real communication with G-d whereas the Israelites’ prophecy was from “in front of G-d,” i.e., they heard just the voices that were created for this purpose. Nevertheless, they did experience Moses speaking with G-d. In Mishneh Torah, Maimonides writes:
משה רבנו לא האמינו בו ישראל מפני האותות שעשה שהמאמין על פי אותות יש בלבו דופי שאפשר שיעשה האות בלט וכישוף, אלא כל האותות שעשה משה במדבר לפי הצורך עשאם
Moses did all the miracles not to convince the Israelites of the authenticity of his prophecy but to help them survive the difficulties of the desert. What really did cause them to believe in Moses?
במה האמינו בו? מעמד הר סיני שעינינו ראו ולא זר, ואוזננו שמעו ולא אחר, האש והקולות והלפידים והוא ניגש אל הערפל והקול מדבר אליו ואנו שומעים "משה, משה, לך אמור להם כך וכך." וכן הוא אומר: פנים בפנים דיבר ה' עמכם. ונאמר: לא את אבותינו כרת ה' את הברית הזאת.
Maimonides writes that the proof that caused the Israelites to believe in Moses was
that they experienced Mount Sinai with Moses. He goes on to compare this to two witnesses, witnessing the same event. This explanation is very similar to Ran except that according to Maimonides explanation here, the Israelites did not actually attain the level of Moses’ prophecy. They attained a level that can be attained without any special preparation; anyone can see or hear voices. One might suggest that this hearing of voices might actually be what Ran means when he says that the Israelites experienced prophecy even though they did not deserve it. This would imply that Ran’s conception of prophecy includes a type of occurrence that Maimonides would not call prophecy, but would only call hearing voices. Ran calls prophecy something that anybody can have if G-d wills it. G-d may not give it to certain people because it is not fitting to His glory, but He can break those rules for certain purposes. Perhaps, according to Ran, prophecy is something almost physical and therefore as with a physical phenomenon, anyone who can see and hear, can experience it. This is what Maimonides describes as hearing a created voice in front of G-d, but not true prophecy.
Maimonides would also agree that one can hear a voice that G-d creates, but he would not call that prophecy because prophecy is a special type of occurrence where one understands something via the active intellect and with a perfected imaginative faculty. One has to be prepared for this, has to actively perfect these faculties. It is not a purely physical experience. It may be that the distinction between Maimonides and Ran is one of terminology. Ran is willing to call things prophecy that Maimonides would not call prophecy at all.
In the eleventh homily Ran’s treatment of believing in Moses based on joint prophecy is more complex. He writes that there are two reasons why Moses was believed:
וידוע הוא שנבואת משה רבינו עליו השלום נתאמתה בשני דרכים: הראשונה מצד האותות שהספיקו להאמין בו במה שהודיע לישראל שפקדם ה' יתברך וכי ראה את ענים, והוא הקדמת הידיעה במה שיקרה להם כמו שאמר: ויעש האותות לעיני העם ויאמין העם וישמעו כי פקד ה' את בני ישראל וכי ראה את ענים. והספיקו עוד אותות ההם להאמין בו במצוות שעה, והוא הפסח שעשו על פיו, תכלית כל מה שראוי שיאמין בו הנביא המתחדש בכל דור ודור אבל משה נתיחד בענין האמנת נבואתו יותר במה שראו אבותינו שספרו לנו ענינים במעמד הר סיני
First, the belief in Moses was no different from the belief in any prophet. The prophet is believed when he predicts a future occurrence which then happens. This was the purpose of the miracles that occurred in Egypt; but they were only enough for the people to follow only the temporary מצוות. When Moses was to become a permanent lawgiver, that no future prophet could ever uproot, he needed a more convincing proof of his authenticity. This was Mount Sinai:
והיה זה כדי שלא יהא אפשר לנו לספק בנבואתו כלל בשום אות שיתן מתנבא עתיד כנגד תורתו וזה שאמר: הנה אנוכי בא אליך בעב הענן בעבור ישמע העם בדברי עמך וגם בך יאמינו לעולם.
G-d says to Moses that He comes to the Israelites in His great wonders so they should believe in Moses forever. Ran has found a way to distinguish the belief in Moses from the belief in other prophets which is not based on Moses’ wisdom, but on G-d’s demonstration of His choice of Moses. Ran hereby emphasizes G-d’s will instead of emphasizing nature’s order. Let us note the differences from Maimonides’ understanding.
Empirical Versus A Priori Proof:
Ran understands the proof of G-d at Sinai as being through the senses, through seeing and hearing. This accords with the view that G-d’s essential quality is his freedom to act. To show His freedom of action, G-d must act in the world and man must observe His actions. Thus, Ran’s disciple, Hasdai Crescas, also bases belief on witnessing G-d’s freedom of action. In Or Hashem he writes:
"אנוכי ה' אלוהיך". הנה פרש שם האלוהות היותו פועל לכל הנמצאות, ויהיה לפי זה אמרו "אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים" כדמות ראיה על זאת האמונה, וזה, שמשם נעמוד על יכולת השם, וכי הנמצאות כולם בערכו כחומר ביד היוצר.
Crescas is thus saying that the Israelites know that G-d can do anything and is the creator of the world because they saw in Egypt what He did. Crescas also holds, like his teacher Ran, that we rely on our senses to know that G-d is truly the creator and truly the controller of the world.
Maimonides, in The Guide for the Perplexed, asserts that the people believed in Moses because they experienced the first twoדיברות in the same intellectual way as Moses. This was possible since these two are intellectual דיברות. Therefore, the people believed in Moses because they prophesied his prophecy. Their prophecy and his, however, were not exactly the same. His prophecy was direct prophecy from G-d whereas theirs was through proof, but as Maimonides explains this is equivalent. However, Maimonides in Hilchot Yesodeh Hatorah is much closer to Ran’s conception of an experiential proof. There, Maimonides seems to rely on the senses and not the intellect as a proof of G-d.
On the one hand in the Mishneh Torah Maimonides seems to say, similarly, that belief in G-d is based on what was seen at Mount Sinai. The people saw that Moses was having prophecy with G-d so therefore they believed in Moses’ prophecy. In the Moreh Nevuchim the event is conceived of much more as an intellectual experience. The people had the same intellectual experience as Moses. If we leave this as a contradiction, we can argue that since the Moreh Nevuchim presents a more thorough treatment of the subject we can assume this view is closer to Maimonides’ true opinion. Moreover, the view in the Moreh Nevuchim seems more reasonable since logically one can only believe in something that one understands. Therefore intellectual belief is really on a higher level.
Alternatively, if we try to resolve the conflict between the two different explanations of Maimonides’ we may explain:
שהמאמין על פי האותות יש בלבו דפי.
The mind is not fully convinced just because the eye sees. The simple understanding of why there is this lack of surety is that a person may see something later that contradicts his first observation, whereas an intellectual proof can never be disproved if it really was an intellectual proof in the first place. Therefore, intellectual proofs have a far greater hold. Thus, even in Yesodeh Hatorah, it is not the sensual experience of Mount Sinai, as it is for Ran and Crescas, but the intellectual experience of Mount Sinai that causes the Israelites to believe in Moses. When Maimonides writes that the Israelites saw the voices he intends that they intellectually experienced the prophecy, just as he write in the Guide.
But there is a more essential explanation of Maimonides’ position. Maimonides’ dislike for relying on miracles as a proof of a prophet’s being a true prophet may be related to a dislike for relying on miracles as a proof of G-d’s very existence. Maimonides writes in the Moreh Nevuchim that far from looking to miracles, we actually look to G-d’s routine creation to know something about Him:
I have already told you that nothing exists except G-d in this Universe, and that there is no other evidence for his existence but this Universe in its entirety and in its several parts. Consequently the Universe must be examined as it is, the propositions must be derived from those properties of the Universe which are clearly perceived and hence you must know its visible form and its nature. Then only will you find in the Universe evidence for the existence of a Being not included therein.
The way to understand G-d is through studying the world, because that is the one thing we know for sure; by definition G-d created the world, and by studying the world we find out about G-d. One of the main things we find out is that G-d follows normal, orderly rules: the sun travels its course, the stars travel their course, everything is fixed and constant. Thus, we learn that G-d’s creation follows unchanging laws. The thing that most goes against this is miracles. Miracles show that G-d does unusual things; that He is erratic. This is directly opposed to the unchanging, perfect Aristotelian G-d of Maimonides. Therefore, Maimonides has to explain that miracles were intended originally from the beginning of creation. But in general, the miracles teach the wrong thing about G-d. They teach that He is inconsistent; that He changes. Thus any person who believes based on אותות, based on miracles, “יש בלבו דופי”, he has doubt in his heart. He has incorrect thoughts in his heart; he thinks that G-d is typified by miracles, that G-d does unusual things, that G-d is irrational or that G-d is erratic. He does one time, one thing, and another time, another thing. Thus the believer does not learn the constancy of G-d. This is the דופי in his heart.
Similarly, learning from miracles to believe in Moses is also problematic. Belief in Moses should not be based on what Moses did, or because of what was observed, but on intellectual perception alone. What the historical Moses did is time-connected. Moses’ one-time actions do not teach anything about his essential nature and his authenticity. The reason not to rely on miracles as the basis for belief in prophets is not that another prophet doing a contrary miracle could refute the belief, or that the senses could be playing a trick on the observer. Rather, miracles are an invalid basis for belief because just as one must learn about G-d from His normal actions, from His creation, so must one learn about the prophet from his essential unchanging essence. The only truly unchanging part of the life of the prophet is his teaching. The events of his life are not constant, but his true teachings are. Thus, the Israelites must learn about Moses’ authenticity through a critical analysis of his teachings. Just as investigating G-d’s creation teaches about His existence, investigating the prophet’s creation, his teachings, teaches about his authenticity and validity. This is why a belief in Moses that is based on the miracles he performed, and because of the circumstances of his life, and not on the intellectual proofs of his essential teachings is inherently flawed. Only his teachings are constant. That is the difference between Maimonides on the one hand, and Crescas and Ran on the other. Crescas and Ran affirm G-d’s freedom of action as demonstrated by His persistent involvement in the peculiarities of history. Maimonides stresses G-d’s perfect unfaltering constancy.
Ran still has to explain why a נביא has to be strong and rich, granted that these are not moral or intellectual perfections.
אבל צריך ביאור מדוע יצטרך הנביא להיותו עשיר ובעל קומה, כי בגבור נוכל לפרש שצריך להיות אמיץ לבו בגבורים מי שהוא שלוח להוכיח עם רב ולא ישוב מפני כל, כמו שהזהיר השם יתברך לירמיה: ואתה תאזור מתנין וקמת ודברת אליהם את כל אשר אנוכי אצווך אל תחת מפניהם פן אחתך לפניהם, אבל בעשיר ובעל קומה צריך טעם.
Ran writes that גבור means that the prophet has to be brave-hearted so that he should be able to speak to the people things that they do not want to hear. But how can he explain the requirement to be rich and tall?
והתשובה בזה: שאם יצטרך הנביא הנבואה להשלים לעצמו לבד לא לזולתו היה ראוי שינבא מי שימצאו בו השלמיות אשר תשלם הנפש בם יהיה הגוף שלם או חסר, אבל הנביא שינבא להמון ומודיע מה שצווהו השם יתברך יצטרך שיהיו נבחר ונרצה מכל הכתות מאוהבי החכמה ואוהבי העושר ואוהבי הגיבורה, ושישלימו לו מעלות המידות. וכבר ידוע שאינו נקרא נביא רק להיותו משמיע ומדבר תמיד להמון מה שיצוהו ה' יתברך.
Ran explains that the prophet needs to be rich and tall so that people will listen to him; so people who value things other than חכמה will also listen to the נביא. The prophet must be able to transmit his message. Upon hearing that the prophet is rich, the masses will assume that he must have something worthwhile to say. If he is tall and looks important, they will also listen to him. Not everyone values wisdom.
In determining the fitness of a given person to receive prophecy, Ran considers qualities external to the person. Just as Ran accepts physical experience as a proof of G-d, he realizes that people value different aspects of the physical world. Therefore, the נביא must exemplify various physical perfections. People trust their senses and the נביא should acquiesce to that state of being. He must be pleasing to their senses. People do look up to wealth and to good stature and physical form. Therefore, the נביא has to fit into those categories that the people admire.
Maimonides totally rejects giving into this tendency of valuing physical outward appearances and therefore he does not accept this explanation for גבור and עשיר. גבור and עשיר must be something moral because, a priori, Maimonides disregards the physical appearance of the prophet. He accepts only attributes that logically prepare one for natural prophecy. Prophecy is the perfection of man’s intellect and character. What leads to this perfection is relevant, but what the prophet looks like is irrelevant to determining his readiness to receive prophecy. The causes for the existence of prophecy must be essential to prophecy. Thus, aesthetic considerations are rejected. This is in distinction to Ran who considers prophecy a gift, not something necessarily earned. Therefore, just as one can choose to give a gift to someone one likes even for some inessential reason, like his height, so to prophecy can be given based on aesthetic considerations. Even though height may be essential in the sense that it facilitates conveying the prophecy, it is nevertheless inessential to receiving prophecy.
Maimonides in Moreh Nevuchim (3:54) quotes Jeremiah to support his thesis that wisdom is only perfection of man. This passage is reminiscent of Ran’s discussion because it deals with people’s valuing wealth and courage.
הנה בארו לנו הנביאים גם הם אלו הענינים בעצמם ופירשו אותם לנו כמו שפרשום הפילוסופים ואמרו לנו בפרוש: שאין שלימות הקנין, ולא שלימות בריאות הגוף, ולא שלימות המדות, שלימות שראוי להתפאר ולהתהלל בו, ולא לבקש אותו, ושהשלמות שראוי להתהלל בו ולבקשו הוא - ידיעת האלוה יתברך, שהיא החכמה האמיתית.
The true praise of a person should only be for his wisdom.
אמר ירמיה: באלו השלמיות הארבע: "כה אמר ה' אל יתהלל חכם בחכמתו, ואל יתהלל הגבור בגבורתו, ואל יתהלל עשיר בעושרו, כי אם בזאת יתהלל המתהלל, השכל וידע אותי.
Jeremiah derides praise of external qualities in men; he extols only praise of true wisdom. Maimonides understands from this, that the highest perfection of man is wisdom.
Jeremiah’s statement unsettles Ran’s opinion. Ran views prophecy as a gift that G-d gives to man and therefore G-d can choose to give it to people who fit criteria that are not necessarily intrinsic to attaining prophecy. According to Ran, Jeremiah himself had to be tall and brave in order to become a prophet, and yet he tells the people not to value these qualities. Jeremiah, instead, lauds only wisdom. Jeremiah was also wise, but the listener could question, reasoning that G-d chose Jeremiah not only for his wisdom but, for example, also for his bravery, height and strength. It must be, then, that G-d does value these things. Bravery, height and strength are valuable. This undermines Jeremiah’s own argument. The נביא should not be an example of that which he comes to disparage. If the only thing that is valuable is ones intellect, the prophet cannot be required to have other qualities; he should not be a counter-example to his own argument. Maimonides avoids this weakness by excluding bravery, height and strength from his requirements for prophecy.
Maimonides believes there is no need for the prophet to have qualities that are themselves unimportant qualities. Maimonides considers prophecy to be a perfection that man has to attain; it is man moving up towards G-d. Therefore, what is required for prophecy is whatever brings man closer to G-d whether that be wisdom or some other essential trait, but not things such as wealthor tallness that are not essential in bringing one closer to G-d. Maimonides writes quite clearly:
וכבר השיגו ה'חכמים ז"ל'…שה'חכמה' הנאמרת סתם בכל מקום, והיא התכלית, היא השגתו ית', ושאלו הקנינים שיקנם האדם, שישימם סגולתו ויחשבם שלמות, אינם שלמות;
The only perfection is wisdom, whereas other things that some people consider as perfection are, in fact, unimportant. It is part of the prophet’s mission to convince people of this. Surely he, himself, is not an example to the contrary.
On the one hand, what causes Ran to assert that the prerequisites for prophecy are not really required is his premise that G-d is free to do anything, but on the other hand, there is also a more immediate cause. Ran takes the statements that all the Israelites, even the lowly maidservants, had a prophetic vision at the Sea of Reeds on leaving Egypt literally. Even the nursing infant saw G-d. That maid was not necessarily wise and morally perfect and yet she saw this. Ran is faced with unmet requirements. How could the prophecy occur in people without these perfections? Ran answers this by asserting that just as the secondary criteria such as wealth and tallness are not essential, so too the primary criteria such as wisdom are not essential and G-d can overlook any deficiencies in these areas when granting prophecy. Ran turns the list of requirements into a list of preferences. The only essential criteria left is G-d’s will and desire that such and such a person should have prophecy. Thus by adding inessential criteria Ran effectively diluted all the criteria to the extent that they are all categorized as inessential. Thus, anyone, even a maidservant and all the people at Mount Sinai can have prophecy. In this way, Ran is able to firmly assert G-d’s unlimited freedom and the dependency of all events purely on His will.
Ran’s Forced Arguments:
Ran explains the requirement for a prophet to be of tall stature in the following way:
"בעל קומה", להיותו יותר נראה אל ההמון בענין ההדור כמו שאמרו בבכורות: מניין שהקב"ה משתבח בבעל קומה, ולזה אין ראוי לדבר ברבים אלא איש שיהיה בעל קומה שיהיו דבריו נשמעים יותר.
G-d is more glorified with good-looking, perfect people. But regarding Moses, Ran asks the following question:
ויש כאן שאלה, היות משה אדון הנביאים ערל שפתיים, עד שהוצרך אהרון אחיו להיות מתורגמנו.
After explaining the requirement of the prophet to be physically perfect, and to possess physical characteristics needed to convince the masses, Ran must explain how the greatest prophet, the representative of G-d in the world be lacking in such a critical requirement for communicating G-d’s message – his being ערל שפתיים? Ran asserts that nature could not have been an obstacle for Moses, because everything that G-d did with Moses was beyond the rules of nature. G-d could have healed Moses supernaturally.
ושהשלימו השם יתברך בענין נסיי
Ran holds that Moses could not have reached his high level naturally, so one would expect G-d to have removed his speech impediment miraculously also. Why was Moses left with this problem? According Ran, Moses was left with his speech impediment precisely to show that he was on a miraculous level of existence.
איך אמר ולא קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה, והשם יתב' לא ימנע טוב מבעליו לבלתי ישיג האדם המעלה שהיא לו אפשרית, אבל ענין הפסוק הוא להודיע כי ענין משה עליו השלום היה מכח הנסים והנפלאות, ויצא מגדר הענינים הטבעיים.
Ran contends that if prophecy descends on people in a natural way, then they would lose bodily control and would go into a trance. But if prophecy comes to a person while he is awake and on his feet, perfect in all his facilities, just as a person speaks to his friend - this is impossible according to nature because this is as if he is a person and an abstract intellect at once. But this is how Moses’ prophecy occurred. G-d wanted the Torah to be beyond nature and so he wanted the prophecy to be beyond nature. To show the truth of the Torah it must be shown that Moses’ giving the Law is not just a natural occurrence but that it is from G-d. So no one should think that Moses was naturally coming up with these ideas and was naturally able to persuade a whole nation, G-d chose a person to be leader who had natural deficiencies in being a leader. And the fact he succeeded shows that G-d was directing him and that the Torah is really from G-d. Ran is willing to violate his own rules and assumptions about how G-d runs the world, for other considerations.
ולזאת הסבה נשלם משה בכל שלימות נביא, להאמין שענינו בכח אלהי, והוסר ממנו בהשגחה גמורה הדבור הצח, יען לא יחשב שהיות [כלל] ישראל וגדוליהם נמשכים אחריו, היה לצחות דברו כמו שאמר על מי שהוא צח הדבור שימשיך ההמון אחריו, ושהשקר ממנו יחשב אמת, והדבר [כלו] בהפך למי שהוא כבד פה וכבד לשון, שהאמת לא יקובל ממנו רק לחוזק הגלותו, ולזה הוסר בהשגחה לא היה דבר נופל במקרה.
Moses was left with his speech impediment so that no one should think he inveigled the Israelites into accepting the Torah. Since he was incapable of beguiling any one, and they still listened to him, it must be that they really did see the events of Mount Sinai, and the Torah must really be Divine. Moses could not have convinced them had it not been true. Ran ignores criteria he himself set up. His premise before was that a prophet needs to lead the people and therefore he must be a good communicator and therefore he must be brave, tall, and presumably able to speak well. Ran breaks this rule for the greatest prophet. G-d is conceived of as acting counter to His own expected rational behavior. Ran is faced with a difficulty, and not only does he apologize for it, he tries to incorporate it into his argument, but the argument is forced. Ran is able to show G-d’s freedom of action. By granting the blemished person prophecy, G-d show his ability to do anything. It is ironic that the quote from R. Yonaton that Ran brings at the start of his homily derives the prerequisites of prophecy from Moses. The paradigm of prophecy is thus himself an exception to the rules he generates.
Homily eleven also presents G-d as acting counter to his perfection would seem to dictate. Ran asks, why did G-d ask the Israelites to borrow valuables from their neighbors before leaving Egypt? Why use this trick to get their valuables? If G-d is all-powerful, let Him force the Egyptians to give away their things? He writes:
וכל שכן אחר שיד השם יתברך תקיפה וחזקה עליהם, למה הוצרכו לעשות כן, כי אם לומר תנו לנו שכרינו שנשתעבדתם בנו כך וכך ממון, ... היתר אלו שני הקשרים הוא דבר אחד, שדרכי השם יתברך הוא להביא עצות מרחוק להפיל שונאתו בדינו.
G-d wanted to trick the Egyptians. The Egyptians should think there is no G-d protecting the Israelites, and therefore the Israelites were forced to trick them. G-d’s objective is that the Egyptians should pursue them to try to destroy them so that G-d can punish the Egyptians for this attempt. G-d tricks the Egyptians so that He can punish them. The flaw in this line of reasoning is that the mere fact that He creates a justification to punish them causes that justification to lose all claim on legitimacy. Obviously, G-d just wants to punish the Egyptian. Ran presents a G-d acting counter to His true nature - in this case, His omnipotent nature - in order to achieve some tangential aim. Similar to the counterintuitive argument in Ran’s fifth homily regarding Moses’ flaws, the argument here shows that G-d can do anything, even things which are seemingly illogical.
Whether having to trick the Egyptians or providing a leader with basic inadequacies, G-d, in the thought of Ran, exercises his freedom of will in ways inconsistent to His perfection. G-d breaks the very rules of logic Ran set up for Him. Ran does succeed in showing that G-d is all-able or free to act, since G-d is not bound by even His own rules. His freedom to act overshadows His nature and the rules of logic. This concept is repeated by Crescas and foreshadows M. H. Luzzatto in Daat T’vunot and other cabalists. G-d’s freedom and His being beyond logic are the paramount example of G-d’s perfection. Perfection is not the static state Maimonides describes, but it is limitless freedom to act.
A weakness in Ran’s position it is that his explanations for difficulties do not flow in a straightforward manner from his claims. In reality, Ran is faced with contradictions to his theological system, for example, the theory of the requirements of prophecy, that he then manages to incorporate based on this principle of freedom of action. It does not appear that he develops his theory of prophecy based on the exceptions to the rules of prophecy. Rather, once given the fact that Moses had a speech impediment, Ran explains it, or apologizes for it. By saying that G-d will do the opposite of what He should do just to prove He can do anything, he loses the ability to say anything meaningful about G-d. G-d may do a thing and its opposite. There is no longer a concept of Divine behavior since perhaps G-d should do the opposite. G-d’s behavior has become unknowable; nature also reveals nothing about Him. All that can be investigated is G-d’s essence. Prophecy also becomes unknowable since it has not fixed set of conditions and parameters. It, like all of creation, is dependent on the momentary will of G-d. Ran holds that the nature of prophecy cannot be characterized.
Maimonides who conceives of G-d as a perfect unchanging being must understand prophecy as man developing a union between his mind and G-d. Some action must take place for this union to occur. Action implies change and therefore G-d cannot act. Therefore, the burden of establishing a link with G-d rests on man who can change. Only the man who has brought himself up to G-d’s level of perfection can commune with G-d in a state of prophecy. There is no possibility of this type of communion between G-d and an unperfected being. Therefore,
Maimonides cannot admit the possibility of prophecy where the conditions for it are absent. This would be as if an improperly build radio receiver could nevertheless receive signals. By affirming G-d’s perfection, Maimonides is forced to limit G-d’s freedom to act.
Ran considers the aspect of G-d that is of utmost importance to be His freedom of action. For G-d to be truly free to act, He must be able to do even that which contradicts the bounds of reason. Therefore, there cannot be any necessary conditions for the state of prophecy to obtain in a person. The existence of necessary conditions would imply that G-d is bound to a set of rules. This would limit His freedom of action. Rather, prophecy, like all other events in Creation, is solely subject to the will of G-d. Whatever pleases and glorifies G-d and serves His purposes can and will occur. Therefore, any person can prophesy and there are no real necessary conditions to engender prophecy.
These two different starting points are at the core of the debate between Maimonides and Ran. Since Ran believes prophecy occurs due to the will of G-d, he is lead to believe there must always be a specific reason why prophecy will come to a man. Therefore, prophecy has an objective, the revealing of law to man. It may also have the objective of convincing people of a certain individual’s genuineness. Whenever Divine will is the cause for something there must be an objective or goal to that will. Alternatively, if events of the world are natural consequences of a perfect system, as Maimonides believes, there may be no specific goal for a certain occurrence. The spheres revolve because that is their perfect nature, not because G-d has a specific reason why each day they must revolve. To quote Maimonides in a slightly different context, “they do the truth because it is true.” Similarly, it is inconceivable that prophecy could come to a person for some external reason. The Universe does not run based on will but based on causes. A person must fulfill the necessary criteria in order to prophesy. It is equally inconceivable that a person could have prophecy withheld when the necessary causes for prophecy exist. Maimonides firmly establishes G-d unchanging perfection but must sacrifice G-d’s ability to act freely. These two contradictory assertions, G-d’s perfection and G-d’s freedom, underlie the two different views of the function and nature of prophecy held by Maimonides and Ran.
 ראה אמונות ודעות 3:5; ספר כוזרי 1:19-25, 3:23-39; הקדמה לפירוש המשנה להרמב"ם 1; הקדמה למשנה תורה להרמב"ם (תחילתו); ספר עקרים 3:22.
 Politics of Aristotle, Loeb Edition, 1:1:9 1253a2 ff. “From these things therefore it is clear that the city state is a natural growth and that man by nature is a political animal.”
 “And from the great and well-known miracles a man comes to admit to hidden miracles which are the foundation of the whole Torah. A person has no portion in the Torah of Moshe Rabeinu unless he believes that all our matters and circumstances are miracles and they do not follow nature or the general custom of the world …rather, if one does mitzvot he will succeed in his finances …” Ramban Perush leTorah, Exodus 13:16 end.
 י"ב דרשות להר"ן, רבינו ניסים בן ראובן גירונדי, עורך אריה ל. פלדמן, הוצאת מכון שלם, ירושלים תשל"ז, עמ' ס"ד.
נדרים לח עמ' א' מצוטט בספר י"ב דרשות להר"ן, כנ"ל, עמ' ס"א.
 י"ב דרשות להר"ן, כנ"ל, עמ' ס"א.
 מורה הנבוכים 2:36 בתרגומו של ר' שמואל אבן תיבון הוצאת מוסד הרב קוק עמ' שכ"ה.
 כנ"ל עמ' שכ"ו.
 This point may be taken from Maimoides’ own experience, but it also appears in Aristotle’s On Prophecy In Sleep “the stimulus arising from the first causes in the daytime has paved the way for [the dream]’463a lines 26-27. The prophet may be someone who thinks all day about G-d, one whose every waking moment is concerned with G-d, as Maimonides describes in the Guide 2:36, 3:51, and therefore dreams at night also about G-d.
 מורה נבוכים כנ"ל.
 ר"ן כנ"ל.
 It is interesting to note that Maimonides actually only requires “most” of the moral perfections (see chapter 7 of the Eight Chapters). Thus, a person with certain moral flaws, a disgraceful person, can get prophecy. I do not mean to imply that Maimonides actually conceives of prophecy occurring in a person without the perfections the philosophers speaks of, but I am only making a point in terminology. Maimonides terms perfection a “requirement” whereas Ran terms it “ראוי,” a preference. For Maimonides, since prophecy is natural there cannot be any “preferences.” For Ran, since it is the will of G-d, it is only His preferences. Our starting point is G-d’s desires, and only if we can explain them can we explain the prerequisites for prophecy. Maimonides staring point is man’s perfection. When we understand that, we can determine what the prerequisites for prophecy are.
 "ולא מזה הצד לבד אבל מצד המשך הדברים כפי טבעיהם" הר"ן כנ"ל עמ' ס"א. הוא שם טבע כהסבר משני. וגם שומעים מהשימוש ב-"המשך הטבע" שהר"ן סובר שבאמת ה' מעל הטבע וכל מעשיו רק מתאימים לטבע מפני רצונו.
 מורה נבוכים 2:32.
 Maimonides here seems to identify his opinion with Aristotle’s explanation of prophecy with no difference other than the one stated, that G-d can withhold prophecy from one who deserves it. But, the only prophecy we find Aristotle admitting to is a natural hypersensitivity (see footnote 37), but no prophecy directly from G-d is admitted to as actually occurring. Based on the fact that Maimonides identifies his opinion as the same as a non-existent opinion, Aristotle’s, one could make a Straussian type argument that Maimonides is hinting his own denial of the direct divine character of prophecy. However, in II:13 where Maimonides discusses the various views on the eternity of the world, we find Maimonides lists Aristotle separately from the other philosophers. This may mean that here too by דעת הפילוסופים he means not Aristotle but other Neo-platonic Arabic philosophers. If Maimonides is identifying the Sages’ view with these philosophers, who do conceive of a direct divine prophecy, then the Straussian type argument looses its force. On the other hand, in II:14 Maimonides writes: “I shall pay no attention to anyone who besides Aristotle has engaged in speculative discourse, for it is his opinions that ought to be considered.”
 For a discussion of whether Maimonides believes in the possibility of miracles see A. Reines, Maimonides’ Concept of Miracles, HUCA, 1968. Maimonides’ referral to G-d’s freedom to prevent prophecy as miraculous could be considered a tacit denial of this freedom.
 See end of note 59 where I discuss Ran’s redefinition of natural as meaning following G-d’s usual rules, however miraculous they may be.
 מבוא למשנה אבות, פרק ז.
 מורה הנבוכים חלק ב, פ' ל"ב.
 תלמוד בבלי ע"ז כ:.
 ר"ן, עמ' ס"ב ושם הוא מצטט משמונה פרקים, פרק ז'.
 Maimonides brings proof to the fact that people did not really have prophecy. In 2:33, Maimonides says that they only heard a created voice; they did not really hear G-d. He quotes Onqelos to prove his point. Onqelos, in general, translates “וידבר ה' אל משה לאמר “ as: “ומליל ה' עם משה” which means G-d speaks with Moses, but in our section where it says:
"ואל ידבר עימנו אלהים" תרגמו: "ולא יתמלל עמנו מן קדם ה' " הנה הבדיל לך עליו השלום
הכלל אשר הבדלנוהו.
Maimonides believes that Onqelos means there was a voice from in front of G-d, קדם ה'. It was not from G-d directly. The people did not hear G-d speaking, they heard something from in front of G-d, i.e. G-d created something external and that’s what they heard. They heard a created voice for the purpose of talking to them but that is not called prophecy. His proof is from Onqelos that the Israelites did not hear the voice in the sense of prophecy but, just in the sense of normal hearing.
 הל' יסודי התורה פ' ט'.
 I will discuss this special definition of Moses' prophecy as wisdom, and thus its ability to establish law (just as any law created in future generations must be based on wisdom) later in this paper.
 מורה נבוכים, בתרגומו של ש. אבן תיבון, ח' ב' פרק ל"ג.
 דרשה החמישי נוסח ב' עמ' פ"ג.
 דרשות הר"ן עמ' ס"ד.
 It is worth noting that Maimonides says precisely this, that G-d does hold back the benefit of prophecy from those deserving it. Since Ran presumably agrees that prophecy is with held for various reasons, it seems he must then hold that no one ever really deserves prophecy. This fits to his overall theory that prophecy can be bestowed on anyone G-d wishes and not on the basis of deservedness.
 The word סיפוק appears also in 1:3 and 1:56. In all three places it is translated in Pines Ed. as “amphibolous.”
 מורה נבוכים להרמב"ם בהעתקת שמואל אבן תיבון, אופסט שץ מונזון בע"מ, ירושלים, תש"ן עמ, 74a.
 Moses Narbonensis, Philosophen aus dem XIV. Jahrhundert, z.d.w. More Nebuchim des Maimonides. Dr. J. Goldenthal Ed., Vienna, Austria, 1852, p.41b.
Op. Cit. Aristotle, 464a lines 18 –24.
 See for example Guide 2:35, Commentary to Perek Helek, Laws of Foundations of Torah 7:6.
 See for example Guide 2:35, end, see also Guide 3:51.
 This comparison between prophecy and dreams occurs in Aristotle’s On Prophecy in Sleep(463a8 ff.). He writes: “Stimuli occurring in the daytime if they are not very great and powerful, pass unnoticed because of greater waking impulses. But in the time of sleep, the opposite takes place, for then small stimuli seem to be great.” He then writes that if a person hears in his dreams small sounds, he may think in his dream that it is lightning or there is a great war taking place. Things are exaggerated in dreams but are based on what one experiences. Subtle sensations are detected because the senses are at rest. Aristotle continues(462a18): “Since the beginnings of all things are small, obviously the beginnings of diseases and other distempers which are about to visit the body must also be small. Clearly then, these must be more evident in sleep than in the waking state.” Aristotle explains that dreams may contain truth about the future because of a hypersensitivity of man. Man is more sensitive in his sleeping state and therefore can sense things coming in a natural way.
 See Guide 2:36 for a discussion of the constant involvement of the perfect man’s thoughts in divine matters. See also Guide 3:51 in this regard. It seems that Moses prophecy is the (natural) result of intense contemplation. Moses may be equated with the Active Intellect (G-d). This idea is developed in Kaspi’s commentary. See following footnote.
 Josephi Kaspi, Grammatici & Philosophi saeculo XIII, Commentaria Hebraica in R. Mosis Maimonidis Tractum Dalalat al Haiirin, sive Doctor Perplexorum. E Codicis M’ss Bibliothecae regiae Monachii & senatus, Lipsiae. Edidit Salomo Werbluner, Francofurti ad Moenum, 1848 p.98 Book 2, Chapter 12. כי נמצא אנחנו שכלינו בפועל אנחנו מביאים האל בתוך ראשינו כי השכל הוא האל, והאל הוא השכל.
 תלמוד בבלי מכות, כד. " שית מאה וחד סרי הוי אנכי ולא יהיה לך מפי הגבורה" ונזכר במורה נבוכים ב:לג.
 הל' יסודי התורה פ' ט'.
 כנ"ל, פ' ח'.
 אור ה' עורך שלומו פישר, תש"ן, עמ' י"א.
 According to the 5th reason Maimonides lists in his introduction, an author may contradict himself because in one place he is giving only an abbreviated treatment of the matter.
See מורה נבוכים כנ"ל עמ' ט"ז.
 The Guide of the Perplexed, Friedlander Ed. Book I Chapter 71, end.
 By recommending study of the natural world, Maimonides does rely on the senses but only to establish true logical axioms, in accordance with reason, and not to learn things beyond reason. Thus reason remains the ultimate arbiter of truth, and not the senses.
 ר"ן כנ"ל עמוד ס"ג.
 Maimonides conceives of a type of prophecy with no communication.
ספר מורה נבוכים - חלק ב פרק לז
שאפשר שיגיע ממנו מעט לאיש אחד ויהיה שיעור הדבר ההוא המגיע לו שיעור שישלימהו, לא זולת זה; ואפשר שיהיה הדבר המגיע אל האיש שיעור שישפע משלמותו להשלים זולתו. כמו שקרה הענין בנמצאות כולם, אשר מהם - שהגיע לו מן השלמות מה שינהיג בו זולתו, ומהם - שלא יגיע לו מן השלמות אלא כשיעור שיהיה מנהיג בו עצמו, ולא זולתו, כמו שבארנו:
A person may receive a level of prophecy enabling him to perfect himself but not others. There can be an overflow to a person even if it will not lead to any communication to other men. Ran would have to deny this kind of overflow. Since it lacks any purpose in communicating to mankind and thus lacks the fundamental purpose of prophecy, G-d would not desire to bestow it.
 כנ"ל, ג:נד.
 The argument might be made: people would never listen to someone who says, “Do not value wealth” if he himself is poor. But if a rich person says, “Do not value wealth,” then people will respect him and say, “Even though he has money, he still says it is worthless.” Thus Jeremiah had to be wealthy to legitimately criticize it. On the other hand, one might equally argue that if he is wealthy, he is insincere. He is saying not to value wealth but he has wealth and he is saying this only because he does not know what poverty is. It is easy for a person who has these things to say they are not important, but for someone who does not have them, they are important. The most convincing argument, in our view, is that it is inconsistent for a prophet to be counter-example of the kind of perfection he preaches.
 In the Mishneh Torah, Maimonides does consider wealth vital. But perhaps this is as a preparatory need, providing the free time to explore intellectual matters.
 מורה נבוכים, כנ"ל 3:54.
 This is similar to the Scriptural law that a priest must have no blemishes.
 ר"ן, עמ' ס"ד.
 This seems to contradict idea that even if one is perfect he may not get prophecy if he is in galut etc. Moreover, Ran holds that prophecy is not אפשרית but is a gift in the first place, so G-d certainly may prevent one from having prophecy. Ran should assert that it is not denying him that which is his but only refraining from giving him a gift. This seems to be an inconsistency.
 As we showed earlier, Maimonides, based on Aristotle, used the conscious character of Moses’ prophecy to prove it was a natural state, one of heightened wisdom, and truly connected with the abstract intellect. Thus it is trustworthy. Ran uses this same fact to claim that Moses’ prophecy was totally unnatural. The normal prophecy, as it occurs in nature, is a kind of trance where a person goes out of the natural world and into the Divine world. Moses’ not being this way, but being so in-this- world, being so within nature, makes his prophecy unnatural! But there is ambiguity in the use of the term natural for Ran. What Ran really means is out-of-the-ordinary. The normal prophet has a prophecy in a supernatural trance. To be in a conscious state and to understand things from G-d is thus out-of-the-ordinary in its being so natural. For both Maimonides and Ran, Moses’ “natural” prophecy proves his uniqueness, and gives him his authority. For Maimonides this means that Moses spoke with true wisdom, for Ran that he truly spoke with G-d.
 הר"ן כנ"ל עמוד ס"ה.
 הר"ן כנ"ל עמודים ר"ט-ר"י.
 Maimonides, however, argues that G-d’s essence must be fundamentally unknowable, whereas His behavior is all that can be known. Ran implies the opposite. G-d’s true behavior is unknowable. Perhaps His essence is knowable.
משנה תורה, הל' תשובה 10:2.