2002This week's parsha, Parshat Re'eh contains many interesting elements. One of the most fascinating passages deals with the false prophet.
The False Prophet and Notion of Tests
If there appears among you a prophet or a dream-diviner and he gives you a sign or a portent saying, "Let us follow and worship another god" – whom you have not experienced – even if the sign or portent that he named to you comes true, do not heed the words of that prophet or dream-diviner. For the Lord your God is testing you to see whether you really love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
Your Torah Navigator
1. How is one to know whether a prophet is legitimate or not?
2. According to this passage what is the purpose of the false prophet?
3. How do you understand Moses' explanation that God is testing them with a false prophet? Why does God have a need to test the people?
Many Biblical commentators discuss the fact that God tests the people. Our parsha marks one of several incidents in the Torah that are described as a test. Perhaps the most well known of these incidents is the Binding of Isaac, where the Torah says: "After these things, God tested Abraham…" (Genesis 22:1). Because this is the first time the notion of God testing people is discussed in the Torah, many commentators discuss the concept here. Nahmanides provides an especially interesting insight.
Nahmanides Genesis 22:1
The issue of tests is, in my opinion, since humans have complete free will, if they want to they will act and if they want they won't act. It is called a test from the perspective of the one being tested, but the Tester (God) presents us with tests in order to help us bring things from potential to actual. All tests in the Torah are for the benefit of the one being tested.
Your Nahmanindes Navigator
1. How does free will relate to the realization (or lack of realization) of one's potential?
2. Does Nahmanides' explanation of tests fully explain our passage on the false prophet?
3. How might the false prophet help the Children of Israel to realize their potential?
4. Do you agree with Nahmanides' explanation of tests?
Nahmanides represents only one approach taken by the classical commentators to explain the notion of tests and of God testing humans. I think that he provides a particularly useful and relevant explanation. We are all familiar with expressions such as "When life deals you lemons, make lemonade." It is often difficult to see the positive element in some of the "lemons" that life throws our way. Nahmanides' explanation of the tests that God puts us through helps to remind us that we grow from all of life's experiences even the trying and difficult ones.
Prepared by Elliot Kaplowitz, Iyyun Fellow, Schusterman International Center.