Parsha Mitzvot: Shofetim: Mitzvah 524 – Concept 45
“But if any prophet presumes to speak anything in my name that I have not authorized him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die. Now if you say to yourselves, ‘How can we tell that a
message is not from the Lord?’ whenever a prophet speaks in My name and the prediction is not fulfilled, then I have not spoken it; the prophet has presumed to speak it, so you need not fear him.” (Deuteronomy 18: 20-22)
“One may not be afraid of killing the false prophet.” (Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry, #22)
The Torah is clear that there is a difference between not listening to a false prophet and being able to kill him without fear. People are easily fooled into believing, at the very least, that there must be something in that false prophet.
Our lives are filled with ‘false prophets’ who speak with authority on any given topic. Although there are a few I would like to kill, we don’t execute ‘false prophets’ without the authority of the Sanhedrin.
However, the Mitzvah/Concept still applies: We may not believe that there is any substance to the ‘prophet’s’ claims. We may not believe that he is holy in any shape or form. We may not cease from considering him as evil and destructive.
How can we know who is a false prophet? We must develop and use our Art of Observation:
New Haven, Conn. — Kevin Koo and other medical students filed into the Yale Center for British Art recently to spend the afternoon looking at paintings.
While future physicians with heavy course loads at the Yale School of Medicine usually don’t have the time to ponder art, these students were visiting the museum for a required class — one that could someday save a patient’s life.
All first-year students at the School of Medicine are required to take the innovative class, which was developed by Yale medical school faculty member Dr. Irwin Braverman and Linda Friedlaender, curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, which houses the world’s largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom.
Braverman began trying to find a way to increase observational skills of medical school students at around the same time that Friedlaender became frustrated with the continued misdiagnosis of a close friend. They happened to meet at a gathering and began laying the groundwork for the class, which makes the most of the museum’s collection by asking medical students to “diagnose” individuals portrayed in its artworks.
(Yale University Office of Public Affairs)
I love the story and the idea. Imagine taking medical students to an art museum to practice their observation skills! They took the students out of their immediate environment to apply their classroom lessons.
Torah offers us a constant opportunity to apply its ideas and principles out of the classroom, away from the synagogue and Yeshiva. Our challenge is to apply the lessons of the Torah to every area of our lives. We, who live in the 21st Century, have opportunities to observe the practicality of the Torah’s ideas in ways that were unimaginable 50 years ago. When we do, we also hone our power of observation. We can determine the truth of ideas through their application to every detail of our lives.
I would also add that I am convinced that there is not a single idea in the Torah that is not universally true. I try to apply every idea I hear or learn. If it doesn’t work; it probably isn’t true.