Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How is the failed negative prophecy exclusion encoded in Shofetim? part ii

Summary: The same issue as before. How shall we resolve the exclusion of negative prophecy from a prophet test, with the absence of such an exclusion in the plain meaning of the pasuk. This bothers Rabbi Yosef Ibn Caspi, as a pashtan, and so he puts forth a different elaborate theory from that of the Rambam. Namely, there is no distinction between a positive or negative prophecy. Rather, the distinction is whether there is an explicit condition attached or not.

Post: Ibn Caspi addresses the same issue discussed in the previous post, and creates an elaborate theory. He writes:

"And if you say in your heart -- this is a protest referring to the first segment {J: namely, the false prophet of Hashem}, for the second {namely, the prophet of idols} is explained in and of itself.

Says Yosef, the author of sefer haSod and sefer haMashal: in these sefarim {I wrote}, I have already discussed at length this subject and that of prophecy. And we are drawn in it to the opinion of the Sages of the Talmud and that of the Rambam, in that which he explains in sefer haMada {meaning in Mishneh Torah, sefer haMada, hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, perek 10} and in his introduction to his commentary on Mishnayot {you can find this at the end of a gemara Brachot}. And more have I expanded on this in sefer haMashal, in parashat Ki Tisa.

However, now I am leaning to another position in one of the roots; and this is that the Rambam sets out that in a prediction of woe a prophet cannot be tested, but only of weal. And he brings a proof from the statement of Yirmeyah to Chananiah. And he explains  אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם ה, 'that which the prophet says in the name of Hashem' {pasuk 22}, as speaking of weal. And I have already showed you that I lean away from things such as this, namely, to add or to subtract words from the text. For if so, we have no Torah or Scriptures, and in general we have no early sefer, for every day we can add to it as we wish! And here, it is written via Moshe,  אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם ה, this is without specification and given as a general encompassing statement. So how can we add to it 'only for weal'? Or why do we not make a division {as well} above, when it said 'or that which was said in the names of other gods'? Therefore, it meaning to me is just as it is written, no more and no less. And its intent if so is in general, whether for weal or woe, for the prophet may be tested with any foretelling of future events, whether for weal or woe. For if it is fulfilled in this way, he is a true prophet, and if not, he is a false prophet. And it is already known in logic {הגיון -- common sense?} how the fulfillment and finding correct of a statement is. For Yirmeyah, who said to Chananiah that because he prophesied falsely, 'this year you shall die' {Jeremiah 28:16}, the Scriptures testifies about him that 'Chananiah died in that year' {Jeremiah 18:17}. For if he did not

die in that year, Yirmeyahu the prophet would have been a false prophet. For a true prophet cannot err in a future foretelling at all. If so, it is upon us to explain the dispute Yirmiyah had with Chanania, where Chanania foretold weal to the nation of Israel, and Yirmeyah the woe, until Yirmeyah said to him {Jeremiah 28:7-9} 'Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people: The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.'

And behold, before this statement, Yirmeyah wrote regarding the prophecy which reached him in the house of the potter, {Jeremiah 18:7-10}'At one instant I may speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to break down and to destroy it; but if that nation turn from their evil, because of which I have spoken against it, I repent of the evil that I thought to do unto it. And at one instant I may speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; but if it do evil in My sight, that it hearken not to My voice, then I repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit it.'

{Josh: Others would explain that this is intent, rather than publicly pronounced prophecy.}

And it is explained that this is true as well for an individual, as Yechezkel explains {Ezekiel 18}. But it mentions a nation and kingdom, for the intent is upon klal Yisrael, as is explained there. If so, it is made clear that Hashem Yisbarach repents and retracts regarding foretelling of woe and foretelling of weal, since He had put His thoughts in this way for the mentioned causes, according to what His wisdom, Yisbarach, decreed. And therefore, Yaakov feared {=shema yigrom hachet when encountering Esav}, even though Hashem had already promised him weal. And forfend for me to believe that there is to Hashem a changing in will; for if He decreed woe His word will come to pass, and so too for weal. However, the change comes from the recipients. By which I mean from our end, we who hear His decree in words spoken via a prophet. I mean that the statement is not understood as it is, and when it does not approach as we understood it, we think that Hashem has repented; if so, we deny Hashem. And forfend! Rather, all His words are true. But it is known that the decrees, some of them

possess different aspects {eventualities?}, and the mention of the aspects are omitted in action. For we say, by way of example {al derech mashal} 'Reuven will write tomorrow', whose intent is that it is possible that he will write. And every potentiality, it is possible that it will be and it is possible that it will not be. And if a prophet says this in the name of Hashem -- my intent is that he says this without caveat 'this Reuven will write tomorrow', behold, that hamon am who hear this will look on the morrow whether he writes or not. And if it is that he does not write at all, the hamon will say that Hashem repented. And if so, the word of Hashem which is spoken today is complete falsehood, for it is a decreed matter. And therefore, behold He said via Shmuel that Shaul will rule over Israel. Shaul, as well as the entire nation, thought, that the intent of this decree was clear and continuous. And when Hashem became detested with him, Shaul and Israel said that Hashem repented. And because of their thoughts, the Scriptures said {I Samuel 15:11} 'I have repented that I appointed Saul king'. But by way of truth, according to the intent of Hashem, Shmuel spoke {I Samuel 15:29} 'And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man, that He should repent.'

And so did Eliyahu prophesy in the name of Hashem to Achav, {I Kings 21:21}'Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will utterly sweep thee away, and will cut off from Ahab every man-child, and him that is shut up and him that is left at large in Israel....' And this language would support either in his days or to his house after him, for all of that is woe to him. But Achav and those by him who heard imagined that the intent of this language was that

it would be in his days, such that he humbled himself, and Hashem said {I Kings 21:29}'Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before Me? because he humbleth himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.'

For if not for this, Hashem would have lied. And so too the opposite of this, that if Achav would in the future humble himself, Hashem would not say 'in his days', for {Proverbs 28:13}'but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy'. And it is known that all is foreseen and yet freewill is granted. And the general idea of the matter is that Hashem decrees His decrees and informs the prophet of them in words, sometimes absolute and sometimes tied to a condition. And this is whether for weal or woe. And the words of Hashem are always true, and He does not lie, forfend. And if we, who hear it, judge it as absolute, that they are certain when they are merely possibilities, or there is some condition even if it not mentioned, what is His iniquity, Yisbarach? For Moshe, by way of example, when he said to Pharaoh {Exodus 8:23} 'a three day journey, etc.'. And Pharaoh, in his foolishness in thinking,

understood this statement as that they would return after the sacrifice, then what sin did Moshe His agent sin? If so, the statement {in Yirmiyahu 18, in the house of the potter}as well, 'At one instant I speak', whether for woe or weal, for upon both of them is written 'I repent', this is within the thought of people. And the matter is such, that Hashem, as He sits upon his throne, looks and sees the nation as evil at that time, and He sees the future what will be if they return from their evil, and what the level of their repentance will be as well. And if He, Yisbarach, sees that in the future they will not repent, he will decree upon them the woe in absolute. And if He, Yisbarach, sees that in the future they will repent, he will decree upon them the woe on condition, by which I mean that if they repent, the woe will not come upon them. And so it the matter for good, upon the nation which is presently good. And there is no doubt that Hashem reveals his secret to his servants the prophets. And all is in accordance with the completeness of the prophets. Sometimes Hashem will reveal to the prophet if that nation will repent of his wickedness or goodness, and sometimes He will not reveal to him the foretelling, whether for woe or weal, and sometimes in absolute terms, with the prophet confused for himself, to know if this decree is an absolute certainty or not, and he will wait and watch what will be be in the end, just as happened to Yonah, in that which Hashe revealed to him, {Jonah 3:4}'Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown', , עוֹד אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם, וְנִינְוֵה נֶהְפָּכֶת. For Hashem only told him these four words, but with the prophet being perplexed in this. He know that Hashem does not lie nor repent, until at the ed of the forty days it was made clear to Yonah the intent of Hashem in His previous statement. And this was via one of two ways. Either the city would be overturned and the people would leave from it, just as Lot and his daughters left from the overturning, in which case the decree was absolute; or that the city would not be overturned and the city and its residents would be spared, in which case the decree was only a possibility, based on a condition which was in the intent on Hashem, by which I mean if they did not repent. And this is how the decree was always correct and not in error, forfend.

And the general principle of the matter, we have already explained in the statement of Yirmeyah in the prophecy in the house of the potter, for all of us, whether a nation or individual, we are in the hands of Hashem like clay in the hands of the potter. For if Hashem decrees upon us woe, and we repent of the misbehavior which is our hands, the woe will not come to us; and so too for weal. And there is no difference whether we day that Hashem decreed this by His own aspect, Yisbarach, or whether

we say that the prophet prophesied this in His name, for the prophet only has the content of the words which Hashem said to him in vision or in dream, no more and no less in its words. Just as 'if you listen' and 'if you do not listen', which Moshe said from the mouth of Hashem, it is required that the foretelling stand when the condition stands. And if the decree is absolute in its words, we the listeners are left in perplexity until we see what happens in the end. For it is not possible to interpret the intent of the decree based on the words, and the lack is from our side, rather than from the side of the decree or from the side of the One who said it, namely Hashem Yisbarach. For He knows His intent, and the Eternity of Israel neither lies nor repents. And this is the true approach which we have in this.

However, after we set up this approach, and we establish as well that the decree that the prophet states from Hashem, one can take from its words only one of two ways, namely if it is absolute or if it is conditional in its words. And it is upon us the listeners to see the fulfillment of the condition to action in the future or not, and in this way the prophet is tested, by which I mean that the fortelling is fulfilled, either for weal or for woe in the establishment of the condition which left his mouth, no less and no more. For without this, his decree is not fulfilled but is false, and if so he is a false prophet. And this is what was said, הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ ה בְּזָדוֹן דִּבְּרוֹ הַנָּבִיא, for this is the rule, whether for woe or for weal.

But what shall we do with a decree which is 'absolute' in its wording, for such did Hashem transmit to the prophet, and the prophet transmitted as it was to the nation; where we know that a prophecy which is 'absolute' in its wording, it is possible that it is a possibility, or attached to a condition in its nature and subject matter. If so, how shall we judge in this way from the decrees if they will be retracted {?} for us, and this is whether it is for woe or weal? And how does the Torah help us in this verse, by which I mean where it states אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם ה, such that we would execute him in Bet Din if he sins? And in what way will it be made true to us that he erred in his foretelling, since the intent of the decree was concealed from us?

The answer to this, in my opinion, is that in the decree which is 'absolute' in its wording, whether for woe or weal, the prophet cannot be tested. Yet, still the verse is sustained as true in general, by which I mean that where it says behold, אֲשֶׁר יְדַבֵּר הַנָּבִיא בְּשֵׁם ה וְלֹא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבוֹא הוּא הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר לֹא דִבְּרוֹ ה. For if it is conditional in its wording, we will investigate if the condition is fulfilled and it it is found correct, if he is a true prophet. And if it is found false, he is a false prophet. And if it is 'absolute' in its wording, we are unable to declare it true or false, since its nature is concealed from us. And in this, one would not find וְלֹא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבוֹא, that the matter was not and it did not come to pass.

But the verse informs us that in any case that one can find וְלֹא יִהְיֶה הַדָּבָר וְלֹא יָבוֹא, this is the matter which Hashem did not speak, and we execute the prophet. And if we do not find this, for whatever reason it would be, we do not execute him. And if this situation is withheld from us because we do not know the nature of the decree, since we are not God, there is no sin upon us, and we do not fall under the clause {in verse 19} אָנֹכִי אֶדְרֹשׁ מֵעִמּוֹ, 'I will exact it of him' {regarding one who does not hearken to the words said in Hashem's name}.

And see the division of the Giver of the Torah, that he was not stringent to spell out how the matter which Hashem did not speak is known,

but only how the matter which Hashem did NOT speak is known. And this is because He stated {in verse 19}, 'And it will be, that whoever does not hearken to My words that he speaks in My name, I will exact [it] of him.'

This judgement is to God, and if He, Yisbarach, made us somewhat deficient that it is possible that decrees go forth which our intellects cannot ascertain their nature, what iniquity do we have in this? And this is the skilled labor that we do. But He was precise in stating 'How will be known the matter which Hashem did NOT speak', such that we should execute him in Bet Din, as He commanded us, 'and that prophet shall die', and He gave us a set  boundary, that if the matter does not come to pass, this is the matter which Hashem did not speak, and we should excute him, for he is a false prophet. And if the matter rests in such a way that we cannot establish whether the matter was or was not, such as where the decree was 'absolute' in its wording, we shall abandon the judgement of this prophet to Hashem, for He is the one who knows his nature, and we shall not execute him.

And now, the choice is ours in this, whether to listen to him or not, and whatever we do, Hashem judges us according to our hearts, and all His ways are justice. Therefore, Yirmeyah, who introduced at the start of his words to prophesy the destruction of Yerushalayim with an 'absolute' decree, as is stated (Jeremiah 1:15), 'For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north...', behold there is not in this any sin to Israel, for in this he did not command them anything. And if so, this is not subject to the statement of Hashem of וְהָיָה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשְׁמַע אֶל דְּבָרַי . But it was a sin to Israel when they did not hearken to Yirmeyah in that which he explained to them after this, that this decree, though it was absolute in its wording, was in its nature attached to a condition, by which I mean that if they subject themselves to the king of Bavel, unless it be told to them from the mouth of Hashem 'serve the king of Bavel and live' {Jeremiah 27:17}, and they did not hearken to him in this, and Hashem exacted from them, and they were destroyed.

And once this has been established, there is left to us to explain the statement of Yirmeyah to Chananiah who stumbled {?} on two verses, and these are the verse of (Jeremiah 28:8): הַנְּבִיאִים, אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ לְפָנַי וּלְפָנֶיךָ--מִן-הָעוֹלָם: וַיִּנָּבְאוּ אֶל-אֲרָצוֹת רַבּוֹת, וְעַל-מַמְלָכוֹת גְּדֹלוֹת, לְמִלְחָמָה, וּלְרָעָה וּלְדָבֶר; and the verse of (28:9): הַנָּבִיא, אֲשֶׁר יִנָּבֵא לְשָׁלוֹם--בְּבֹא, דְּבַר הַנָּבִיא, יִוָּדַע הַנָּבִיא, אֲשֶׁר-שְׁלָחוֹ ה בֶּאֱמֶת.

For it is not for nothing that there is a division {of sof pasuk} between these two, and so is it not for nothing that the etnachta was placed on the word לְשָׁלוֹם. Therefore, I say that the intent in this is that Yirmeyah, who prophesied woe, said to Chananiah, who prophesied weal, 'behold, there are more with me than there are with you.' For the prophets who were before me and before you from the beginning, namely Yeshaya, Michah, and the like from the renowned ones, prophesied woe, that Nevuchadnezzar the king of Bavel would obliterate them. And you Chananiah, you, the prophet who prophesied peace, opposite all of us, and you say 'I have broken the yoke of the king of Bavel' (Jeremiah 28:2), therefore you are a yachid on one bank. Perhaps you weigh as much as all of us? However, in this manner shall you and I be judged -- for when the words of the prophet come to pass, it is known that that prophet has been truly sent by Hashem. It is as if he said, 'we shall see whose words shall be established, whether our words or your words, which contradict one another. For we say that the yoke of the king of Bavel shall be on Israel and others, while you say that it shall not be. And there is no

middle ground in this. If so, this nation which hears my words and your words, shall know in the future which of the two of us is a true prophet. But see that this is an obligatory decree, by which I mean that when the words of the prophet arrive, it is known that this prophet was truly sent by Hashem -- this {positive establishment of the prophet as true} is not written in the Torah but the opposite of what is written in the Torah -- by which I mean that when the matter does not come to pass, the prophet whom Hashem genuinely sent is known. And these two decrees encompass whether weal or woe, and both of them are accurate. But the Torah was only not explicit in one of them, by which I mean that which is the opposite, from being the cause of our executing this soul and leaving off that which is required, for there is no execution by Bet Din there, and it is possible that its nature was concealed from us, as we explained above.

And if Yirmeyah had mentioned that which flowed out of it, this would also be correct, but he left this out, for the primary purpose of that which is derived is to execute the prophet, and Yirmeyah did not intend this, for he knew that Israel would not do this good; and further, this testing would only be after a long time, such as seven years, while Chananiah would die within this year. And so it sufficed for him in the place that he had, in the mentioning of that which was required, and that was correct without a doubt to the scholars of logic, and all this is explained.

But what is left for us to say is that all that comes out of our words, that that which the Rambam asserts in the introduction to the Mishnah, based on Yaakov's fear despite Hashem's promise of weal, such that there he divides between Hashem's foretelling to the prophet for private purposes and between Hashem's foretelling to the nation via a prophet, such that he promulgates it and expounds it to the public. Behold, all of this is not necessary for us, according to our assumptions. But that which he says, I am close to a bit -- this is that the prophet who expounds to the public a future foretelling, whether for woe or weal, it is more fitting that it is attached to a condition, just as Moshe made, 'if you hearken... and if you do not hearken'. And if it happens that he says it with 'absolute' words, he does not damage by a foretelling of woe, for this is the purpose, for the prophet is expounding to the nation to cause them fear and to confound them such they will search out their actions, just as the men of Ninveh did. But it would damage with a foretelling of weal, for then those would trust in their strength. And if so, what would the purpose be for the prophet to expound it to the public, for with a a future foretelling with 'absolute' wording, if the nature of the decree is only possible, or attached to a condition, and he knows this. But it is more fitting if this prophet mentions to them the condition in all foretelling of weal to them, such that they improve their ways or search out their actions and stand in fear and dread. And we have already explained all necessary for this. And behold, we lean away from the position of the Moreh {=Rambam}m za'l, and may it be His Will that we do not lean away from the truth."

This post is long enough as it stands. Perhaps I will provide some analysis in a subsequent post.

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