The Test of Love
Rabbi Reuven Mann
One of the fundamental principles of Judaism is the belief in prophecy, i.e. that man can communicate with and receive instruction from the Creator of the universe. It is through the prophecy of Moses that Hashem revealed the Torah to us. However, prophecy did not cease with Moshe. The early history of the Jews was marked by the activity of many great prophets such as Samuel, Eliyahu, Yirmiyahu etc. According to the Rambam, prophecy was suspended during the exile and will be restored in the messianic era.
This week’s Parsha, Re’eh, commands us to listen to the true prophet and to reject the false one. Sometimes this can be a very challenging matter. There are very specific qualities which a true prophet must possess. He can’t be an ordinary person but must be on the most advanced intellectual and spiritual level. He must also provide concrete proof that Hashem has spoken to him. When he meets these conditions, he is pronounced to be a true prophet and we are then commanded to obey him.
There is a significant exception to the basic rule. Our Parsha talks about a prophet who performs “signs and wonders” i.e. accurately predicts future events or produces miracles which ordinarily would establish his authenticity. However, in this case, the “message” he delivers is that we should “go and worship other gods.” In this case we are commanded not to listen to him and instead to execute him as a false prophet. The question arises: What about the miracles which we witnessed, how could they happen if this person is an imposter? The answer is provided in the Parsha. “Do not listen to the words of this prophet for Hashem, your G-d is testing you to know whether you love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and all your soul.”
We see from this that “miracles”, no matter how compelling cannot establish the impossible. The Rambam says (Yesodai Hatorah ch. 1) “The foundation of foundations and pillar of all wisdom is to know that there is a primary existence who is the source of all that exists besides Himself.” It is a mitzvah to recognize and to draw close to and love and fear this Being. The Rambam says in the Moreh Nevuchim that it is the aim and purpose of the Torah to utterly abolish all forms of idolatry. The purpose of man and the source of all virtue and goodness is to know his Creator and to serve Him. One who achieves this genuine love of Hashem cannot be separated from it and knows it is impossible that G-d should ever want him to serve nonexistent, imaginary deities. The true lover of Hashem is not overwhelmed by the emotional impact of “miracles.” He lives in accordance with his knowledge and Emunah in Hashem. If a person cultivates the right kind of faith, he will never falter and will emerge triumphant from “the test of love.”