According to a year-end Associated Press report, a Jewish “prophet school” is causing controversy in Israel, offending traditionalists who say the era of prophecy is over and will not return till the coming of the long-awaited Messiah and the rebuilding of the second temple in Jerusalem. Besides, Jewish thought insists prophecy is a gift from God, not an acquired skill like baking or computer programming. (Actually, computer programming does strike me as a gift from God, as does trigonometry, carpentry, and numerous other talents that God, in her infinite and unknowable wisdom, has forsaken gifting me with throughout my life.) “It’s like opening a school to become Einstein or Mozart,” complains Rachel Elior, religion professor at Jerusalem University.
“Cain and Abel School of Prophecy” founder Shmuel Hapartzy is unmoved, and claims that in 40 brief classes (and for 200 shekels—about $53) he can teach and certify all students willing to become latter day prophets.
This mildly amusing anecdote from the fringes of the contemporary religious world then takes a turn, however, when Hapartzy is finally allowed to speak for himself at the article’s end: “In the past there were prophets, but even now, in our time, divinity is being revealed to everyone. We just need to open our eyes to it.”
Even now divinity is being revealed to everyone.
Those eight words strike me as a pitch-perfect condensation not only of the Protestant Reformation and its “priesthood of all believers,” but also exactly in line with a substantial portion of literature and most all poetry. (“Look down with your/golden eyes how everything/trembles/then settles/from mere incidence into/the lush of meaning,” writes Mary Oliver in At Round Pond.)
No mediation required, no high priests mumbling mysterious words and conducting mysterious rituals in front of silent, unknowing audiences. We can face and talk to and walk with each other here in this priesthood of all believers, in this world of divinity revealed.
We can go outside and behold the soft carpets of decaying oak leaves (or fresh fallen snow) along the damp paths as near as our neighborhood park. We can catch a wisp of cloud, our foggy visible breath, the shaft of pale light through the denuded winter trees. Exultation, seeing deeply into the shimmering world, belongs to us, is our birthright, and is rarely more than moments away.
So on this first day of the year, allow divinity to reveal itself to you—you are a member in good faith of the Church of Everyone, yes? If so, I am with Shmuel Hapartzy in stating that you, too, have been given the Gift of Prophecy.
Here’s to putting it to good use in 2013. Happy New Year.