Tel Aviv, Israel – At Israel School, Anyone Can Learn To Be A Prophet

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In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, Shmuel Fortman Hapartzy, the Cain and Abel School for Prophets founder and teacher speaks to students in Tel Aviv, Israel. Instead of long beards and robes, they wear track suits and T-shirts. Their tablets are electronic, not hewn of stone, and they hold smartphones, not staffs. They may not look the part, but this ragtag group of Israelis is training to become the next generation of prophets. For just 200 shekels ($53) and in only 40 short classes, anyone can become a certified, modern-day soothsayer at the Cain and Abel School for Prophets.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)Tel Aviv, Israel – Instead of long beards and robes, they wear track suits and T-shirts. Their tablets are electronic, not hewn of stone, and they hold smartphones, not staffs. They may not look the part, but this ragtag group of Israelis is training to become the next generation of prophets.

For just 200 shekels, about $53, and in only 40 short classes, the Cain and Abel School for Prophets says it will certify anyone as a modern-day Jewish soothsayer.

The school, which launched classes this month, has baffled critics, many of whom have dismissed it as a blasphemy or a fraud.

On a religious level, Jewish tradition recognizes a few dozen prophets from the biblical era — from the monumental figures of Abraham, Moses and Elijah to lesser known foretellers of doom and tormented questioners like Micah the Morashtite and Habakkuk. Tradition says no one can be a prophet ever since the Romans destroyed the second temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 and the era of prophecy can only be revived with the arrival of the Messiah and the temple’s rebuilding. As one Talmudic phrase puts it, the only prophets now are children and fools.

But also, on a philosophical level, how do you learn divine inspiration in school? And can anyone learn?

“There is no way to teach prophecy,” said Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish thought at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “It’s like opening a school for becoming Einstein or Mozart.”
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, students sit outside of the Cain and Abel School for Prophets founder  in Tel Aviv, Israel. Instead of long beards and robes, they wear track suits and T-shirts. Their tablets are electronic, not hewn of stone, and they hold smartphones, not staffs. They may not look the part, but this ragtag group of Israelis is training to become the next generation of prophets. For just 200 shekels ($53) and in only 40 short classes, anyone can become a certified, modern-day soothsayer at the Cain and Abel School for Prophets.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
That hasn’t deterred the school’s founder and sole teacher Shmuel Hapartzy, a follower of Chabad, a worldwide Orthodox Jewish outreach and worship movement that has come under fire because part of its membership crowned its late leader the Messiah. The Chabad movement in Israel has distanced itself from the school.

Anyone looking in the curriculum for “Parting the Sea 101” or “How to Predict the Future” or even “Principles of Proclaiming A Jeremiad” will be disappointed. Instead, students learn about the meaning of dreams, the classification of angels, the mysteries of the holy spirit. They learn how to discern a person’s inner feelings from his or her external behavior and appearance.

Hapartzy can’t guarantee his course will give his students a direct line to God. But, he says, the syllabus provides the essential tools to bring out the prophet in anyone.

“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,” said Hapartzy at his introductory course, which is held at a religious center in grungy south Tel Aviv, known more for its licentious street parties than piety.

And graduates do get a diploma.

There’s little “profit” motive to the venture. Hapartzy said the token fee is to prove students’ dedication and is donated to the religious center hosting the school. There’s no application process — anyone who wants to become a prophet can do so by just showing up for the course.

The school’s inaugural class this month welcomed a mixed bag of 12 students ranging in age from 18 to 50. One man had scruffy stubble and wore a blue track suit. Another walked in with a guitar slung over his back. Others fiddled with their phones during the lecture or stepped out to smoke. Two had long beards and wore Jewish skullcaps.
In this photo taken on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, brochures for the Cain and Abel School for Prophets are displayed in Tel Aviv, Israel. Instead of long beards and robes, they wear track suits and T-shirts. Their tablets are electronic, not hewn of stone, and they hold smartphones, not staffs. They may not look the part, but this ragtag group of Israelis is training to become the next generation of prophets. For just 200 shekels ($53) and in only 40 short classes, anyone can become a certified, modern-day soothsayer at the Cain and Abel School for Prophets.(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
Darya Popdinitz, who drove in from Jerusalem for the course, wore a pink hat with dangling pompons. She said her knowledge of biblical prophets was limited, but she was “curious” about the course.

“It’s a real diverse mix of people,” said Hapartzy.

The class itself is a modest study group. In the small room, the men sat in a circle around Hapartzy, with the women separately in a corner, following Orthodox Judaism’s segregation of the sexes. Hapartzy lectures and hands out study material — photocopied excerpts of holy books — and a question period follows. The students’ homework is to conduct good deeds and pray.

The 34-year-old Hapartzy has a varied background. A software engineer and Russian immigrant, with a long beard and dressed in black ultra-Orthodox garb, he said he was originally an atheist. He dabbled in “sciences, mysticism, Chinese philosophy, astrology, black magic and Christian cults” until, he said, he turned to Judaism.

He compiled the study materials from writings he said could be found in any religious library — including, no surprise, the books of the biblical prophets. Since there’s no traditional set course for becoming a prophet, Hapartzy used his own judgment for what subjects would be appropriate.

Like some in the Chabad movement, Hapartzy believes that the Messiah has already come and that the age of redemption is nigh, so it has possible to have prophets again. Claims by some that late leader Rabbi Menachem Schneerson was the Messiah split the Chabad movement and brought harsh criticism from other Jews.

Hapartzy said his school aims to prepare everyone for the new messianic era. The school is named after the sons of Adam and Eve — Cain was the first murderer and Abel the first victim. The name represents a person’s different spiritual poles, which the school aims to unite, Hapartzy said.

The desire to open up the realm of prophecy to anyone has raised hackles in some circles.

“It’s completely crazy,” said Menachem Brod, a Chabad spokesman. Facebook commenters have accused the school of “charlatanism and blasphemy.”

Roie Greenvald, a 27-year-old tennis instructor attending the classes, also showed some skepticism. While he expressed interest in the spiritual development the course offers, one crucial detail stands in the way of his religious elevation.

“I’m not going to become a prophet,” he said. “I don’t think it pays very well.”

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21 COMMENTS

  1. I read that in the book called “Beyond the Letter of the Law” That any jew who keeps the commandments faithfully would be a prophet at some length. I do not think you need a school to make our prophets, but really if we are faithful, Hashem will have his say in who keeps our nation together and who is not yet ready to keep all of our ways because he or she has a hang up in some way with Torah. Just a thought.

  2. We already have a method to get prophecy; Read the Mesilas Yesharim its a step by step guide. Maybe this is just a gimick to attract chilonim and be mekaraiv them, its most likely.

    • why on earth would anyone seek prophecy? Hashem chooses those who are worthy and who must give their lives over to the klal. the rest of us need to strengthen our emuna and then you won’t feel such a need.

  3. It’s easier to become a prophet than a gadol hador in our times. Prophets today have no recognition, influence, respect and most important control over the public. They also have much, much less money in their Swiss bank accounts. So since there is no threat to the gadol industry, no one will call for bans against this marketing ploy.

  4. The end is the most ridiculous part, we do have seforim which teach a derech of mussar al pi kabbalah which can lead to ruach hakodesh, and once the gates are open again to prophecy. There is Mesilas Yesharim, Shaarei Kedushah, Sodei Raziyah, Chesed L’Avraham, Mevo HaShearim, etc.

  5. TO #4 Stop your sinas chinom to Chabad . The article clearly states Chabads spokesman called the school crazy. In regards to moshiachistim in general they are not folowing the Rebbes ZL teachings. The Rebbe was very articulate about what he wanted. For example puting on tfilin with yidin. He openly spoke about it numerous times .I chalenge anyone to show me where the Rebbe called himself moshiach . I DONT MEAN REMOZIM.which can be interpeted wrongly . I also dont mean singing yechi after the Rebe had a stroke for that I encourage people to consult a nuerologist .I humbly feel most people who disparage chabad dont do it with ahavas yisroel. The negativity to chabad was around way before the off the wall moshiachistim existed. I dont need their endoresment either the acomplishments of Chabad speak speaks for itself.I just want to ad . I was a very close talmid of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum ZL. I was zocheh to have him as my guest chol hamoed sucos in Chicago when I lived there.for over 20 years. Never did I hear a negative coment. I can personaly testify the rosh yehiva was ma ayen in Chabad seforim when he was in my house.

    • All Chabad is guilty by association for not uprooting the Meshichistism which runs rampant in all of their Shuls, Yeshivos, and Mosdos, with either overt or implied belief in the deceased Rebbe zt”l being Moshiach. Never do we hear from any Chabad spokesman that this is impossible and in contradiction to the Torah’s teachings.

      Nothing is surprising about these Rebbe worshipers assuming that they are prophets since they claim to know who Moshiach is, despite the fact that Chazal clearly appoint the task of heralding Moshiach to Eliyahu HaNovi.

      Chabad is not the same today as it was when the Rebbe was healthy and in charge. Today it has deteriorated so as to be completely unrecognizable from what it used to be. Be ma’ayen in all the (older) Chabad Seforim that you like, certainly that is good to do, but don’t try to excuse or whitewash what these crazies are doing, and don’t try to absolve the rest of Chabad from responsibility.either.

      • IT seems that you are cosumed by the off the wall moshiachistim. You probably would acomplish more if you used your energies to learn another blat gemora.. I didnt do a study of chabad shuls. I can only coment on the shuls I know and communities I have lived in.I lived many years in Chicago Years back we had a very dynamic couple who tried to lead people astray into the moras of moshiach cultist behaviuors.
        The community and rabonim basicaly kicked them out of the chabad school system. They started their own and BH they are almost out of buisness.
        The problem is it can only be done in small to midsize comunities. I doubt it would work in NY. That said I dont hear one word of ahavas yisroel in your post or a concrete sugestion of how you would control crazy people in a huge shul such as 770. I personaly do my litle part by wishing a REFUAH SHLEMA when somone screams yechi. There are much biger problams in klal yisroel . Maybe you want to raise mony to fund pshyciatric counseling for the dilusional moshiachistim. If it bothers you so much use your ahavas yisroel and start a new orginization to reach out to them. We have orginizations for off the derech kids start one 4 them

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