How the Rabbis Perceived Divine Revelation following the destruction of the Second Temple
For classical Judaism, the Torah reveals how humanity approaches God in and outside the scope of Jewish identity. Consequently for Orthodox Judaism, the basis for Jewish life requires little elaboration. The first way to know God is universalistic in nature and deals with God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. All of humanity is privy to this fact, and this must lead Judaism to conclude that the authenticity of the covenantal experience at Sinai does not necessarily imply that non-covenantal monotheistic forms of faith are invalid. The second method centers on the covenantal relationship established at Sinai, which is particular to the people of Israel and is highlighted through the ongoing experiences and history of the Jewish people. In this context, God is approached as the God of the covenant. The Talmud after all states:
“From the day of the destruction of the Temple, the Holy One Blessed be He, has naught but four cubits of Halakhah in this world.”
But what does this statement mean? While the statement certainly has potentially many levels of meaning, the simple reality is that Halakhah is understood to reveal the Divine Will. How if any share does prophecy or divine intervention play a role? Can a Navi, i.e., a prophet, overturn Jewish law? Can a individual who performs miraculous dictate the direction of Jewish law? Do the rabbis reject the notion of ongoing revelation?
This lecture provides an overview of this fascinating subject.