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What is a false prophet?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. The Torah1 talks about false prophets as well, instructing the populace to disobey him, to not show him kindness, not to speak in his defense, and to submit him to death (when appropriate conditions apply; see What is Judaism's opinion on capital punishment).

B. Why such friendliness? Because playing with prophecy makes playing with fire like child's play. Prophecy was G-d's method of communicating with Jewry and mankind at large, and to play around with that, to come along with a concocted story and claim you've got a message from G-d, is the most despicable form of evil. Not only is it a disrespectful to G-d, but it is an extreme danger to mankind. Claiming something falsely in the name of G-d can lead to catastrophic disaster.

to come along with a concocted story and claim you've got a message from G-d, is the most despicable form of evil
How do we spot a fake?

1. The Message

If someone claims G-d instructed him to tell the people to worship idols, or permanently change Torah laws, he is a fraud. G-d forewarned that He would never tell anyone to worship anything other than the spiritual/conceptual G-d Himself, and He made it clear that the Torah cannot be changed. 

2. The Messenger

When a person suitable for prophecy claims to have received one, and conveys a message (without wanting to add to or take away from any of the commandments, but simply) to serve G-d properly, we tell him if you are indeed a prophet predict the future. If he does, we wait and see. If he was wrong even in the slightest detail, he is a false prophet. But if all of what he said comes true, he is believed.

A prophet has to be checked this way many times.

Footnotes

  • 1. Deuteronomy 13:2-6 and 18:20-22.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.