In biblical times they could be found on every street corner, preaching God's word to sinners in a rumbling voice and shining eyes. A new course opening this week aims to restore passed glory and train the next generations of Jewish prophets – for the first time since the days of the Second Temple.
"The Cain and Able School of Prophets" is not located on a high mountain or on the banks of a serene river, but rather in the heart of the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentine.
According to Jewish tradition, prophecy ended among the Jewish people after the Second Temple era and will only return in the generation of redemption, which will see the arrival of the Messiah. The saying "Prophecy given to fools" refers to those trying to communicate prophecies since the Temple's destruction.
But Rabbi Shmuel Portman Hapartzi, founder of the school of prophets, who says he is affiliated with Chabad's messianic stream, believes that the generation of redemption has already arrived and that prophecies are permitted again.
"Our generation has been declared by many as the first generation taking part in the experience of redemption," Hapartzi explains in an introduction to his curriculum. "The Cain and Able School of Prophets aims to provide the generation of young prophets with authorized sources to direct their spiritual experiences to way of truth and honesty."
So what does one need to know to become a modern prophet? According to the course's syllabus, the future prophets will learn about face reading, dream interpretation and ways to achieve divine spirit.
The school's core studies also include an introduction on the angels' ways of communication and participation in our lives.
The course will take place on Tuesdays at the Palterin Shel Melech spiritual center in Tel Aviv. Each participant attending 10 one-hour lectures will receive a prophet's diploma. Registration costs NIS 200 (about $52).
Although Chabad does have an active messianic faction, not everyone in the Hasidic movement approves of this initiative. "It's a shame that delusional people, who do not represent the rabbi or his doctrine, continue to desecrate his legacy and drag Chabad's name to bizarre areas."
But Shmuel Hapartzi insists he is completely serious. "I'm not a freak. I have solid answers to every single question on this subject. I have been collecting material for the school for several years now. I am proficient in the material and I have translated most of it from Russian to Hebrew."
Has the curriculum been approved by any rabbis?
"Everything being studied is based on biblical principles."
How many prophets are you planning on training?
"We already have 10 students who will start the basic course this week. The good students will continue and, with God's help, achieve divine spirit and serve as prophets. There are several levels of prophecy I hope my students will reach."
Aren't you afraid people will start prophesying on the streets and it will all go out of control?
"I wish. But it won't just happen without a person being chosen from above."
Do you have any ways to identify false prophets?
"The truth is that there are many institutions today for the study of Kabbalah, mysticism and black witchcraft, and it does confuse people. I teach strictly kosher material and teach my students to distinguish between true prophecy and false prophecy and between a real dream and a false dream."
How can you be trusted?
"Because I've started doing it too recently."