1. But make no mistake about it: those prophetic visions weren’t what we’d
term “figments of the imagination” or any sort of curious visual
ruminations, and they certainly weren’t hallucinations! Prophets weren’t
shamans, wizards, or what’s termed “intuitives”: they were especially
righteous, gifted, holy and specifically-chosen rare individuals who were
trained by elder prophets when the prophets were young, and were granted
manifestly G-d-given skills (see Hilchot Yesodei Ha-Torah Ch. 7).
As such, they knew very well that they were seeing “fresh manifestations” of
“G-d’s Glory” that was “brought about just for them”, as Ramchal put it,
that would enable them to “comprehend a revelation of G-d’s presence”. That
is, they knew their visions were granted by G-d Himself of His own
intentions and concerns, and they never doubted its veracity.
2. Ramchal then offers a very home-spun analogy so that we might understand
their revelations and how convinced they were of its authenticity. We’re
asked to imagine “seeing your friend through a glass window” -- someone you
know well. Even though “your friend himself would be behind a glass” and you
wouldn’t be seeing him straight-on, “you’d nonetheless be certain that you’d
be seeing that friend” since you wouldn’t confuse him for anyone else.
And in fact, “even if you were to imagine that the glass were to be
transformed somehow”, that is, even if it was somehow misshapen or
colored-over, “so that your friend behind it would appear different than he
was” as a result -- still and all, “you’d undoubtedly know that it was your
friend himself whom you were looking at” behind the glass, since you were so
familiar with him. And you’d quickly realize that while his image was being
affected by the glass, he was still himself.
So, too, when a prophet would see an image of G-d before his eyes, Ramchal
concludes, he would know for certain that it was G-d Himself hidden behind
that image, since G-d was so familiar to the prophet. And even though He
would appear behind a “glass” -- an impediment in the form of an inner, and
striking image that G-d had formed within him -- the prophet would know that
it would still be Him right there and then.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.