In most houses and apartments, the glass used in toilet and bathroom windows differ from those in the rest of the house. In the rest of the house, the glass is transparent – thereby enabling us to clearly see through the window and view whatever is on the other side of the window with clarity. In contrast, the glass used in toilet and bathroom windows is generally translucent or mottled – allowing light to come through while, at the same time, limiting the view and focus of whatever is on the other side of the window.
I mention this as an introduction to today’s daf (Yevamot 49b) where reference is made to Yeshayahu 6:1 who said: וָאֶרְאֶה אֶת אֲדֹנָי יֹשֵׁב עַל כִּסֵּא רָם וְנִשָּׂא – ‘I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne’, which was then challenged by Menashe and who subsequently killed Yeshayahu, given that God previously told Moshe: כִּי לֹא יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי – ‘no human can see Me and live’ (Shemot 33:20).
As our Gemara explains, the error of Menashe was that he thought that Yeshayahu was claiming to have clearly seen God. However, only Moshe was gifted the clarity of prophecy known as אספקלריא המאירה – which is comparable to the crystal clear sight achievable when looking through a window, while all other prophets were only gifted the clarity of prophecy known as אספקלריא שאינה מאירה – which is comparable to what someone sees when looking through the kind of glass used in a bathroom or toilet – where the light can be seen, but the shapes lack clarity and focus. Yes, Yeshayahu had said that ‘I saw the Lord sitting on a high and lofty throne’, but he was not claiming to have experienced a clear vision of God.
Today, as we continue to experience the realization of the words of our great prophets with the return to Israel and the ingathering of the exiles, we await formal prophecy to return. Still, there are times when self-proclaimed prophets claim not only to fathom meaning in world events, but – in fact – to have the certainty and clarity of interpreting those events as if they have been gifted through an אספקלריא המאירה.
As such, we are reminded in today’s daf that, with the exception of Moshe Rabbeinu, even the greatest of our prophets in the Biblical era only experienced prophecy through an אספקלריא שאינה מאירה – from which we can learn that anyone today who claims to be certain about the meaning of current and especially future events would do well to reconsider their position while, at the same time, taking heed of the message expressed by Rav Aharon Lichtenstein: “Please, have a little humility.”