Prophecy and Humility - Berakhot 34
When Talmudic rabbis from later generations relate similar stories of the predictive power of smoothly-pronounced prayer, they deny that they are prophets, and say instead that it’s just the truth of their experience – proven here two legendary anecdotes. How many fluent prayers made no difference in illness or death? Statistics are not provided here, nor would one expect them to be. In a world where one debates how many times and how to bow to God in prayer, such counter-arguments are beyond the acceptable parameters.
The denial that the Rabbis are prophets is not only consistent with the Rabbinic belief that prophecy in Israel had ended centuries before, but also connected to their emphasis on humility. When asked to pass before the Ark (where the Torah is kept), one should refuse once, hesitate when asked a second time, and only the third time “stretch one’s legs” and go rather than rush up (over)confident in one’s purity. And in a very folksy way of putting it, they get at the point that a little humility is a good thing: “[There are] 3 things of which a lot is difficult and a little is beautiful: yeast, salt, and refusal.” Bowing may be too much, but a little refusal can go a long way.
Rabbi Adam Chalom