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The gemara in Bava Basra 12b states that from the day the Temple was destroyed, prophecy was taken from the prophets and given to children (and imbeciles).

There are instances in shas where a person wanted to ascertain certain information and asked a child "Tell me a pasuk of what you're learning" (Gittin 56a, Chagigah 15a, Chullin 95b) as this is considered a minor form of a prophecy.
(see Maharsha's to Brachos 56b where he explicitly states "שאמרו לינוקא פסוק לי פסוקיך כו' שהיה בעיניהם כנבואה קטנה" )

Question(s):

  • 1) What's the nature of this- why specifically is hearing what Torah verse a young child is learning the method selected for prophecy? (instead of asking a Rabbi etc)

  • 2) Is this still practiced/ can people actually do this today? (ie someone who has a big business decision should ask a 2nd grader what they're learning and proceed accordingly)

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    Today of course not! How many schools today have even coverage of the entire Tanach?! You're bound to get a very, very thin slice. (Like the giyores I knew who wanted to convert Chabad. They put a bunch of Hebrew names into a hat and told her her neshama would pick the right one. Then she wondered -- hey, what if I don't like any of the dozen names they put into the hat to being with?) – Shalom Aug 7 '19 at 22:18
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    The modern version of this is "Goral HaGra" -- open a Tanach page at random and pick a line at random. (It's a little more complicated but that's the basic idea.) – Shalom Aug 7 '19 at 22:20
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The Gemara [Sota 48b] states, “Once Chagai, Zecharya and Malachey died, the Holy Spirit (of prophesy) departed from Yisrael. Yet, even so, they would make use of a lesser voice (of prophesy). Therefore, there no longer is prophesy, but the prophets continue to speak to us today. Aside from the diminished form of prophesy, it appears there are at least four types of prophesy itself. The first is the prophesy of Moshe Rabbeinu, distinct from all of the other prophesies. The Gemara [Yevamos 49b] states, “All of the prophets envisioned through an unlit telescope (aspaklaria). Moshe Rabbeinu envisioned through a luminous telescope. This is one of the thirteen principles of faith [see, Rambam, Introduction to Chelek, where he makes four distinctions]. The second type is development of deep insight in understanding the ways of HaShem through intense Torah study, to the point that one can anticipate what others cannot. In this respect, the Gemara [Bava Basra 12a] relates, Rabbi Avdimi from Haifa stated, “From the day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, prophecy was removed from the prophets and given to the Chachamim (Sages).” The Gemara asks, isn’t a Chacham a prophet? It then explains, “Although it was removed from the prophets, it was not removed from the Chachamim” apparently referring to this profound insight. In this sense, Rambam [Moreh Nevuchim 3:32] states HaShem selects only the best and wisest persons, and that prophesy is only possible with training. The third type of prophesy appears to be a spontaneous vision or statement. In this respect, the Gemara [12b] continues, Rabbi Yochanan stated, “From the day that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed, prophecy was removed from the prophets and given to incompetents and children. Due to the lack of sufficient capacity to realize the import of their words, at times, incompetents and children may innocently state something significant, suggesting future events. [See, Sota 12b as an example]. Additionally, one who is less preoccupied with life’s challenges, together with a desire to control, may have better reception (not perception) for spiritual messages. For this reason, dreams are also better conduits for reception. Accordingly, a dream is one sixtieth of prophesy [Berachos 57b] and when one awakes with a pasuk falling into his mouth, it is minor prophesy [id., 55b]. The second and third types are clearly distinct, not only because of their respective character, but because the Gemara does not present the views of Rabbi Avdimi and Rabbi Yochanan as being opposed to each other, as it would if there were a dispute. Further, each type is validated elsewhere throughout the Gemara. For example, since the third type of prophesy exists post Beis HaMikdash, the Gemara informs us that we may ask children to recite a recently studied verse, which might provide guidance. Rabbi Meir employed this method in attempting to show Elisha ben Avuya he will be accepted if he repents [Chagiga 15a-b]. Nero employed this method in deciding not to lead the invasion of Yerushalayim [Gittin 56a]. This is not bibliomancy, as the previous answer opined. The Gemara [Chulin 95b] makes this distinction, as follows: Shmuel employed the method of looking into a sefer, whereas Rabbi Yochanan asked children. To answer your question, there is nothing prohibiting asking a child what he learned today, although the method of teaching has changed and children do not typically memorize pasukim. The fourth type of prophesy is the familiar language of the Tanach. This appears to be a combination of the second and third types. That is, clarity of message and purpose, combined with spontaneity and personal detachment. In this sense, Rambam [Yesodei HaTorah 7:1] explains prophesy as follows: “At the time the Spirit rests on him, his being joins the level of malachim, called Ishim, and he becomes a different person. And he will understand, he is not as he was, but he has ascended over the level of other intelligent people.” When this prophet speaks, his message and manner are unique. After all, each person’s mind develops differently, so it is not possible for two prophets to convey their messages in the same style. If they do so, the message is suspect of not being true [Sanhedrin 89a]. The Mechilta [Chapter 6], appears to refer to the fourth type, when it writes, “At the time HaKadosh Baruch Hu appeared to the Forefathers, to speak to them, He did not appear through lightning, nor thunder, nor noises, nor terrors, because they knew His power and His might and His greatness and His ability. However, with the other prophets, HaKadosh Baruch Hu would rise over them with noises, thunder, lightning and flames according to the need of their generation. Due to what? Due to the requirements of the people of their generation, who did not know the powerful greatness of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. If only though noises and lightning (they would understand) and if only they would humble themselves.” The prophets of the Tanach continue to speak to us and their prophesies continue to unfold. For example, Yishaiah (26:20-21) states, “Go, my people, come into your room and close your door, for your sake. Hide for nearly a moment, until the wrath passes. For behold, HaShem will leave His place to hold accountable for crime, residents of earth, upon each one. And the earth will reveal its bloodshed and no longer cover up its murders.” The Gemara [Bava Kamma 60b] identifies, “wrath” in this context as referring to a plague or pandemic. If only though confinement would we reflect with humility, noting that devastation is occurring in places where the blood of Jews had flowed freely without protest. Thus, prophesy is alive today.

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This is called bibliomancy: chancing upon a verse in the Torah and interpreting it as a suggestion for a course of action. It is allowed because of the special status of the Torah in our lives. What better way to make it unplanned than asking a random child what verse he is learning?

The Rambam said: “If one asks a child, ‘What verse are you learning?’ and he responds with a verse from the blessings, it is permitted for one to rejoice and say, ‘That is a lucky sign’” (Idolatry 11:5). This from someone who constantly railed against superstition, irrationality, astrology, and the like.

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    Bibliomancy is direct rather than through a child and his melamed, which presumably involves a bit more ruach ha kodesh than opening Tanakh to a random page – Josh K Aug 9 '19 at 5:52
  • It reminds of Chabad writing a letter and then placing it in igros kodesh. – Daniel Ross Jan 7 at 2:32

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