Sixth of the Thirteen Principles of the Jewish Faith laid down by the Rambam in the twelfth century, and the first of the four principles relating to the Authority and Authenticity of the Torah, the nature of Prophecy, and the Prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu, A”H:
“I believe with complete faith that all the words of the Prophets are true.”
According to Rashi, there were forty-eight Prophets and seven Prophetesses [based on Megillah 14, “Halachot Gedolot,” and “Seder Olam”]. According to the Vilna Gaon, there were seventy-six Prophets [in his commentary on “Seder Olam”] – one difference between Rashi’s count and that of the Vilna Gaon, is that the Gaon counts the seven non-Jewish Prophets, and the same seven Prophetesses as Rashi records. In addition, there were at least several hundred apprentice Prophets, known as “Bnei HaNevi’im.”
The Hebrew word for Prophet is “Navi” and for Prophecy is “Nevuah.”
The Rambam in “Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah,” Laws regarding the Foundations of Torah, Chapter 7, elaborates his ideas on Prophecy.
In the first Halachah of that Chapter, the Rambam states that the Gift of Prophecy can only be given to an extremely wise person, one possessed of a strong character, whom the “Evil Inclination” cannot overcome, and who is very broad-minded. He has distinguished himself by separating from the popular activities that attract the masses, but his mind is focused constantly on the Throne of HaShem, and he attempts to grasp the Wisdom of the Holy One, Blessed be He, that encompasses the entire universe. If he is successful, He is enveloped by the Holy Spirit, and he becomes, as it were, “another person.”
In the second Halachah, we find that there are many levels of Prophets. And the constant feature of all Prophets except Moshe Rabbeinu, A”H, is that their Prophecy is received always in a dream at night or in a trance by day. And in every case, when the Prophet is receiving Prophecy, he trembles to his core.
In the third Halachah, the Rambam states that all Prophecy, except for Moshe’s, is given by way of analogy. For example, the “Sulam,” the ladder that Ya’akov was shown with angels ascending and descending, which was an analogy to the various Kingdoms that would persecute the People of Israel, and then disappear from history, or descend into obscurity.
In the fourth Halachah, we find that all the prophets could not receive Prophecy at will. But rather, they were required to go to a place of privacy, put themselves into a positive mood, attempt to create an atmosphere of spirituality by means of music or some other method, and hope that HaShem would crown their efforts with Prophecy.
In the sixth Halachah, we find that after the receipt of Prophecy ended for this particular individual, he or she would return, temporarily, to their normal life and to their spouse, a practice to which Moshe Rabbeinu, A”H, was again an exception, which is discussed at greater length in the “Ani-Ma’amin” that discusses Moshe’s unique Prophecy, “Ani-Ma’amin-7.”
The last Pophets in Jewish History until the appearance of the Mashiach, soon and in our days, were Chaggai, Zechariah and Malachi, who were counted among the “Trei Asar,” a group of twelve “minor Prophets,” a name given to their prophecy not as a qualitative evaluation but, rather, descriptive of its quantity. The three Prophets mentioned flourished at the beginning of the Second Temple . Subsequent to them, the Talmud records that Prophecy was not completely withdrawn, but was given over to fools.
The poetic rendering of this Principle in “Yigdal” is as follows:
“He granted His Flow of Prophecy to His splendid and magnificent People.”