At Israel school, anyone can learn to be a prophet

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 29, 2012 at 9:54 am •  Published: December 29, 2012
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Darya Popdinitz, who drove in from Jerusalem for the course, wore a pink hat with dangling pompons. She said her knowledge of biblical prophets was limited, but she was "curious" about the course.

"It's a real diverse mix of people," said Hapartzy.

The class itself is a modest study group. In the small room, the men sat in a circle around Hapartzy, with the women separately in a corner, following Orthodox Judaism's segregation of the sexes. Hapartzy lectures and hands out study material — photocopied excerpts of holy books — and a question period follows. The students' homework is to conduct good deeds and pray.

The 34-year-old Hapartzy has a varied background. A software engineer and Russian immigrant, with a long beard and dressed in black ultra-Orthodox garb, he said he was originally an atheist. He dabbled in "sciences, mysticism, Chinese philosophy, astrology, black magic and Christian cults" until, he said, he turned to Judaism.

He compiled the study materials from writings he said could be found in any religious library — including, no surprise, the books of the biblical prophets. Since there's no traditional set course for becoming a prophet, Hapartzy used his own judgment for what subjects would be appropriate.

Like some in the Chabad movement, Hapartzy believes that the Messiah has already come and that the age of redemption is nigh, so it has possible to have prophets again. Claims by some that late leader Rabbi Menachem Schneerson was the Messiah split the Chabad movement and brought harsh criticism from other Jews.

Hapartzy said his school aims to prepare everyone for the new messianic era. The school is named after the sons of Adam and Eve — Cain was the first murderer and Abel the first victim. The name represents a person's different spiritual poles, which the school aims to unite, Hapartzy said.

The desire to open up the realm of prophecy to anyone has raised hackles in some circles.

"It's completely crazy," said Menachem Brod, a Chabad spokesman. Facebook commenters have accused the school of "charlatanism and blasphemy."

Roie Greenvald, a 27-year-old tennis instructor attending the classes, also showed some skepticism. While he expressed interest in the spiritual development the course offers, one crucial detail stands in the way of his religious elevation.

"I'm not going to become a prophet," he said. "I don't think it pays very well."

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Follow Tia Goldenberg at http://twitter.com/tgoldenberg

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