by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths
A critical question was asked over at a more, shall we say, skeptical oriented Jewish blog. Why did all the depth of the Torah, the Mishnah, the Gemora, the deep delving into meaning, start so late? Why don't we have writings from the generation in the desert, from Yehoshua bin Nun, from the Elders, or the Judges, or the Men of the Great Assembly, or the prophets themselves? (Yes, we have the words of Hashem from the prophets, or the brief events of the judges, but we don't have any Torah study from them.)
My answer? Perhaps because this was the time of prophecy. Connecting with Hashem, reaching out to Shamayim (heavenly sources) was not only something happening to the prophets, but was simply quite normal. There were thousands, tens of thousands, of acknowledge prophets. (Not all their prophecies were recorded, and only a few specifically preserved for all generations, as they applied to all generations or the far future.)
In such an environment, when one needed clarity on Torah points, one either queried ones neighborhood prophet, or delved into developing such a connection oneself.
Then the days of such open, or perhaps we should say easy [not that it was simple, but it was reasonably within reach for most, and even came upon some not working for it) came to a close. That path of prophecy was shut to us. And people quickly learned, "Torah lo b'Shamayim", the Torah is no longer in heaven, it's up to us to interpret here on Earth. Even though the most holy, the tzaddikim, and the specially studied, the mekubalim, could reach for other doors (such as Ruach HaKodesh), it has been beyond the reach of most, and no longer a normal path.
So we delve with the powers of this world...Mishnah, Gemora, Rashi, Tosfos, Mishneh Torah, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, Aruch HaShulchan, Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Mishne Brura, and strive with earthly intellect to reach as far as we can towards G-dly understanding.
But, as the time of Moshiach draws near, as perhaps the glimmer of the Geulah just maybe starts to be visible, some of those ancient paths closed will start to open, just a bit, again. We should not turn away from the possibility of prophecy, though we also must remember (and learn from our mesorah) the ways of testing it, to verify it's not a trick of the other side (G-d forbid).
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BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא