A fixture of Jewish lore is Giluy Eliyahu, that is a revelation of Eliyahu the Prophet. What is this experience and how does it compare to prophecy and Ruach Hakodesh? Is it something that can still be experienced today? The Gemara (Sotah 48b) speaks of a cessation of the ability to experience prophecy and ruach Hakodesh in successive generations but notably never ruled out a final mode of divine revelation, the bas kol. (Elsewhere in Psychology of the Daf we discuss Bas Kol, see Megillah 32.)

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph recounts various sages to whom Eliyahu appeared. Apparently from the stories related, the spiritual level one must maintain is sensitive to the slightest lapse. Even if a person merited visitations on a constant basis, they can be forfeited due to one small misdeed. (Also see Bava Basra 7b for a similar situation.) 

The Ramban (Bava Basra 12a) says that despite the Gemara stating that Ruach Hakodesh ceased, through Torah study sages can still merit a divine Ruach Hakodesh.

Similar to a revelation by Eliyahu, we also find sages whom a “maggid”, a kind of spirit, possibly the soul of a departed Tzaddik appears to the person to teach him Torah. One of the most notable recipients of contact with a Magid is none other than Rav Yosef Karo, the author of Shulkhan Arukh. In his Sefer, Maggid Meisharim, Rav Karo documents his various halakhic revelations and discussions with his Maggid. Also, the Raavad referred to the “Ruach Hakodesh that manifested itself in our Beis Midrash” (Hasagas Haraavad, Rambam, laws of Lulav 8:5, see Responsa Chasam Sofer OC 208). 

Also notable is the Ramchal, author of Mesilas Yesharim and mekubal who had a Maggid come to him already in his 20’s. Rav Yaakov Emden in his Sefer Toras Kenaos defends the possibility that the Ramchal’s visions were authentic despite his detractors, though he does concede that it is hard to achieve this level of piety and purity prior to being married and had other criticisms of the Ramchal. (Rav Emden was a strong zealot, fighting a dangerous tide of excessive ecstatic mystical expression (even if authentic!) in the wake of Shabbetai Tzvi. He was fearless in taking on great and senior sages when he believed it necessary. But that is a subject for a different Psychology of the Daf.)

The most extensive discussion of the process of revelation comes from Rav Chayyim Vital’s Shaarei Kedusha (3:7). I’ll excerpt some of his points, paraphrasing his language:

One should not give up on the possibility of attaining Ruach HaKodesh…I testify before Heaven and Earth, be it man or woman, gentile or Jew, slave or free man, one can attain some degree of divine inspiration, each consummate with the spiritual level achieved.

Since we have even heard and seen specially endowed persons in our times who have achieved this I will offer a small needle-opening of Guida, and Hashem will not hold back the rest from those who are of earnest and pure intentions.

The recommended pathway to achieve This spiritual level is:

To repent fully and strongly to correct every manner in which he corrupted himself.

To be careful to complete all positive commandments

To have intention and focus during the prayers.

To study Torah with zeal and pure intentions until he is exhausted of all strength.

To minimize his pleasures, including eating and drinking.

To wake up at midnight or slightly before (I presume to engage in prayer and meditation.)

To be careful to stay far away from any negative character traits.

To separate from casual contact with people, even mere idle talk could disrupt the spiritual level he needs to attain.

To Frequently immerse in the Mikvah.

To spend time in quiet contemplation keeping in mind the fear of God

To keep a mental image of the Tetragrammaton in front of his eyes continuously.

To keep his mind free of mundane and trivial matters.

To attach himself to God via a great sense of longing and love

If you engage in these practices you may be able to achieve a form of divine inspiration, in the various levels that I shall describe below.

One level will come from drawing down a supernal light from the upper root of his nefesh, as we mentioned in gate 5. This is genuine Ruach Hakodesh.

A second level involves engaging in the Torah or by observing some mitzvah, as we see in Avos (4:11), whomever does a mitzvah acquires an advocate and an actual angel is created from it. But this is contingent upon him consistently observing it in all its details. Then, that angel will reveal himself to him. These are called Magids, but beware that if the mitzvah is not according to the halacha, that Magid will mix good with evil, truth and falsehood.

The third level is that through the practice of chassidus, that is observing the laws in a fashion that is beyond what is required, Eliyahu will reveal himself. In accordance with his extra piety so will his revelation increase:

The fourth is the greatest of all, and that is that he will have the privilege of a revelation of a soul from among the deceased righteous people, from those who are from the root of his soul, or because he did some mitzvah as righteously as him (the deceased Tzaddik.)  And the person who merits this will be informed with wisdom and secrets to the Torah to an outstanding degree, and all this according to his deeds.

The fifth is the lowest level. He will see in his dreams future predictions and wisdom coming close to Ruach Hakodesh. 

This approach is proper. Because he does not make oaths or force the uppermosts, but rather by virtue of his good deeds and holiness. Since it is coming in a non forced manner, it is certain that the Ruach Hakodesh is without any mixture of evil at all. This would not be the case when a person forces or requests by way of oaths, actions and prayers, which could inadvertently involve external unwelcome forces and influences. 

Of course these steps are not easy and it is unknown what can be achieved but I do stand by the idea that theologically there is no reason why people today cannot have visitations by Eliyahu and other maggidim. Rav Chayyim Vital does warn that a Maggid could also be false, “built” on the spiritual matter of his mitzvos, which could contain faulty material and influences.

I will share a wild personal story, make of it what you would like. About five years ago I had to be admitted to the hospital Friday night due to a severe pneumonia. I was delirious, with a 105 degree fever. I thought to make Kiddush but then declined, thinking the urinal, bedpan and blood drawing equipment rendered the room unfit for blessings. So, I figured with my fever addled brain, that I would try to count the 39 melachos as some way to bring in Shabbos. Suddenly, Aharon hakohen (complete with the bigdei kehuna) comes to visit and makes Kiddush for me. For years I could not figure out why my imagination or God conjured up Aharon haKohen of all people. I’m a litvak - I would much rather have met Rabbenu Tam or the Rambam. Anyway, many years later I figured it out. He’s אוהב שלום ורודף שלום and so he came to help me. It still makes me cry to think of it.  But that was probably just my unconscious generating some good entertainment while I was unwell. On the other hand, see level four above. A person can always hope, right?


Translations Courtesy of Sefaria, (except when, sometimes, I disagree with the translation cool.)