Rabbi Barry Schwartz guides readers on the ‘Path of the Prophets’

Rabbi Barry Schwartz, JPS Director

Ma Nishtanah- How is Path of the Prophets different from all other books on the prophets?
I would like to think that this is the first book to make the often challenging message of the prophets truly accessible to teens and adults. I try to accomplish this by melding biography and theology- zeroing in on one crucial prophetic moment in the lives of eighteen biblical figures, dramatically describing those moments and their ethical legacy. To add further human interest I introduce each chapter with a creative first-person statement by each character.
Why are the prophets so important to you?
The prophets remain the great social justice voice of Judaism. They inspired my teachers and mentors, like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and one of his disciples, Rabbi Michael Robinson, who was my own rabbi, and who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Heschel. I want to bring the message of the prophets to a new generation.
What made you include figures not generally thought of as prophets, especially women like Shiphrah, Tirzah, Hannah and Ruth?
I argue for a broader definition of prophet as someone who was inspired by the Divine spirit, or exemplified the highest ethical ideals of  the Torah. With that definition, it was not hard to find biblical women, some well-known, others not, who fit that definition. Rabbinic tradition urges us to consider ourselves b’nei nevi’im- children of the prophets, and so it is important that we drawn inspiration from all these men and women who walked the prophetic path.