OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Better Than a Donkey's Head!
Elisha said "Listen up! At this time tomorrow, a single shekel will buy a seah of flour or two seah of barley!" (A seah is a measure between three and four gallons. Contrast this with the previous chapter in which a half gallon container of pigeon dung for fuel cost five silver pieces and a donkey's head cost eighty silver pieces!) One of the king's officers mocked this prophecy, saying, "Even if G-d opened windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?" Elisha replied, "You will see it, but you will not benefit from it."
There were four lepers outside the city gates. (Traditionally these were Gechazi and his sons - see Talmud Sotah 47a.) They said, "Why sit here until we starve to death? Let's go to the camp of Aram - they'll either save us or kill us quickly." They entered the camp at twilight and found it empty. G-d had caused the army of Aram to hear the sound of a great invading force and they had run away. The lepers ate and drank and helped themselves to valuables, which they hid. (You know: typical Gechazi behavior.) Then one of them said, "You know, it's only a matter of time before people find out about this. We should go and report it so we don't get in trouble." They went and reported it to the authorities. Yehoram suspected a trap. "They're hiding. They're waiting for us to come for food, then they'll ambush us." So, they sent two horsemen to check it out. The soldiers followed the tracks of the army of Aram all the way to the Jordan; they found the way littered with equipment that Aram had discarded in their haste to escape. They reported to the king that things were indeed as they seemed. The people looted the camp of Aram and, sure enough, a seah of flour and two seah of barley went for a shekel each.
The officer who mocked the prophecy was assigned duty at the gate and was trampled by the people in their haste for food. As Elisha said, he saw the prophecy come true, but he did not live long enough to enjoy it himself.
A short Insight into II Kings, Chapter 7A question that arises frequently in issues of medical halacha can be sourced to our chapter.
Questions frequently arise with terminally ill patients what can be done to increase the life expectancy of the patient. Sometimes pain management is the focus of the inquiries to the doctors.
Many times the answers to these issues meet an ethical dilemma: If a certain drug or treatment is given, there might be certain benefits that can be achieved. On the other hand, such a protocol might put the patient in increased danger of losing his or her life a bit sooner than would have been if no change in treatment was made.
A gemora in Avoda Zara (14b) brings a proof towards the resolution of this issue from our chapter. The gemora quotes verse four, “If we propose to enter the city, there is a famine in the city and we will die there; and if we remain here we will die. So let us now go and throw ourselves upon the camp of Aram; if they let us live we will live and if they put us to death we will die.”
The gemora asks how could they go to the city? If they remained outside of the city, they would live for a while before eventually dying of starvation. However, if they go to the city, they might be killed right away! How could they put themselves in a position to die sooner than they would if they remained outside the city?
Rather, the gemora concludes, a person whose life will end in a short time (barring a miracle) has a right to try to extend his or her life even if that ends up putting themselves in an immediate danger. Since by entering the city the four men would have the opportunity of perhaps surviving their predicament, they had the right to try this course although it might lead to a earlier death.
Similarly, in many cases a long shot treatment might be allowed for a terminally ill patient even though this might put the patient in a danger of dying sooner than later in order to afford a possibility of extending ones life.
Of course, this “insight” is only an insight and a rabbi should be consulted in pertinent situations.