Haftarah of Parshat
Tazria-Metzora - 5761
Four Outcasts and a Change of Heart
When the Double-Parshiot
Tazria-Metzora are read from the Torah on Shabbat, the Haftarah is taken
from “Melachim”/Kings II, 7:3-20, usually the Haftarah of Metzora,
according to the traditions of both the Ashkenazic
and the Sephardic
of the Haftarah
The story of the
Haftarah involves four individuals afflicted with “Tzaraat,” a dread
disease with psychological and spiritual cause, but with physical symptoms
that resemble the disease documented in modern books of medicine, known as
leprosy. The spiritual cause of
“Tzaraat” is generally assumed to be “Leshon HaRa,” literally
“evil speech,” basically the abuse of the power of speech granted by G-d
to the human being, that takes the form of slander, saying negative things,
even if true, about other human beings.
The four “Metzoraim” are Geichazi and his three sons.
As required by the Torah, they are quarantined outside the City of
Shomron, that is surrounded and besieged by the forces of the King of Aram.
Geichazi was the
servant of the Prophet Elisha. In
Biblical times and later, servants of great people often had exceptional
qualities themselves. Think of
Avraham and his servant, Eliezer (Bereshit, Chapter 24). However, Geichazi, although he had great potential, as the Talmud
says in Masechet
Sanhedrin, that he was “mighty in Torah,” but he had three fatal
character flaws. He had an
“ayin raah,” a stingy eye, a tendency towards sexual promiscuity, and
did not believe that his master, Elisha, could be empowered by HaShem
sufficiently to resurrect the dead. So
serious were his character faults that, according to one opinion, he is one
of a short list of individuals who will not gain entry into the
World-to-Come (Sanhedrin 90a).
did Geichazi Become a “Tzarua?”
In Chapter 5 of
“Melachim” II, we find an account of the role played by Elisha in the
healing of Naaman, a great general of Aram, who had contracted “Tzaraat.” Naaman learned from a captive Israelite maiden that Elisha
had great healing power. In
short, Naaman came to Elisha, who by a messenger told him to immerse himself
seven times in the waters of the “Yarden,” the Jordan River.
Having done that, he would be cured.
When this happened, Naaman returned to Elisha and offered to reward
him handsomely for the great blessing he had accomplished for Naaman, by
means of the healing power of the G-d of Israel.
steadfastly refused any reward. He
wanted the healing of Naaman to be perceived as a “Kiddush
HaShem,” a Sanctification of G-d’s Name.
But after Naaman left Elisha’s residence, Geichazi ran after him
and concocted a story explaining why Elisha had supposedly changed his mind.
And Naaman gave Geichazi some of the gifts that he had offered
previously, which Geichazi pocketed (perhaps not literally, but you get the
When Geichazi returned to Elisha, he told his master a false story explaining his absence. But of course Elisha knew the real reason for Geichazi’s absence, and told him that he would reward the latter with an additional one of Naaman’s possessions, namely, his “Tzaraat” which from that moment afflicted Geichazi and his sons.
Haftarah of Parshat Metzora
We see the weakness
and frailty in the characters of human beings in this Haftarah, as well as
throughout the “TANAKH”,
the Bible. Here, as mentioned,
we see Geichazi unable to content himself with the great “Kiddush HaShem”
accomplished by his master. And now, with the large attack upon Israel by Aram, and by
similar attacks that have occurred in the intervening chapters between the
healing of Naaman and this week’s Haftarah, we see how weak is the
gratitude of the King of Aram. Of
course, Geichazi’s act of greed may have minimized the “Kiddush HaShem,”
and hence the gratitude, as well.
A siege by the Army
of Aram is in place around Shomron and it is suffocating and starving the
city. Conditions in the city
have gone beyond desperate, with the price of the head of a donkey having
risen to eighty pieces of silver, and women conspiring with each other to
eat their children. The four
“Metzoraim” starving at the gates are weighing their options.
If they enter the city, they would only encounter conditions of
famine not worse than their own. They
decide to enter the Camp of Aram and throw themselves upon the mercy of the
enemy, thinking they have nothing to lose.
They find the
outskirts of the Aramean Camp to be deserted.
And here, the “TANAKH” tells us how this desertion came about.
HaShem had caused the Camp of Aram to hear the terrifying sounds of
huge armies approaching, though none in fact was coming.
The Aramean soldiers said to each other, “…Behold, the
King of Israel has hired Hittite and Egyptian Kings to fight against us.”
(“Melachim” II, 7:6)
“They had risen up and fled in the twilight, and
they left their tents, and their horses and their donkeys – the camp, just as it was – and they’d fled for their lives.”
At first, the
“Metzoraim” react as children let loose in a candy and toy store,
“And the Metzoraim came to the edge of the camp,
and they entered one tent, and they ate and they drank, and they carried off
silver and gold and garments and they hid them; then they returned and
entered another tent, and they carried items from there also and went and
hid them.” (“M2”, 7:8)
But then came a
change of heart!
“And they said to each other, ‘We are not acting
properly. Today is a day of
good tidings, and we are being quiet about it.
If we wait till morning light, then we will have sinned.
Now therefore, let us go and tell what we have learned at the
King’s household.” (“M2”, 7:9)
We hear in the above
conversation perhaps a faint echo of the words of Mordechai
to Esther in
Esther” (4:14), when he urged her to go to the King, and plead for
mercy for her People, and to seize
the moment, for if she would not,
“Escape and Salvation would arise for the Jewish People from
elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish.”
Here as there, definitely to a minor extent here, the decision-makers
decided to play positive roles in Jewish History, and set aside narrow and
So they went to the
gates of the city and called the watchmen, and told their story.
And the watchmen of the city told the King’s guard.
When the King arose, he was at first suspicious, and suspected an
Aramean trap. But his advisors suggested they send out a small party to
verify the story, arguing again, that the members of the search party had
little to lose. The scouts left
and followed the trail of the fleeing Arameans all the way to the
“Yarden” (appropriate, perhaps, because it was the “Yarden” that
HaShem had used to show mercy to Naaman, the Aramean general; yet, the King
of Aram had responded with “evil for good”), and reported upon their
return that they’d found the path strewn with garments and vessels
discarded by the fleeing army.
and Poetic Justice
Hearing the unexpected fantastic news, the People of Shomron shot out of the gates of the city, and looted the tents as well as the path of flight of the disorganized army (perhaps as a repayment to Lavan “HaArami,” the Aramean father-in-law of Yaakov Avinu, for violating his peace treaty with Yaakov, never to attack him, and also to repay (possibly with some “interest”) all the money stolen by Lavan from Yaakov).
“…Thus, the price of a measure of fine flour did
indeed fall to a shekel, and likewise two measures of barley for a shekel,
according to the will of the L-rd,” (“M2,”
7:1), as prophesied by Elisha.
The skeptical captain who had denied the possibility of such a miracle, and who had said to Elisha (“M2”, 7:2), “Behold, if the L-rd should make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” had been appointed to stand at the gates of the city, and had been trampled by the People. Thus, he did indeed receive the punishment that Elisha had pronounced (“M2,” 7:2), “…Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat from it.”
A connection between
the Haftarah and the Parshah is that we see in both that HaShem used in
Biblical times the “disease” of “Tzaraat” as punishment for certain
controllable defects in character. A
difference between the Haftarah and the Parshah is that while in the Parshah,
the symptoms of the “Tzaraat” might change, due presumably to the “Teshuvah,”
Repentance, of the afflicted individual, the Prophet Elisha was given the
power to decree lifelong “Tzaraat” upon Geichazi, perhaps because his
sin had involved “Chilul HaShem,” Desecration of G-d’s Name.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU