This week's Haftarah is taken from "Sefer"/the Book of "Melachim"/Kings II, "Perek"/Chapter 4, "Passuk"/Verse 42 - 5:19. This week, there is no difference between the custom of the Ashkenazim and that of the Sefardim.
Introduction to the Haftarah
Earlier in Melachim II, we find the dramatic taking leave of the Prophet Eliyahu from his disciple, Elisha. At that time, Eliyahu asked Elisha to request something from him, and Elisha had requested double the amount of prophetic spirit that had rested upon Eliyahu. Eliyahu responded that it was a hard request, but that if Elisha would be able to see the manner in which Eliyahu was taken from the world, that would mean that his request would be granted, and otherwise, not.
The two prophets are walking near the "Yarden"/Jordan, and we read how a fiery chariot and fiery horses separate the two great men of Israel, and take Eliyahu "in a storm" to heaven. Elisha, seeing this, cries out, "My father, my father, chariot of Israel and its cavalry!"
The early chapters of Melachim Bet paint a picture of Elisha as a wonder-working prophet who has been given by Hashem the "Key of Opening the Womb," as we see in the account of the Woman of Shunam and the Key of Reviving the Dead, as we see in the account of her son.
Outline of the Haftarah
Melachim II, (4:42-44)
It is a time of famine, but Elisha is nevertheless supporting 2200 prophets. A wealthy individual brings to the prophet twenty one loaves of barley bread. Elisha instructs that they be distributed to his students, and even though one loaf will have to satisfy one hundred hungry students, Elisha says that Hashem has said that the amount will suffice. The bread is distributed and miraculously, it does more than suffice.
Melachim II, (5:1-6)
Naaman is the Chief Military Officer of the King of Aram; he is very successful in war, and he has the full confidence of the King. One day he contracts the disease without a physical cause spoken of at length in the Bible, "Tzaraat." The forces of Aram invade Israel and among their captives is a young Jewish girl, who is assigned to the house of Mrs. Naaman. When she hears that Naaman has contracted "Tzaraat," she tells her mistress that the only way to rid oneself of the disease is to go to the Prophet of Israel, find out the spiritual cause, follow his instructions and repent before Hashem.
Mrs. Naaman tells her husband in the name of the little girl, Naaman does the same to the King of Aram, the King sends a huge gift meant for the prophet with a letter to the King of Israel, Yehoram. When the King receives the letter, he goes into "mourning," because either he is too embarrassed to go to the prophet Elisha because of past disobeying of his commands or it just does not occur to him, in his lack of belief in G-d, that Elisha can do anything for him.
Melachim II, (5:7-8)
Elisha enters the picture, and sends a message to the palace of Yehoram, asking why the King has donned the clothes of mourning - let Naaman come to the Prophet, who will cure him by instruction from Hashem, Naaman will be cured and will know that there is a Prophet in Israel!
Melachim II, (5:9-14)
Naaman goes to Elisha's home with his Chariot and his horses, and remains "parked" outside, certain that because of his own greatness, the prophet will have to come out to him. He will then wave a magic wand over the leprous skin, pronounce some blessing, and the cure, if there will be one, will be forthcoming. Elisha does no such thing. He sends his servant Gechazi out to tell Naaman that all he need do is go to the Yarden River, immerse in its waters seven times with a contrite attitude, and he will be cured.
Naaman gets very angry; he didn't expect this kind of reception from the Prophet of Israel. Who did he think he was? If he wanted to recommend immersion in water as a cure, didn't he know that Naaman had far greater rivers in Aram than the Yarden, and that Naaman had been bathing in them every day with no effect!
Naaman's servants approached him and suggested that Jews are anything but stupid, and if the Prophet had suggested immersion in the Yarden, he might at least try it. Who knows? It might work. So Naaman went down to the Yarden, immersed himself seven times, trying to have a contrite attitude as the Prophet had instructed him, and emerged with the skin of a young boy.
Melachim II, (5:15-19)
And Naaman returned, with his entire entourage, to the home of Elisha, and made the following declaration, "I know now that there is no G-d in the World but Hashem! Now accept a present from your servant. But Elisha responded, "By the Life of Hashem Whom I have served, I will take nothing!" Naaman tried repeatedly to convince him, but the Prophet adamantly refused!
Giving up, Naaman requested permission to take earth from Eretz Yisrael, enough to be carried by two donkeys, enough to build an altar, for he vowed never to sacrifice before a god other than the true G-d again. But he requested a single exception. That is, when he would go with the King of Aram to the local shrine, and the King would be right with him, then permit him to bow in the House of Rimon, may Hashem forgive your servant in this matter. And Elisha responded, "Go in peace."
And he had gone just about a mile
(That is the end of the Haftarah, but the continuation is that Gechazi couldn't deal with the fact that his Master had refused any compensation for the curing of Naaman. And he ran after Naaman and told him that Elisha had changed his mind and did in fact want some compensation. This act of betrayal by Gechazi resulted in his being punished by the same terrible disease, "Tzaraat," that Naaman had been cured of.)
Discussion of the Haftarah
Best Supporting Actress
Two females play important supporting roles in the healing of Naaman. They are the mysterious, unnamed "young girl" who was taken captive by the Arameans and put into the service of the general's wife. She told Naaman's wife that the best "Tzaraat"-Specialist in the world at that time was the Prophet Elisha, who lived in Shomron.
Naaman's wife, the other "supporting actress," faithfully related the same message to Naaman, in the name of the girl, that a cure might be available in Shomron. The principle of "Everyone who repeats a message in the name of the one who said it brings redemption to the world" came true in this case, as Naaman's Tzaraat was cured and, according to the Baal HaTurim on Shemot 28:7, he was brought under the wings of the Divine Presence, became a convert and one of his descendants taught Torah publicly in Israel."
Confrontation of Naaman and Elisha
Actually, there was no confrontation, because Elisha did not come out to speak with Naaman, but sent Gechazi out to give him the prescription for the cure: seven immersions in the waters of the Yarden River.
This was the second time that Elisha had seen someone on a chariot with horses. The first was his spiritual mentor, Eliyahu, whom he had seen on a fiery chariot, pulled by horses of fire. That had been a test, whether he would be able to see the spiritual vision. This too, the sight of Naaman on his earthly chariot pulled by earthly horses, was also a test. The test was whether he could give Naaman the right message, so that he would learn the lesson of humility, which was the key to his cure.
The connection with Eliyahu is emphasized by the fact that Naaman's servants refer to him as "Avi," my Father. This is the same term, an unusual one to be used by the servants of a military commander for their master, that Elisha had used in reference to Eliyahu HaNavi, his spiritual guide and master, when he referred to him as "Avi, Avi, Rechev Yisrael U'Parashav," "My father, my father, Chariot of Israel and its cavalry."
Connections of All Kinds: Parshah and Haftarah, to the Yarden, to Yaakov and Esav, etc.
In Vayishlach, Esav asks Yaakov's messengers, "What did you intend by that whole group that you sent to me?" using the Hebrew word "machaneh" for group. In Parshat Tazria, we find that the "Tzarua," who is diagnosed by the "Kohen" to in fact have "Tzaraat" is sent "michutz la-machaneh," outside the group, or camp, of society.
In the Haftarah, we find Naaman returning, "hu v'chol machanehu,' "he and all of his camp," as if to present them all as a gift to the Prophet and to the G-d of Israel.
(Some of the above is based on material in "Chazon HaMikra," by Rav Yissachar Yaakovson, published by Sinai, Tel Aviv; some is based on material in "The Midrash says on the WEEKLY HAFTAROS, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman, published by Bnay Yakov Publications, Brooklyn, N.Y.; some on "Otzar Ishei HaTanach, a Compendium of the Lives and Works of Figures in the Bible, as Expressed by Chazal," compiled by Y.Y. Chasida, published by Reuven Maas, Yerushalayim; some on none-of the-above)
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel
Rabbi Frankel is an Educational Coordinator at the OU