II Kings – Chapter 2

"Over the Rainbow" (or "Bear with Me")

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d told Elijah that He was going to take him into Heaven so Elijah headed out for Beth-El with Elisha in tow. The other prophets they passed called out to Elisha, “Don’t you know that G-d is taking your master away today?” Elisha replied, “I know, so be quiet!”

Elijah asked Elisha to remain in Gilgal, and again he asked him to stay in Jericho, but Elisha refused to let his teacher go without him. They came to the Jordan and had picked up fifty prophets by this time. Elijah took his cloak and struck the Jordan with it; the Jordan parted so that he and Elisha could cross. (The fifty prophets remained behind.)

Elijah asked his disciple what he could grant him before his departure and Elisha asked for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. (Rashi says this refers to Elijah’s blessing for a particularly high level of prophecy.) Elijah said, “That’s a tough one. If you see me taken away, you’ll know that it’s been granted.”

While they were talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came down and separated them. Elijah was carried up to Heaven in a whirlwind, his cloak falling to the ground. Elisha cried out and tore his clothes in mourning. He picked up Elijah’s cloak and started back.

When Elisha got to the Jordan, he struck it and said, “Where is Hashem, the G-d of Elijah?” and the waters parted for him as they had for his master. The fifty prophets saw this and knew that G-d had appointed Elisha as Elijah’s successor. The prophets asked to go look for Elijah, but Elisha said, “Don’t bother.” They pressed the issue until Elisha relented. They looked for three days, but didn’t find him. Elisha said, “I told you so!”

The people of Jericho asked Elisha for help – their water had gone bad and people were dying. Elisha requested a new jar filled with salt. He threw the jar into the water, which became purified. (This is a “double miracle,” since salt normally spoils water for drinking!)

Elisha left Jericho to return to Beth-El. Some youths came and starting taunting him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they cried. He cursed them and two bears came out of the woods and tore them apart. (The commentators explain this story allegorically in a variety of ways, but it still seems to be an over-reaction on Elisha’s part. The Talmud in Sotah, 47a, says that Elisha was punished for this act with a serious illness.)

Elisha proceeded to Mt. Carmel, where Elijah had defeated the prophets of Baal, and from there Elisha proceeded to Samaria, the capital of the kingdom of Israel.

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