Haftarah Parashat Tazria & Metsora (Diaspora)
2 Kings 7:3-20
April 21, 2018 / 6 Iyar 5778
This week’s haftarah portrays the miraculous rescue of four lepers trapped between the invading army of Aram (Syria) and the besieged inhabitants of the city of Samaria. We are privy to the thoughts of these lepers as they contemplate their possible actions, whether to join their brethren inside the city or to fall on the mercy of the attacking army. In the end, they choose the latter option but are miraculously saved: “For the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!’ And they rose and fled…” (6-7) The lepers found the enemy camp abandoned on account of a totally imagined threat. The imposed famine on the city was now over.
How is one to account for the threatening noises God had caused the Arameans to hear? The text of the story leaves that to our imaginations. But the rabbinic sages, textual virtuosi with an incredible ability to make wondrous associations between one biblical text and another, searched for an answer elsewhere in Scripture. Midrash Tanhuma (Va’era 15) found an answer in the Torah’s description of Moses stopping the plague of hail that God had imposed upon the Egyptians: “And Moses went out from Pharaoh’s presence out of the city and spread out his hands to the Lord, and the thunder stopped and the hail and no rain came pouring down on the earth.” (Exodus 9:33) The midrash imagines God taking this mass of thunder and hail and setting it aside for later: “When did they (the thunder and hail) fall? In the days of Elisha (the prophet) on the camp of Aram.” According to this midrash, God saved what remained of this plague, and then used it years hundreds of years later it to save the lepers!
This “fanciful” explanation may induce a smile or an eye-roll, but what is important to note is how the midrash connects the story of the lepers to one of God’s truly great acts of redemption. A national wonder (the plagues) is used to save four helpless individuals who, in turn, become the agents of redemption for the entire city. This chain of events, as envisioned by these sages, illustrates the transformative power of faith. Individuals inspired by great miracles of salvation can become agents of salvation themselves – a particularly powerful message following Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut.
For Discussion: How has the Jewish story of salvation and liberation inspired others to be a source of good in the world? How does it inspire you?
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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