Thursday, April 14, 2016
M’tzora / “person afflicted with tzara’at” / Vayikra/Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33 / Haftarah – M’lakhim Bet 7:3 - 20
“person afflicted with tzara’at”
Vayikra/Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33
Haftarah – M’lakhim Bet 7:3 - 20
Tzara’at, a scourge of some type and for some reason, had afflicted four men who were now found outside the gate of the city of Shomron (see 6:24). Where these men unclean due to things they said, or was it simply the physical disease known as leprosy? Though we are not informed directly of the disease type, I tend to believe it was due to the manner in which they spoke.
We are likely all aware of the events, but permit me to briefly rehash them. King Ben-Hadad of Aram has laid siege to the city of Shomron, a city that had been enduring a particularly harsh famine. Head’s of donkeys and dung of doves were culinary feasts. Cannibalism had even begun to show its ugly face. Of course the king of Israel was swift to blame HaShem.
Contrary to the king’s response, Elisha advised him to not be rash, for the famine would be over by the next day; abundance would “rule the day”. The king’s servant, likely one of his close advisors stated that even the Holy One would not be able to perform what Elisha had stated.
Let us now return to the four lepers. Famine afflicts Shomron; they must be outside the camp due to their affliction. Presumably food would either be set outside the gate for them or it might be dropped down from the top of the wall. Regardless, famine within the city meant that there was relatively nothing to be passed out to them. What would they lose were they to go to the camp of the Arameans? They were going to die where they were, and were they to enter the city, death was a certainty as well. Their only hope was to go to the Arameans who very well might kill them, but there was some possibility, slight though it might have been, that the siege-holders would show them mercy. The decision was made; a visit to the Arameans was to occur.
They left the city walls at twilight, and by the time they arrived at the Arameans camp enemy camp they noticed that the enemy was not there. The Ancient of Days had caused them to panic and flee. Having fled for their lives, the Arameans had left virtually every item they possessed within the camp. Food had been prepared and drink was certainly available. Hungrily, this quartet began filling their faces and pilfering valuables of the vanished enemy. Like Achan, they hid the bounty they had absconded with.
Unlike Achan, these men had a change of heart. Realizing their actions would only bring punishment upon them, they decided that though it was the middle of the night, the king and his household needed to be informed. Upon hearing the news the king, reasonably, thought that the Arameans had set an ambush. Wisely he sent out two chariots to reconnoiter the whole area and to discover the location of the enemy.
Upon their return with the news that the enemy truly had fled, the people of the city ravaged the camp of the Arameans, spoiling it completely. As spoken by the prophet, there was an abundance of abundance.
It seems that the leprous quartet, suffering from tzara’at, likely a disease as a result of their wicked speech, had learned their lesson. Even though we are not told so, I like to think that they had been healed because of their turn-around, their teshuvah.
On the other hand, as Tevye would often say, there is one whose speech brought upon him a tzara’at that would not be healed – the king’s right-hand-man. As the prophet had told him when he spoke that not even HaShem could perform this deed if He made windows in Heaven, “You yourself will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” The king had placed him in charge of the gate, and in the rush of the people to gorge themselves on the available bounty, he had been crushed to death. He had seen the event take place, but his mouth would not partake of it.
May the name of the One Who is above all, be eternally glorified! Shalom.