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Judaism: The Metzora Who Repented

In our dealings with others and with ourselves we must never deny the possibility of positive change and growth.
Published: Thursday, April 03, 2014 8:54 AM


In last week’s haftara (reading from Prophets) we read of the healing of Na’aman , general of Aram’s  leprosy. That healing resulted in a  great sanctification of G-d's name;

" And he went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times according to the word of the man of God: and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young lad, and he became clean.And he returned to the man of God, he and his entire camp; and he came and stood before him: and he said, "Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.."( II Kings 5:14-14).

The Prophet Elisha would not agree to receive any recompense for his spiritual advice.Yet then we read of the actions of Gekhazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha.

"So Gekhazi followed after Na`aman. When Na`aman saw one running after him, he alighted from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well?  He said, All is well. My master has sent me, saying, Behold, even now there are come to me from the hill-country of Efraim two young men of the sons of the prophets; please give them a talent of silver, and two changes of clothing.  (II Kings 5;21-22).

His personal greed created the absolute opposite of the sanctification of G-d's name.Elisha would not accept payment from Na'aman and that preserved the purity of the miracle, and Gekhazi’s action produced the opposite impression. When Elisha hears of what Gekhazi did he is incensed.     

"He said to him, Didn't my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and olive groves and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and men-servants and maid-servants? The leprosy therefore of Na`aman shall cleave to you, and to your seed forever. He went out from his presence a leper [as white] as snow"( ibid 26-27).

The Talmud (tractate Sotah 47a) views the understandable but furious reaction of Elisha in a negative light. The Talmud explains that “one must push away ( an evil man)  with the left hand but only as one draws close with the right hand . The left hand representing G-d's hand of Justice while the right one represents the Divine attribute of mercy. This is not as Elisha did, who pushed Gekhazi away with both hands.”

 It is in this week's haftara that we learn the great depth of these words.

The haftara describes a situation of great danger for the people of Israel. King Ben-Hadad of Aram has invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel (the Shomron). The resulting famine was devastating and  King Yehoram of Israel directs his anger and frustration towards  the prophet . Elisha then declares what seems to be an impossible prophecy “So has G-d said, 'At this time tomorrow, a seah of fine flour will sell for [merely] a shekel, and two seahs of barley will sell for a shekel in the gate of Samaria.”

We then read of four lepers sitting outside the besieged city. Our sages reveal that these four lepers are none other than Gekhazi and his three sons. The four discuss how their situation was hopeless and then out of despair they decide to risk everything and enter the camp of the enemy. When they do so they find an empty camp. G-d had miraculously frightened away the armies of King Ben-Hadad . These forces fled for their lives and left all that they owned in the campsite. We then read the following;

”Now these metzoraim ( lepers)  came up to the edge of the camp, entered one tent, ate and drank, and carried off from there silver, gold, and clothing, and they went and hid [them]. And they returned and entered another tent, and carried off from there, and they went and hid [them]. ( II Kings 7:8)

Hashem gives Gekhazi another opportunity. He gave him the opportunity to keep his newly found treasure a secret .Gekhazi could again forfeit the opportunity to do what was right for the sake of personal gain. Yet that is not what happened.

" Now one said to another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, yet we are keeping quiet. If we wait until daybreak, we will incur guilt. Now, let us go and come and relate this in the king's palace."( ibid :9)

Gekhazi was afforded an opportunity and he acted on it. His choice of teshuva (repentance) is a reminder that in our dealings with others and with ourselves we must never deny the possibility of positive change and growth. The opportunities to make such decisions are placed before us throughout our journey in life. We just need to have the vision to recognize them. The “Gates of Teshuva” are never locked.

LeRefuat Yehudit Bat Golda Yocheved