Israel; Expect the Unexpected

Who are we to decide how G-d brings salvation?

Rabbi Ilan Goldman


Note: This is a Yom Haatzmaut message. The Haftarah discussed will be read in the Diaspora this coming Shabbat, it was not read this year in Israel where we are one week ahead of the Diaspora at present in our Shabbat Torah readings, because the special Haftarah for the day before Rosh Chodesh (Iyar) was read instead.

The dramatic transition from despair to salvation, in this Shabbat’s Haftarah, is tremendously rapid; on one day there is a siege on the city of Samaria (Shomron), there was horrific hunger and the price of food unbearable to the extent that women are described as eating their own children.

On the next day, there was plenty, and the price of food was cheaper than ever. This is the miracle story of the siege Aram put on the capital of the kingdom of Israel.

In the night between these two days, “Hashem had made the host of the Arameans hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses; the noise of a great host”(Kings 2:7-6). The army of the enemy fled and the city of Samaria was saved.

As the story unfolds, we find two very relevant messages in this Haftarah to our day and age, and especially to the week in which we celebrate Independence Day.

At the peak of the hunger and suffering, Elisha prophesized, that within a day they will all be redeemed. The captain, who was second to the king, responded by saying skeptically, 'Behold, if Hashem should make windows in heaven, might this thing be?'.

To which Elisha replied ‘Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat from it (ibid 2:2). Indeed, when the salvation came, he was trampled to death as the people ran to the food.

The role of a prophet is to see the Heavenly perspective. The role of a king and his ministers is to see the practical perspective.

What was this captain’s sin? It is evident that he believed in Hashem, for he admits that Hashem makes the‘windows in heaven’. Why then was he reluctant to believe in the miracle Elisha prophesized about and for what reason was he punished?

The Sefer Chasidim,  based on the Midrash, explains that his sin was that he did not believe in the people. He did not believe AmYisrael was worthy of being redeemed. He figured that if they were sinful, then Hashem would not redeem them.

The leaders of our nation, in order to be worthy of their position, must recognize the greatness of the nation. They must, and so should we, recognize that the love that Hashem has for His people is independent of the way we behave.

The love that Hashem has for His people is independent of the way we behave.
The second message relates to the messengers of the salvation. ‘There were four lepers at the entrance of the gate’ (ibid 2:3). Leprosy, in Judaism is often a form of punishment. These four people were not exactly the cream of society. In fact, they were very happy to go to the enemy’s camp, not realizing that the enemy had fled, in order to seek food. One can assume that in their mindset, tthey reckoned that they must hand over secrets, perhaps even tell them the secret entrance to the city.

When they arrive at the camp, they find it empty of men and full of food. Only after eating for a while, do they recognize that it would be nice of them to go and tell everyone the good news; that they need not starve any longer.  

In the morning after Elisha’s prophesy of imminent redemption, these four lepers arrive at the gate of the city and tell what they have discovered. At first, though they had all heard Elisha’s prophesy, no one would believe them.

Indeed, who would believe such men, who were punished for sinning against others, even if they have tremendously good news to share? We could probably assume that the people who were waiting for the salvation to occur on that very day, did not imagine that Hashem would send such unworthy messengers. Often, we naturally assume how Hashem would go about things and are then only willing to accept what fits our understanding. However, Isaiah, in his famous prophesy, teaches us ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, said Hashem’ (55:8). 

Similar to the captain and to the people above, there are many people today, very religious and very secular alike, who see what is happening in Israel, and see the makeup of the state, and say to themselves that this could not be the hand of Hashem; some from their lack of faith in Hashem, and others due to their lack of faith in the people.

There are those who genuinely believe that Hashem would not bring the salvation through the secular Zionists. To all, we proudly say, today, Hashem’s thoughts and ways are unlike ours. Let us not decide for Him how to redeem the people, but rather let us rejoice in what we can see with our very own eyes 

‘Hark, you watchmen! they lift up their voice, together do they sing; for they shall see, eye to eye, Hashem returning to Zion’ (ibid52:8).