Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tazria-Metzora 1 - Haftaros

The haftara for P' Tazri'a, on the odd occasion that it is read alone, is the episode of Na'aman taken from Melachim I, chapter 5. The haftara for P' Metzora is taken from two chapters later, from the episode of the four metzora'im. The obvious connection between the two sedros and the two passages of nevi'im is the mention of metzora'im, but upon closer examination, the connection seems somewhat arbitrary. P' Tazri'a focuses primarily on the diagnosis of tzara'as and the defilation of the metzora, while the haftara deals with the purification of a metzora by Elisha - and a non-Jewish one, even. The first section of P' Metzora describes the purification of a metzora executed by a kohen who goes outside the city to the metzora, while the haftara describes four metzora'im who approach the city of Shomron in order to give news; nothing is said about their later purification. Additionally, the entire role of the metzora'im in the haftara to Metzora seems to be somewhat tangential.

Perhaps one can answer this question by looking at the context of the haftaros, as well as their relation to one another. At the end of the haftara of Tazria, in which Elisha healed the Aramean general, Na'aman, from his tzara'as, the prophet refused to accept any remuneration. Immediately following, Geichazi, the student of Elisha, chased after Na'aman and pretended that Elisha had changed his mind and now was willing to accept payment. After Geichazi returned from the grateful general, Elisha asked him where he had gone. When Geichazi lied in response to his inquiry, Elisha cursed him that the tzara'as of Na'aman should cling to him and to his offspring forever.

At the beginning of the haftara of Metzora, we are introduced to four metzora'im standing by the gate of the city of Shomron. According to the medrash (quoted by Rashi), these four men were Geichazi and his three sons. When the four men decide to surrender to the Aramean army besieging the city in an attempt to survive the resulting famine, they see that the camp has been entirely abandoned, with all of its supplies left intact. At first, the men satisfy their own hunger and greed by taking food and goods from the camp, but they then realize their mistake in not spreading the good news to the people of the city. The metzora'im then call to the gatekeepers of the city in order to pass the word to the king's palace.

Immediately following the end of the haftara, the navi relates that prior to the famine, Elisha had told the Shunemite woman whose son he had resurrected to flee to the land of the P'lishtim for the duration of the famine. When she returns and finds that her house and land has been taken over by squatters, she goes to the king for legal recourse. When she meets the king, he is talking to Geichazi about the great deeds that Elisha had done. Unless the king is standing outside the city and yelling at Geichazi from 4 amos' distance, this would seem to imply that Geichazi's tzara'as was healed after the events of the haftara, so that he was able to enter civilization again. One of the sins that can result in tzara'as is stinginess (tzarus ayin). Geichazi was initially smitten with tzara'as due to his inability to see Na'aman benefit from the generosity of Elisha for free. When the impropriety of his own actions in the abandoned Aramean camp dawned on him, he appears to have taken the first steps towards teshuvah. This being the case, perhaps his tzara'as had been healed as a result of the incidents in this haftara. Geichazi's tzara'as did not only have the effect of punishing him for his erroneous attitude, but also had an inherent positive impact on its own, in that it was only through his affliction that the Jews of Shomron learned of the windfall to be collected from the abandoned Aramean camp. This, too, is related to P' Metzora, in which tzara'as that appears on the walls of houses can be the cause of people learning of the windfall hidden within by their previous Canaanite inhabitants.

Going back to the original question, the episode discussed by the haftara of Tazria truly does show the affliction of tzara'as as applied to a Jew, and the haftarah of Metzora may allude to his rehabilitation and redemption - not in an incidental sense, but rather as a key feature of the storyline.

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