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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Tazria - Metzorah

Never Give Up!

Background of the Haftorah

The haftorah for the portion of Metzora (or Tazria-Metzora, when read together) is taken from a series of stories told in the book of Kings about the prophet Elisha. The days were those of Yehoram, king of Israel, the son of King Achav. Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, was at war with Israel and had laid siege on Shomron. The city, which had already been suffering from a famine, was now stricken even more severely with absolute hunger. The situation was so dire that people began consuming things which would usually never pass as edible. It all reached a peak when one day, while he was passing by a certain street, Yehoram heard a woman calling for his help. Assuming that she was asking him for food, he replied that he was sorry, but she would have to look elsewhere. What turned out to actually be her request horrified the king to the core. In the rage of the famine, she had made a deal with another woman that on one day they would both eat her own son, and on the next day they would consume the son of the other woman. She had kept her part of the deal, but the other woman had now hidden her dead child (for her own meal) and not kept her part of the deal

Upon hearing this, the king tore his clothes in anguish. In his fury and horror, he swore to kill the prophet Elisha. He was known far and wide as a prophet of G-d, and surely could have done something about this terrible situation: as he evidently had not done so, Yehoram considered him deserving of death. The king sent a messenger with instructions to kill Elisha on sight, and followed the messenger as he made his way to the home of Elisha. The messenger, however, had second thoughts about this. He confronted the king just as he was about to enter Elisha's home. "If the famine has come from G-d," the messenger reasoned, "what kind of hope could we expect now if we kill His prophet?" In the end the king relented.

Aware of everything that was transpiring between the king and his messenger, Elisha proceeded to relate G-d's word to the king that in fact the famine was about to abruptly end: "So has the L rd said: 'At this time tomorrow, a measure of fine flour will sell for a shekel, and two measures of barley will sell for a shekel, in the gate of Shomron.'" The king's close aide, who was there with his master, could not contain himself, and exclaimed in disbelief: "How is this possible?! Even if G-d caused flour and barley to rain from the heavens, they could never become so cheap!" In response, Elisha told him that he would indeed see the prophecy come true, but would not live long enough to enjoy it.

The Haftorah

It is at this point in the story that our haftorah begins with the scene of four metzora'im (individuals suffering from tzora'as, leprosy) sitting at the city gates. The Torah instructs that a metzora must live in the "outskirts of the camp" until his tzora'as is cured, and it was for this reason that they were outside the city gate.

The Talmud identifies these four metzora'im as Gechazi and his three sons. Gechazi was formerly the servant of Elisha, and had in an earlier episode (most of which is read as the haftorah of the portion of Tazria) Gechazi and his three sons were cursed by Elisha to remain metzora'im for the rest of their lives.

These four unfortunate men were in no less in a predicament than their brethren in the city. In the agony of hunger, they decided that it was better to surrender themselves to the Aramean soldiers, where they stood at least a chance of survival, than to die a certain death of starvation. They approached the enemy camp towards the evening (of the same day as Elisha's prophecy). To their astonishment, they found no one there. G-d had performed a miracle: the Arameans suddenly heard sounds that seemed like the approach of an immense army - chariots, horses and all - coming towards them. Gripped with fear, they immediately fled, assuming that the Israelites had been able to hire some powerful neighboring army to come to their aid.

Running for their lives, the Arameans left most of their possessions behind, and dropped more on the way to lighten their burden. The four men went into one of the tents, ate their fill and took treasures for themselves. They continued on to a second tent and did the same. After a while, they said to one another, "Why, it would be wrong to wait until the morning to let the king know about the news. Let us tell him now." They went to the guard at the gate, told him of the exciting news and urged him to report it to the palace. At first the king feared it was an ambush. An advisor suggested that some riders should be dispatched with the last remaining horses to examine the situation. "We have nothing to lose," the advisor said; "assuming they do fall into an enemy trap, their inevitable fate in the city will be no better." The riders returned and confirmed the report to be true: the entire road was full of baggage that the enemy had dropped in their flight. Immediately, the gates of the city were flung open, as the people stampeded towards to the empty army camp. Elisha's prophecy was accurately fulfilled, as food suddenly became so abundant that prices dropped to a shekel for a se'ah of flour and a shekel for two se'ah of barley. It was exactly according to the prophecy which Elisha had delivered on the previous day (Melachim II 7:1, 7:18).

We mentioned above that when Elisha delivered this prophecy, the king's aide had expressed disbelief, and even mocked Elisha: "Even if the L-rd made windows in the sky, could this come to pass?" Elisha had responded harshly: "You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it" (7:2, 7:19). This same aide had been appointed by the king to maintain order at the city gate and make sure that the valuables found in the camp would reach the royal palace. In the ensuing stampede, the aide was trampled to death, thus accurately fulfilling the words of the prophet to him.

The Chofetz Chaim ( ") commented on this haftorah that this is the way of all hashgacha. When one thinks the situation is so terrible that it seems that there is no possible relief, suddenly Hashem's salvation appears, out of nowhere. One should never despair. Never lose hope and bitachon that Hashem will redeem you. Those who ridicule the possibility of a miracle are destined to a fate similar to that of the King's aide. Yehoram's officer didn't believe that Hashem will help the nation, and therefore he witnessed the wonders, but he wasn't able to enjoy them. Similarly, Hashem performs miracles for us and we must believe that these miracles are possible. Otherwise, we will see the miracles happen, but we will not have the privilege to enjoy them.

If a miracle would happen

(Adapted from "Haggada of Reb Sholom," an anthology of commentaries on the Haggada by Rav Sholom Schwadron, zt"l.)

At times we need a bomb to wake us up. It isn't a recommended method, but sometimes a very extraordinary experience shakes us out of our complacency and changes our whole perspective of the entire universe:

Sometimes even the most stubborn atheist is forced to admit that he has just witnessed the finger of G-d pointing at him.

The Arachim kiruv organization organizes seminars to give non-religious Jews a chance to explore their Jewish heritage. One such seminar took place at Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim. A family with two teenage children participated. The two parents and the daughter attended the lectures and listened attentively. The son, however, was totally indifferent. He spent the entire week sitting in his room, his ears plugged into his CD player. One of the organizers of the seminar took notice of the boy's absence and tried to speak to him privately, but to no avail. The boy just wasn't interested.

The seminar ended and all returned home. The parents were quite impressed by their experience and decided to embark on the new path to which they had been introduced in the seminar. Of course they did this all carefully and proceeded at their own pace, taking on mitzvos slowly. They asked their son to join them in their new venture and try keeping just a little bit of something Jewish. But their request fell on deaf ears.

One day his parents approached him and said, "Listen, let's make a deal. If you'll agree to go to the next seminar, and just listen to the lectures with absolutely no commitment to anything more, we will give you a present of a trip to Europe. You've wanted to visit Cyprus and Italy. This is your chance." The boy looked at them, and thought for a moment. "Okay. It's a deal."

A few weeks later, he packed his bag and went to the Chanukah Seminar at the Kibbutz. He sat through the lectures, or at least his body did. His head was already in Italy.

At the end of the week-long seminar, there was a symposium. It took place after Shabbos around midnight. Everyone attended and several of the guests went up to the microphone to express their impressions and feelings after a week overflowing with spirituality. Others told over their personal history, while others revealed the revolution that had occurred in their lives due to the seminar.

Our young man sat next to a friend, and listened with less than half an ear, mostly dreaming. His friend, fired up by what he had heard, leaned over to him and said, "Nu! What's with you? Are you going out of here with any resolutions?"

"Me? Are you kidding? I'm leaving the seminar with a plane ticket to Italy!"

"But you heard all the lectures. How can you still be so cold?!"

Suddenly he woke up from his sweet dreams. He turned to his friend and announced, "You know what? If a miracle happens and my mother and father come here in the middle of the night (they lived in Jerusalem, quite some distance away), I will agree to become a ba'al teshuva. Signed, sealed, and delivered!"

An hour or two passed and suddenly his parents appeared in the lobby of the hotel!

The boy, overcome with emotion, ran over to them and kissed them. He felt as if he had just experienced an earthquake.

The participants in the hall had no idea what had just taken place, but they knew that something special had just happened. These were very emotional moments indeed. The boy spoke to his parents and started crying. After regaining his composure, he left his parents and hurried up to the microphone. On the way, he asked someone for a kipa. He then announced over the microphone, "From now on this kipa won't leave my head!"

What had happened? How did they get there? Later on the father related the missing piece of the puzzle. He had been asleep when suddenly he dreamed that an old man with a white beard (maybe his grandfather) came to him and said, "Why are sleeping in your bed? Get up fast and go to Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim! Your son is waiting for you."

He woke up and told his wife what he had dreamed. "Oh, very interesting. That is a strange dream. Maybe we should go."

"No! I want to go back to sleep!" He said, and did.

The old man came again. "Why aren't you going to your son? Why are you sleeping here?"

He woke up all confused and told his wife, "I saw him again."

"If that is the case, then maybe we should go"," she said to him.

"But I want to go back to sleep!"

"Listen, I believe in dreams. Don't worry. You won't be alone. I'm going with you," she said with persistence.

They got dressed and went down to the car. It wouldn't start. The husband sat in the car, his eyes half-closed from lack of sleep. He couldn't get the car to budge. [Aha! commented Reb Sholom. The Satan works hard at these crucial moments. Do you think the yetzer hora is sleeping at 2:00 AM?]

"The battery is dead. I can't handle this! Finished! I'm going back to sleep!"

"We are already dressed and downstairs. Let's call a taxi to take us there." She was very determined. "We are already standing in the street. Let's take a taxi." She repeated adamantly.

"What happened all of a sudden?"

"Nu! We are going at any cost. Call a cab!"

She won. They called a taxi and paid a fortune to go from Jerusalem to Kibbutz Chofetz Chaim at 2:00 in the morning. But they arrived.

"The finger of G-d!" The lesson is clear. One who wants, gets supernatural help!

Wishing Everyone A Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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