Monday, March 24, 2014

The Leper’s Leap of Faith

There is a fascinating story in the Second Book of Kings about an enemy general, an Israelite prophet and a greedy servant.

The Aramean General Na’aman suffered from the biblical disease of tzara'at (often referred to as leprosy). Among Na’aman’s servants was a captured Israelite handmaid who suggested that the prophet Elisha could heal the general’s affliction.

Na’aman received the King of Aram’s permission to go for healing and received a letter to the Israelite king. King Jehoram did not know what to do with Na’aman. He worried that Na'aman could not be healed and that the Arameans were looking for an excuse to make war.

However, when Elisha the prophet heard of Na’aman’s afflictions, he requested that Na’aman be sent to him so that the Aramean would “know that there is a prophet in Israel” (ibid 5:8). By healing Na’aman, Elisha would be making a kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the Name). Elisha’s emissary then instructed Na’aman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. Na’aman was furious! Not only did Elisha slight him by not greeting him personally, but he provided what appeared to Na’aman to be a mindless cure. If the cure was as easy as washing in a river, Na’aman could have done such in the great rivers of Aram and would not have traveled all this way. Na’aman’s servants calmed him down and convinced him to just give the Jordan River a try.

When the cure worked, the Aramean general returned to Elisha, declared God’s greatness and forsook further idol worship. Elisha refused all payment, much to the consternation of his servant Gehazi. After Na’aman’s departure, Gehazi slyly ran after him and told Na’aman to give him silver and garments for sons of the prophets. Grateful for the cure, Na’aman did so. Gehazi took payment, hid it and returned to Elisha. When asked where he had gone, Gehazi said that he had not left. Elisha, however, knew what Gehazi had done and chastised him for it. When Gehazi left Elisha’ presence, Gehazi had become a leper.

Copyright © 2014 NJOP. All rights reserved

No comments: