Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The Haftorah for parshas Tazria - Kings Ⅱ 4:42-5:19 - talks about how Na’aman, who was supra-naturally afflicted with a skin blemish, went to Elisha the prophet and was cured, and this corresponds to parshas Tazria which discusses similar afflictions of the body and clothing.

But the Haftorah starts three verses earlier with the story of how a gift of food was sent to to Elisha and how he was miraculously able to feed his many students from this small amount of food. What relevance does this have to the parsha?

It would not have been so remarkable if these three verses were at the beginning of the section which talks about Na’aman, but when we look in the Tanach we see that these three verses are in a separate paragraph, so why was there any need to include them in the Haftorah?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

Absolutely nothing! The reason the three pesukim are added at the beginning is so that we don't have to add at the end.

To explain, consider Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 284:

מפטירין בנביא מענינה של פרשה ואין פוחתין מכ"א פסוקים אלא אם כן סליק ענינא בבציר מהכי כגון עולותיכם ספו על זבחיכם.

"We read the Haftarah from the Navi from the subject matter of the parasha. And we do not read less than 21 verses unless the topic has finished with less than that, such as [the haftarah of Tzav], עולותיכם ספו על זבחיכם [which starts in Yirmeyahu 7:21 and extends to 7:34, then 8:1-3, and 9:22-23, which is less than 21 verses].

Now the haftarah of Tazria, as mentioned in the question, runs from Kings Ⅱ 4:42-5:19. That is, three (seemingly) irrelevant pesukim from the end of the previous perek, about bringing loaves, and then 19 verses from perek 5.

If there were only the 19 verses from perek 5, that would not yield the requisite 21 pesukim. With the three additional pesukim, the sum total is 22.

Why not continue on in the story at the end? Because we end at a good place, with the kiddush Hashem. The navi had refused payment, and Naaman leaves, very impressed.

It gets worse from then on... Looking at the Haftarah in English, here is the continuation, pasuk 20 and on:

"20: And Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, "Here my master has stopped Naaman, this Aramean, from giving, by not taking from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and take something from him." 21: And Gehazi chased after Naaman; and Naaman saw him running after him, and he leaned over off the chariot toward him, and said, "Is all well?" 22: And he said, "All is well. My master sent me, saying, "Here, just now two youths have come to me from Mt. Ephraim, of the disciples of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two suits of clothing. 23: And Naaman said, "Please take two talents. And he urged him and he tied two talents of silver in two pockets, and two suits of clothing. And he gave his two servants, and they carried them before him. 24: And he came to a secret place, and he took [them] from their hands, and he deposited them in the house. And he dismissed the men, and they went away. 25: And he came and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, "Where are you coming from, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant has gone neither here nor there." 26: And he said to him, "Did my heart not go when a man turned around off his chariot toward you? Is it time to take the silver, and to buy clothing and olive trees and vineyards and sheep and cattle and slaves and maidservants? 27: Now Naaman's zaraath shall cling to you and to your children forever." And he went away from before him, stricken with zaraath, [white] as snow."

Now, we cannot just end at pasuk # 19 and say the topic is done, because the story absolutely does continue. And so, instead, we pad at the beginning, so that there are 21 verses, and so that we can stop in the place we desire.

share|improve this answer
    
Seems very plausible; +1. Did you hear it somewhere or make it up? –  msh210 Mar 23 at 23:59
    
made it up, based on sevara. –  josh waxman Mar 24 at 0:04

R. Elishevitz (a very great Talmid Chacham from Russia who later moved to Israel about 80 years ago) in his sefer אלף המגן writes:

A similar question can be asked on the parsha itself which starts with the laws of a woman who gives birth. What relevance does this have to the main subject of the parsha?

We can answer these questions with a parable about a soldier who returned home during his month’s furlough from the army, and who went around town boasting about the certificate that he carried with him testifying to his bravery, because once several of the enemy attacked and tried to take away his company’s standard (guidon/pennant), and had they succeeded it would have been a great source of shame to the company. But he managed to fight them all off and defend the standard, and hence his certificate of bravery.

After a few days another soldier arrived on furlough, and he too boasted about the certificate that he carried with him testifying to his bravery, because he once went over to where the enemy were and successfully stole their standard after attacking several of the enemy, causing them great shame. Clearly the feat of the first soldier paled into insignificance compared to the feat of the second soldier!

These two soldiers are the parsha and the Haftorah. The job of the woman is to raise her children to serve Hashem so that the afflictions mentioned in the rest of the parsha never come upon them. This is like the first soldier, who was able to defend but not attack.

But the beginning of the Haftorah shows the greatness of the prophet who taught Torah to Yisrael and who taught and sustained many students. Not only is one such as him able to defend against afflictions, but he is even able to cure them as the rest of the Haftorah relates. This is like the second soldier.

Thus there is a clear correspondence between the Torah and the Haftorah in their entirety, and the relevance of the first verses is now clear.

share|improve this answer

It sets the stage for the story afterwards. That G-d can bend and break all the rules of reality, okay big whoop. Three verses, done. You want to see what's really interesting? What happens when G-d offers someone a miracle, but he can't swallow his pride to accept it.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.