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Parshas Tazria (Haftarah) - What's Going On with the Story of Naaman?

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Mar 25, 2022

The haftarah for Parshas Tazria narrates how Naaman, the mighty general of Aram, was miraculously healed of his Tzora’as at the word Elisha Ha-Navi, Elisha the Prophet. Although the haftarah’s general theme of Tzora’as certainly reflects the primary topic of this week’s Torah reading, upon closer examination one might start wondering how the haftarah actually relates to the parshah.

Firstly, unlike the cases of Tzora’as addressed in Parshas Tazri’a, which require a strict and methodical observation and purification regimen, Naaman was cured of his Tzora’as instantly, in a manner not encompassed by the parshah; Naaman merely immersed seven times in the Yarden (Jordan River) and was immediately cleansed of his Tzora’as. Secondly, Naaman’s Tzora’as disappeared miraculously, at the word of the Prophet, unlike the Tzora’as described in our parshah. And thirdly, Naaman initially rebuffed Elisha and angrily rejected his advice to immerse in the Yarden, before finally agreeing to try it at the behest and persuasion of his servants. Parshas Tazri’a assuredly does not depict situations of refusal to comply with the purification regimen for Tzora’as.

In light of these stark differences between the parshah and the haftarah, how does the story of Naaman substantively relate to the parshah?

Chazal tell us that Tzora’as afflicts one who engages in sins against his fellow man, and in particular in lashon ha’ra. One who speaks evil about others typically does so in order to elevate his own image or reputation, for by putting someone down, the speaker implies a superiority of self. Speaking badly about others is a manifestation of gaavah, conceitedness. The midah (trait) of gaavah is the true root of lashon ha’ra.   

This is precisely why the tale of Naaman is so extremely relevant to Parshas Tazri’a and was selected as its haftarah, for the haftarah conveys the inner message of the parshah. Naaman was a vain and conceited man; the haftarah records that he was a prominent and esteemed warrior and that when Elisha counseled him through a messenger to immerse seven times in the Yarden, Naaman reacted with fury and declared, “Behold I said (to myself) that he would (personally) come out to me and stand and call in the name of Hashem his God and wave his hand over the location of the Tzora’as and cure the metzora (me).” As the commentators explain, Naaman felt that Elisha should have shown him greater respect by appearing to him in person. Naaman then mocked Elisha’s advice to immerse in the Yarden, declaring, “Are not Amana and Parpar, the rivers of Damascus, superior to all the waters of Israel? Can I not wash in them and become pure?”; Naaman then turned away in rage.

If Naaman was not the epitome of conceitedness, reflected by his expectation to be accorded special deference and his nasty and condescending speech, I am not sure what is...

But behold, upon being convinced by his servants to follow Elisha’s suggestion to immerse in the Yarden, Naaman was cured and healed on the spot, and he became a new person – contrite, grateful and generous, as he returned to Elisha to declare his allegiance to Hashem, the God of Israel, as the only true Deity, offering Elisha a gift and repeatedly referring to himself as Elisha’s servant. A totally changed man.

These characteristics of humility and kindness are the antithesis of the traits that arouse the affliction of Tzora’as; they are the underlying message of Parshas Tazri’a, and this is why the story of Naaman is the ideal haftarah narrative to provide deeper interpretation to our parshah.

There is one final point that cannot be overlooked. Upon initially hearing of Naaman’s predicament, Elisha tells the King of Israel (Yehoram) to direct Naaman to him: “Let him (Naaman) please come to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” Doesn’t this statement sound a bit like Elisha was tooting his own horn, self-promoting his role as a navi?

The clear answer is no, for Elisha’s intent was to glorify the Name of Hashem and show Naaman that from Hashem is all healing and that by His Word does all transpire. This is evidenced by Naaman’s immediate commitment to Hashem upon being healed, and it is further exhibited by Elisha’s refusal to accept anything from Naaman for having helped him, as Elisha’s goal was to glorify the Name of Hashem and bring people closer to Him. Elisha did not deny his greatness as a prophet, but he used it for the proper purpose, rather than for self-aggrandizement.

These are the profound lessons of humility that form the deep link between Parshas Tazri’a and its haftarah.




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Learning on the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah site is sponsored today by the Goldberg and Mernick families to mark the yahrzeit of Samuel M. Goldberg, R’ Shmuel Meir ben R’ Eliyahu HaCohen z”l and by Mutty & Aliza Lehrman for a Hodu LHashem Ki Tov