Melachim Bet

We just can't stop learning! ...The Bekiut Nach class of 5766 in a quest to complete Nevi'im Rishonim

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rav Steinsaltz's article on Elisha (Hebrew article) from his book Biblical Images may be accessed here

Questions on Chapter 5
מלכים ב' פרק ה'

1. Read the entire perek

· Find מילים מנחות . In the course of the story, what significance do these words have?

#פסוק א-ב This is the introduction to the story in which the characters are introduced and the background to the story is given. Academics call this the “exposition” – because it “exposes “ the characters.
· What information is given to us here? Is it particularly significant in the wider context of the story?

ו'-ז' How does the King of Israel react when he gets the letter from Melech Aram? What do his actions tell us about his emotional reaction to the letter? Why does he react this way?

י'-י"בWhat does Elisha tell Na’aman to do in order to cure his Tzara’at? Why does Na’aman get angry? Pay attention to the reasons that he gives in his outburst here. What did he expect? What does this tell us about his perception of the role of the Navi
· Why does Elisha act by sending a messenger here? Why not talk to Na’aman in person? (Note that the entire story happens via messengers. Is this significant?)

י', י"ד Have we ever seen this method of healing Tzaraat before? See Vayikra 14:1-10. (maybe there is a connection -Note there the number 7 and the role of water.)

י"ד-י"טHow does Na’aman change as a result of his dip into the waters of the River Jordan?
· Physically
· religiously
· In his attitude to Elisha
Demonstrate all three through the pesukim.

· Why does Na’aman want to take soil back from Eretz Yisrael to Aram? See mepharshim. How is this a total reversal of his comments in passuk 12?

כ-כ"ז How does this story relate to the earlier one? Is this just an “appendix” to the earlier story or is this an integral part? If it is an integral part, then how does it fit into the central theme of the parsha here?

3. General
What does this story tell you about the phenomena we call Tzara'at? Is it a punishment (from God)? illness (natural)?

For mekorot in Chazal, see the Gemara in “ערכין ט"ז עמ' א "על ז' דברים נגעין באין
· What seven things are listed there? See the examples given for each.

More on Chapter 4
4:1-8 The Miracle of the Oil

A Loan has its Limits.

The story begins with a disturbing and difficult glimpse of the socio-economic reality within ancient Israel. A family falls on hard times and borrows money. Maybe the family is still not earning money, and the interest builds up. Maybe the lender has already taken some of the family's property or home furnishings. Now, the lender – the loanshark - threatens the family that if they cannot pay, he will take way their children to be sold as slaves.

The Torah warns about this in Sfer Shemot when it talks about interest – known as "Neshech" because it bites – "noshech." The Torah explicitly instructs us that this activity of loan-sharking is forbidden. But that is the unfortunate reality here, despite the Torah's warning. Unfortunately this reality of slavery seems to have repeated itself at other times. Yirmiyahu, (ch.34) urges the people to release their Jewish slaves. Nehemia too, in difficult economic times , when people are taking loans on the security of their children and wives, engages in a campaign to put an end to the human trafficking. Nehemia has two claims. First (see 5:8) he tries to persuade the crowds. He talks about when we were in Babylon. There, the Jewish community set itself to the task of freeing enslaved Jews. In our own country will we be our own oppressors? Second, he sets a personal example and forgives the loans that he himself had issued to others. By setting that personal example, others followed and eventually all the enslaved Jews were returned to freedom.

A Miracle has its Limits

In our opening story, and then again at the end of the Perek, we meet once again Elisha's circle of Bnei Neviim. We seem to find a pattern in which time after time, Elisha performs miracles in order to assist this group:

2:18-22 Sweetening the water in Jericho
4:1-8 – The miracle of the oil
4:38-41 The poison in the pot
4:42-43 Providing bread
6:1-7 finding a submerged axe

There would appear to be a pattern of Elisha assisting this group in very worldly matters like food and basic necessities. Clearly, we see here two hallmarks of Elisha: his social ease – Elisha is always surrounded by people; on good terms with the people and with royalty etc. And second, his miracles which he uses rather casually. We shall talk about the reason for these miracles at a later date, but for now, we should simply focus on this pattern.

Elisha here commands the woman to "close the door" and apparently she is to keep pouring in one continuous action – that is why her son is passing her pots all the time. One wonders why she had to close the door and why she must pour continuously. Moreover, it would appear obvious in this perek that Elisha would not have performed this miracle if she had no oil whatsoever. Elisha begins by saying "What do you have in your home?" To which she replies "nothing except a tiny amount of oil, enough to anoint myself with." At this point, Elisha focuses upon the very meagre possession that she does own, and uses that to perform the miracle. Why is this the method?

"The honour of a miracle is that it happens in a hidden manner." (Rashi #4)

"The Navi asked here 'What do you have in the house' because it is the practice of Neviim to enact a miracle based on an existent thing, so that there should not be a miracle ex nihilo (Something from nothing)" (Abarbanel)

"And this is the manner of all miracles in Torah and Neviim that man does that which he can perform, and the rest is left to God…" (Ramban Bereshit 6:19)

There is a fascinating hybrid that takes place here. On the one hand, an incredible miracle will happen here, in which the oil will multiply exponentially. On the other hand, it takes place "in private, in secret" whereby we do not watch as the oil multiplies – the pot just continues to pour in a fixed flow - and it all takes place behind closed doors. There must be "raw materials;" – since Ma'aseh Bereshit, God does not create ex nihilo! It "looks" natural. Man has to pour; the pots and jars had to be borrowed – and had they borrowed more pots, there would have been even more oil. But God DOES perform the miracle, undoubtedly.

This is a classic example of how man must do his part, but God can also create blessing in the places that are hidden from the eye.

Eshet Ovadia - עבדך היה ירא את ה'

There is a lovely Midrash here that asks as to who this woman might have been. Who was here husband who is described here as particularly "God fearing?" Maybe the Midrash is bothered as to why this family in particular were blessed with a miracle. The Shunamite woman performs hachnassat Orchim and (like Avrham and Sarah) is rewarded with a child. But what did this woman do to deserve a miracle of this enormity? The Midrash identifies this family as the family of Ovadiah, Achav's personal assistant! Ovadia harboured 100 nevi'ei Hashem and provided for them in a time of terrible religious persecution. Obviously, this family deserves the miracle!

Now Midrashim do not have no textual basis. In fact they are frequently logical and textual. This is no exception. Obviously there is the connection that Ovadia is described in Melachim I 18:3 as "greatly God fearing" - but there is more! Why would someone God fearing get into such debt? The answer is that he had to support the 100 Nevi'ei Hashem who he had kept in hiding in the cave! (see Melachim I 18:4) He needed finance, and he took a loan! [See Rashi who clims the the lender was none other than Achav, who clearly was oblivious to the purpose of his funds. Thick irony... tzarickh iyun!]

But maybe Chazal were also sensitive in this story to the style of the miracle, where food is produced "in secret" much as Ovadia kept Neviim behind closed doors, and Elisha tells the woman that she should sell the oil and live off that which is extra. Now, in a turn of fate, God returns the favour and provides food for her and her family!

Appendix: On the fringes of the Shunnamite story - The world of the Neviim

There are a number of points in this perek give us some information as to the way that the Navi – or at least Elisha - functioned in society

First is that clearly Elisha travels from place to place. Much lake Shmuel before him – see Shmuel I ch.7:15-17; ch. 9:9, 15-25 - he is always travelling, and we imagine, preaching and helping people.

Second: Elisha asks the Shunamite woman if he can "Talk to the king or to the head of the army? Once again, we see Elisha's connections with the ruling echelons, with High Society. Later in Melachim we shall see his interaction with the king in a number of stories.

Third. Clearly Shabbat and Chagim are times to connect with God and spirituality. This is performed by going to visit the Navi. The Shunnamite's husband says to her

"Why are you visiting him today? It is not Rosh Chodesh nor is it Shabbat." (4:23)

Rosh Chodesh as a day for visiting the prophet - one assumes, to hear his wisdom – and this tells us a great deal about the role of the prophet AND about the nature of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh as a day of the spirit, a day for limmud Torah.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Chapter 4 - Elisha, The Shunamite, and her Son

The main "story" of this perek is the story of the Shunamite woman, and her son. Instead of an article from myself on this chapter, I would like you to read this article (in English!) by Rav Sabato. It is an excellent reading of the Perek.

Here is an excerpt from Rav Sabato:

"The story of the Shunamite is part of a series of narratives concerning Elisha. Nonetheless, it stands alone as the only tale in Tanakh in which the navi decreed on his own accord to bring life into the world. There are no other instances, of promises of childbirth or resurrection of the dead, where man acts on his own volition without the consent of God.

The Midrash expresses that the power to give life is governed by God alone :

"Three keys are in the hands of Hashem and no being has control over them - the key to revive the dead, the key of childbirth and the key of rainfall." (Devarim Raba 7)

These three keys share a certain aspect of providing for and bringing life into the world. This applies not only with regards to the first two, but also with regards to the key of rainfall (in the Amida we mention Hashem's power to bring rain (מוריד הגשם) in the blessing concerning resurrection of the dead). These keys are in the hands of God. However, when He wills it, He entrusts them into the hands of the righteous.

Surprisingly, Elisha neglects to request of Hashem the power to bring life. In fact, he manipulates the key by force without the consent of its owner. Similarly, the Mekhilta expresses this idea:

'Where are you going?' they asked Gechazi.
'I am going to revive the dead,' he replied.
'How can you revive the dead,' they retorted, 'such power is only in the hands of God who is the Giver and Taker of life!'
Gechazi answered: 'My master, too, has the power to give life and to take it away.'(Mesekhta de-Amalek 1)

Elisha overstepped the boundaries of his authority when he decreed: "This time next year you will embrace a son." He was a messenger of God, yet behaved as though he could grant life on his own. This lies in contrast to any other episode in Tanakh, where it is exclusively God's prerogative."

In this article Rav Sabato takes issue with the approach of Rav Samet. Read Rav Samet's article (Heb) here.
Rav Mordechai Sabato teaches at Michlelet Herzog in Gush, at Midreshet Lindenbaum , Matan, Heb. U. Bar Ilan. He is an incredible teacher and an accomplished scholar. (His academic work is in the field of Talmud.) His brother is the acclaimed novelist and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maaleh Adumim, Rav Chaim Sabato.

Questions on פרק ד'
נסי אלישע. סיפור השונמית

Read the perek in its entirety.

פסוק א-ז
#1 This woman belongs to a particular group. Which group? Where have we seen this group in our sefer?
· "והנשה בא לקחת את שני ילדי וכו'" What does this phrase mean? See Shemot 22:24 and the Rashbam there. How does this loan thing connect with the children? (For an interesting connection with this, see Nehemia perek 5)
#5 ותסגור הדלת Why is this necessary? In which miracle stories of our perek do we see this same action (of closing the door) and where do we not see it. Can you explain?

The story of פסוק א-ז reminds us of a similar story with Eliyahu. Compare and contrast the two incidents. What does this tell us about the differences between the two prophets?

For a good summary of Elisha as a personality, See Daat Mikra, introduction to Melachim (in the 1st volume of Sefer Melachim) pgs 198-202.

פסוק ח'-ל"ח
General Questions
· This story is the Haftara for Parshat Vayera. In what way is it parallel to the story of birth/life of Yitzchak? Significance? How about the differences?
· This story provides is with some interesting information regarding the place of the Navi within wider society. What two points might we glean from our perek?
· DO you feel that the story here is more about Elisha? Gechazi? God? the Shunamite woman? – What is the message of the story?
· See (overleaf) the question of Rav Elchanan Samet (Megadim #13.) Is this a central issue in this perek? How so?

##29 See Radak (also Rashi) as to why Gechazi musn’t talk to anyone on his way to the house of the Shunamit. What does he suggest?
· According to Rashi (actually Chazal in the Mechilta) Gechazi doesn’t exactly follow orders here! If Radak is correct, then how would you articulate the difference in attitude between Gechazi and Elisha? (Note, according to Radak, what resulted from Gechazi’s attitude/actions.)
· Is there any hint to this difference in mindset in the p’shat of the perek?

#33-34 What series of actions does Elisha engage in in order to revive the child?
· "וישם פיו על פיו". עיין רד"ק.
מהם שני ההסברים שהרד"ק מציע להסביר הפעולות השונות שאלישע עושה כדי להחיות את הילד?

פסוקים מ"ב-מ"ד
On the basis of this story, when we say in zemirot Shabbat; “"אכלנו והותרנו כדבר ה' what do we mean?

For Further Study
The story of the "Shunamit" and her son is the Haftara of Parshat Vayera. See the book by Rav Yissachar Yaakobson – חזון המקרא- for his survey article about Prophetic miracles in Tanakh.

Rav Samet on ch.3

I just found Rav Samet's excellent classes on ch.3. see here.

Chapter 3 – The War Against Moav

In the aftermath of Achav's death and the instability that followed with Achazyahu's two year reign, Moav take the opportunity to throw off the imposition of foreign control. Already in the first passuk of ch.1, we have read that Moav rebelled against Achav. Now Achav's son decides to re-affirm his control over Moav.

His natural ally is Yehoshafat who we have already seen in military collaboration (ch.22) with the king of the northern kingdom. Why did Yeshoshafat join Yehoram? We know Yehoshafat as a loyal servant of God, a Melech Tzaddik; and Yehoram is far from that. See Elisha's statement in passuk #14. Maybe Yehoshafat is motivated by a desire for national unity. Furthermore, we read, in 8:18 that Yehoshafat's son married Ahav's son. Hence Yehoram's sister, Athalia, is Yehohafat's daughter-in-law. There is a family obligation too! In order to boost the size of the army creating a more effective attack force, a third ally is used - Edom - who are currently controlled by Yehuda. The kings travel via Midbar Edom, in other words, they skirt the south of the Dead Sea and attack Moav from the South.


However the advancing force encounters a serious setback. There is no water. They are traveling through a desert. You might ask – what did they expect? I imagine that their planned route had been to visit a particular Wadi or spring that would provide the requisite water and that for some reason they found it dry, or the access blocked. Maybe they had to alter their route for some reason (sometimes after a flash-flood, a wadi becomes impassable due to fallen rocks etc.) and they failed to reach the water that they anticipated. Walking for 7 days in the desert without water is a severe problem.

Enter the role of the Navi! Here Yehoshafat (echoing his words in ch.22) asks whether there is a "Navi LaShem" and Elisha is summoned. What is Elisha doing there? Why is he in the battlefield? We now have an opportunity to view a different prophet – Elisha - who is far more "tolerant." He participates in national events as one of the masses, he is always with the nation; very different from the drama of Eliyahu. Nonetheless, Elisha isn't a pushover – he doesn't compromise the truth. He probably accompanied the forces to war because he realized that his prophecy would be necessary. There was a Godly message to be delivered in this war, and he needed to be there to deliver it. He expresses quite vocally his disapproval of Yehoram and the religious realities of the Northern Kingdom.


Nonetheless, Elisha immediately gets himself into prophetic mood (via music) and announces a positive solution - that there will be water miraculously without rain nor wind.

Most likely we are dealing with a flash-flood that brought rainwater from hills in Jordan, down towards the Dead sea. We know this phenomena from OUR side of the Dead Sea. When it rains in Chevron and Jerusalem, there are floods in the nechalim of the Dead Sea despite the fact that the sun is shining there. As the passuk states "you will see no wind, nor will you see rain." Later in passuk #22 the Moabites think that this water is blood. Why would the water appear as red? It could be that along with the water came a great deal of mud colouring the water. Alternatively the reflection of the reddish mountains of Moav (if you have visited Eilat, the mountains are a reddish colour,) on the water gave an image of blood to the Moabites. The water which was the source of the problem turns into the object of their salvation from the enemy.

Along with this miracle, Elisha tells the people to devastate Moav, destroying cities, trees and water sources from the land of Moav. Why does God wish that the place be so severely destroyed? … we shall deal with this question at the end of this shiur.


Elisha uses music in his pursuit of prophecy. This is something that we are familiar with from Sefer Shmuel – see Shmuel Aleph 10:5, (16:16,23) ; 18:10. The Rambam comments upon this in Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah 7:4 " prophecy does not come to those who are sad or lazy, but only to those who are happy. Therefore, the sons of prophets would have before them harps, drums and flutes, and would seek prophecy." Chazal suggest that Elisha needed this especially in our Perek, after the presence of Yehoram had sent him into a bad mood. Now he needed music to get out of that negative state of mind.

And yet the relationship between music, inspiration, simcha , nevua, needs some further thought. We are all cognizant of the effect singing and music has on our davening. In chassidut the niggun became a sophisticated tool in reaching out to God. Way beyond the scope of this blog though … צריך עיון!

קצף גדול על ישראל

The last passuk here is the big unresolved problem point of this perek. Melekh Moav tries to break through to the king of Edom and he doesn't make headway. But suddenly Melekh Moav sacrifices his firstborn son upon the city wall. "and there was great anger (ketzef) against Israel."

What is happening here? It would appear that the Israelite victory was mitigated by this act. Why should a pagan act of child sacrifice affect Am Yisrael?

Here there are three primary approaches in the traditional literature. (The main sources are in Gemara Sanhedrin 39b and Massechet Taanit 4a. For an academic attempt, see Prof. Elitzur's approach in the previous posting.)

The Gemara in Sanhedrin raises two possibilities. That King Mesha's act was:
1 For Avoda Zara
2. For God – Leshem Shamayim.
According to both interpretations, this was an act of desperation, and the King of Moav wanted to arouse some divine assistance. This act of sacrificing his son was a radical move intended to change the course of the battle. And indeed it did!

Let us start with the second option: - Leshem Shamayim. The Midrash (pesikta) says that since Mesha was fighting Israel, he asked his advisors as to the source of the strength of Israel. They replied with the story of the Akeida! And so, Mesha set out to duplicate the Akeida here. Wow! And then the question is – so why did this induce "wrath" against Bnei Yisrael? The Talmud explicitly states that this act by Mesha was undesirable , even if prompted by worship of Hashem! Why should this illicit act have any positive affect for Mesha?

And at this point we get stuck. It is very puzzling. If God doesn't want this, then why should it "work" against Israel?

The second approach says that Mashe engaged in this act for the sake of his god, the Avoda Zara of Kemosh. Once again, we can raise the question of why this would in any way act as "wrath" against Bnei Yisrael. Here the commentators have a reply. They say that this act shamed Bnei Yisrael, it reflected badly upon us. After all, at this point in time, the Jews also worship idols; Yehoram is not perfect in this regard. Mesha's act raised the question: Why are they (Israel) more worthy than I? And indeed, at this point, God rescinded his protection of Bnei Yisrael and the war began to go downhill!

Many questions can be raised against this interpretation. Does God act in such a flippant manner? Why should a sacrifice to Avoda Zara have a "direct line" to God? But one problem might be – why he performed this act on the wall of the city. One would imagine that a religious sacrifice would take place on the city altar.

And so, there is a 3rd approach, quoted by the Radak. And this involves a creative reading of passuk 26. In passuk 26 an attempt was made to break through to the King of Edom, but it was unsuccessful. The Radak suggests that they didn't manage to kill Melekh edom, but they DID capture his SON. They then offered the KING OF EDOM"S SON on the wall, and this threw Edom into turmoil, probably having them blame Israel for not protecting them enough, and this broke the coalition, and brought an end to the attack.

Mesha's act here is NOT religious but POLITICAL. And ingenious stroke.


In the light of this discussion i would like to add something here that relate sto the chapter as a whole , ideas partially gleaned from Rav Samet's shiurim. There is a strong sense of ambivalence about the perek.

On the one hand, God strikes Israel with a lack of water for 7 days. This is interpreted as a sign of God's disfavour with Bnei Yisrael (313) But then, this is refuted as God grants Israel victory in the war.

On the one hand there is an evil king, who Elisha will not even countenance; on the other hand, a loyal righteous king.

On the one hand, they are promised a total devastating victory, but this is tempered somewhat, by the events at the end of the perek – see passuk 27 – that indicate a victory that is partial and indecisive.

What is happening here? Maybe we can suggest the following, and also relate a little to archeology. There is an extraordinary archeological find that was uncovered about 140 years ago. It is a massive 4 foot high engraved tablet of granite carved in honour of the King of Moav, the very Mesha of our Perek. The amazing thing is that it declares: "Israel is destroyed" … just another instance of people who thought that we were finished. But we are here today, and where are they? (For the text of the Mesha Tablet, see or see the link in the last post for a picture.)

…But for our purposes, what can we say about this stone? It tells the story how after Achav's time, Mesha had some significant victories against the Israelites including an attack at a city in Nevo when certain symbols of God were taken captive and placed before the Moabite god Kemosh. The entire text reads as a victory of Kemosh against Hashem. No doubt, this war comes as Yehoram wishes to avenge those conquests by Mesha. But even Hashem wishes to restore his name, to create a Kiddush Hashem. Now maybe we can explain the incredible miracles of this Perek, and the devastation that God wants to be visited against the Moabites. They saw themselves as victorious against Hashem, and Hashem wishes to relieve them of that illusion. And so, this is in many ways a war of vengeance for the name of God, for restoring God's supremacy.

And now, enter the confusion. A very problematic person – Yehoram – who worships idols, is avenging God's name. On the one hand, God wishes to secure a victory. On the other hand, for the victory to be total, to be absolute would give a stamp of approval to Yehoram. Throughout the perek then, we have this tension of approval-disapproval, a tension that eventually leads to a rather ambiguous and ambivalent victory. (And this fits in interestingly with the second opinion above, that the Israelites were in a shaky moral place as they also worship Avoda Zara, just like Mesha. Why should Mesha's sacrifice be inferior to theirs!?)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Interesting links on chapter 3

I just found a fascinating site on Tanakh
See how they learn passuk by passuk with mepharshim. A useful resource!

For a celebrated Hebrew article by Prof. Yehuda Elitzur on the "sacrifice of Mesha"

For archeological evidence of Mesha - the Mesha Stelle dated 930 BCE - and a MAP of the region, see

Chapter 3 - Questions
War with Moav

3:1-3 Who is the new king of Mamlechet Yisrael? How is he related to a. Achav; b. Achazyahu
· How was Yehoram better than his predecessors?

3:7-9 Who are the allies in this war? How does Edom come into this? See מלכ"א כ"ב/מ"ח

3:11-12 In earlier Yehuda-Yisrael war alliance (with Achav), Yehoshafat asked the very same question. See מל"א כ"ב/ז-ח.
· Compare the reaction of Yehoram as opposed to his father, Achav. - Here is another piece of evidence which supports Yehoram’s virtue in contrast to Achav.

3:15 cf. שמו"א י':ה' , ט"ז:"ד-י"ח,כ"ג and רמב"ם הל' יסודי התורה פ"ו הלכה ד'. Note the place of music in the process of inducing prophecy.

3:19/25 What exactly does Elisha see in his prophecy?
· Does the nevua of Elisha comes true? How accurately?

3:26-27 What is happening here?
Why was there קצף גדול על ישראל as a result of the King of Moav’s child sacrifice?
· See the different approaches of the Mepharshim here : רש"י, רד"ק, רלב"ג, דעת מקרא
(and note here that they relate to two textual questions:
a. When it says “his son”, whose child was killed? and
b. “"קצף גדול על ישראל Is this about “Yisrael” exclusively or also Yehuda?)

Chapter 2 ...continued /


We have become accustomed to seeing Eliyahu as a lone figure. Even though he is described as having an assistant (see 18:43,19:3) the assistant plays a very minor role. Eliyahu is always depicted alone appearing with a certain surprise, a suddenness. And yet, in this Perek, Eliyahu is surrounded by followers; talmidim! Now, clearly, the Bnei Neviim in this chapter feel attached to Eliyahu. They search for him for three days! In the early section of the perek, they are deeply disturbed by his imminent passing. Did Eliyahu really have Talmidim, in the manner of Shmuel? (see I Samuel 19:20-22) - Shmuel guided trainee prophets in the art of prophecy? Was that the relationship? Or possibly they had remote contact with Eliyahu, but, due to their ongoing practice of the art of prophecy, they revered Eliyahu who was the "Master", the ultimate prophet.

This having been said, why does the perek bring n the topic of the Bnei Neviim? What does the Perek transmit to us by this inclusion?

A second peculiarity that we should mention if we have been reading Sefer Melachim thus far, is that ever since that auspicious moment in which Eliyahu hurled his cloak at Elisha (19:19) transforming him into a prophet, we have never seen Eliyahu and Elisha together. This perek is the first time that we are permitted to view Eliyahu and Elisha walking and talking with one another. This is especially curious in the light of the passuk that instructs Eliyahu to anoint Elisha as "a prophet instead of you." (19:16) And we wonder then what manner of apprenticeship Elisha experienced with Eliyahu. Sefer Melachim never elaborates. We DO know that here in ch.2, the other prophets address Elisha refrring to Eliyahu as "Your master" – telling us that in some way Elisha was already know as Eliyahu's "Talmid Muvhak." (primary student.) Another informative source appears in ch.3 where Elisha is identified as "Elisha ben Shafat who poured water on the hands of Eliyahu." Is this a metaphor for close apprenticeship, or for a personal attendant. We don't know. But apparently Elisha and Eliyahu had spent considerable time together up to this point.

So we have two observations. The first concerns the Bnei Neviim; the second concerns Elisha. In a snese they are both new additions to the Eliyahu story. What message do they give us.


The perek is built with an inbuilt threefold repetition:

2 Eliyahu said to Elisha:
'Please stay here, for God has sent me to Beth-el.'
And Elisha said: 'As God lives, and your soul lives, I will not leave you.'
So they went down to Beth-el.—

4 Eliyahu said to him:
'Elisha! Please stay here, for God has sent me to Yericho.'
And he said: 'As God lives, and your soul lives, I will not leave you.'
So they came to Yericho.—

6 Eliyahu said:
'Please, stay here, for God has sent me to the Jordan River.'
And he said: 'As God lives, and your soul lives, I will not leave you'
So they went together.--

What is the nature of this repetition?

Eliyahu tries to encourage Elisha to leave him. Elisha expresses his dedication, and unwillingness to abandon his teacher. Here we witness the uncompromising commitent of a student to his Master. Eliyahu repeatedly requests that his student leave him, but the student refuses to leave him – for God's sake, and for Eliyahu's sake – and it would appear that Eliyahu is happy that he accompanies him … when they do leave for the Jordan at the end of passuk 6 … they go "together," indicating a certain connection.
Moreover, after the third conversation, Eliyahu doesn't challenge Elisha again, say, before he allows him to join him in crossing the Jordan. He accepts that Elisha is accompanying him. It is almost as if Elisha has proven his worthiness.

Here let us return to the Bnei Neviim. God apparently informed them of Eliyahu's imminent demise so that they could prepare themselves for this difficult moment. It could be that God sent Eliyahu on a very uncharacteristic social "tour" in order that the community of Nevei Hashem would have a special opportunity to pay respects to the great prophet Eliyahu. And yet, here we see a major difference between Elisha and the other prophets. They understand, even in the opening lines, that Eliyahu is Elisha's master. And they realise that they (#7) will have to stand "at a distance." So the pesukim enforce the feeling of concentric circles around Eliyahu. First, there is his Talmud Muvhak, and then the wider group of prophets.

This flows directly to the final exchange between Elisha and Eliyahu.

"9 And it came to pass, when they crossed, that Eliyahu said to Elisha: 'Ask what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.'
And Elisha said: 'Let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.'
10 And he said: 'You have asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so; but if not, it shall not be so.'"

A strange conversation. What is Elisha asking, and what is the reply? Many mepharshim (ibn Ezra, Radak) understand that Elisha is asking not to have DOUBLE of Eliyahu's power. That would indeed be presumptuous, arrogant and near impossible. Rather, Elisha requests to have a double portion – like a firstborn receives a double portion (pi shnayim.) The question is WHO WILL SUCCEED ELIYAHU? Even now, it would appear that the status of Elisha is not fully assured. And it is still an open question. Elisha imagines Eliyahu's powers being shared by ALL the Neviim. He requests that he be granted a double share.

Obviously Eliyahu cannot grant the gift of prophecy. God does that. Hence, Eliyahu gives him a sign. If you see me go up to heaven, then it will be proof to yo that you are indeed at an exceptional standard of Nevua.

In this sense, we can reframe the perek. The drama is about how Elisha is qualitatively different from the other Neviim. He sees Eliyahu go up in fire. (See Melachim Bet 6:17 – that one's eyes need to be specially opened in order to see chariots of fire and horses… it is not an image that is ordinarily visible.) He sees Eliyahu and the manner in which he departs the world, and hence he doesn't search. The other Bnei Neviim, see nothing. Their prophecy is of a lower level. Hence they search. Elisha knows that they will find nothing.

Maybe Eliyahu deliberately throws his cloak, his Aderet down to Elisha - the same mysterious garment that has the power to seep Elisha off his feet in ch.19 – in order that he can add his extra boost to the prophetic power that he hopes God will grant to Elisha. At any rate, Elisha's ability to split the Jordan reinforces to all the Bnei Nevvim that Elisha has taken Eliyahu's place and that he has his powers.

If this is correct, we may assert that one of the primary dramas of the story is exactly the Rebbi-Talmid relationship. When Eliyahu goes up in the fiery chariot, Elisha rips his clothing and refers to Eliyahu is his father. In fact, it is from this Perek that the Gemara in Moed Katan teaches that a Talmid Muvhak is obligated to tear Keriah for his Rebbe. And there are many Mishnayot (see Bava metzia 33a) that reflect the relationship of father-son in the Rebbe-student relationship "for your father brings you into this world, and your Rav into the world to come." But in truth, the Rav also provides purpose, and meaning, a new set of values and norms, in THIS world.

Let us add that here that it is only Elisha's devotion to his Rebbe that ensures his witnessing that vision, and his affirmation as Eliyahu's successor. Had Elisha been less persistent , he would have given up and let Eliyahu go alone, and none of this would have happened. Maybe the Tanach is reminding us that sometimes, the greatest way in which a Talmid can follow his teacher is by simply spending time with him, and even in the "down" moments – not great shiurim, or even conversations – but simple living, one learns a great deal. It is in "shimush talmidei chachamim" that true Rebbe talmid relationships are built. And this is the deep understanding of the Gemara:

תלמוד בבלי מסכת ברכות דף ז עמוד ב
ואמר רבי יוחנן משום רבי שמעון בן יוחי: גדולה שמושה של תורה יותר מלמודה, שנאמר: +מלכים ב' ג'+ פה אלישע בן שפט אשר יצק מים על ידי אליהו, למד לא נאמר אלא יצק - מלמד שגדולה שמושה יותר מלמודה.

Hence the end of the perek fits in perfectly. First is a story whereby Elisha acts as head of the clan of the Neviim, solving their problems via miraculous means, caring for their physical wellbeing. Elisha here turns death into life (see #21). (And it is interesting that in Jericho – by the Dead Sea – salt makes the water live – whereas the salt of the Dead Sea makes the sea "Dead"! … what does this teach us?)

And the very difficult story of the bears killing the children is also part of this story. As Elisha is ascending the mountain – quite a climb – to go to Beit El, youth emerge from "the city" – meaning Jericho (see #19 for a parallel) – and yell at Elisha. They yell "Go up, baldie." Why do they yell this?: Remember how Eliyahu is described in 1:8 as having long hair. As Elisha huffs and puffs up the hill, they see him in a moment of weakness and they are commenting of Elisha's baldness as opposed to Eliyahu's hair, but between the lines, they are expressing a critique of Elisha – whereas Eliyahu was full, you are empty, Eliyahu had hair, you do not. In other words, they cast aspersions regarding Elisha's worthiness. This is AFTER Elisha has saved their city's water supply! Elisha responds harshly. God reacts even more harshly by sending some mauling bears. God thereby expresses his absolute defence of his chosen prophet.


We can talk about the manner in which this perek transcribes the transition from Eliyahu to Elisha.

As much as the perek tells the story of Eliyahu's 'death' or disappearance, it tells the story of Elisha's unique status amongst the prophets, his special role, developed through years of dedication to and apprenticeship with Eliyahu. And the Perek affirms the succession of Elisha as the heir to the legacy of Eliyahu.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chapter 2 - ויהי בהעלות ה' את אליהו בסערה השמים
"Eliyahu's Death" - part 1

This chapter raises serious questions. Probably the most striking difficulty is the manner in which Eliyahu dies. Did he die? Is he still alive somewhere? We talk about Eliyahu as visiting every Brit Mila, and walking through our opened doors on Seder night, in the Talmud Eliyahu visits a variety of characters; Is Eliyahu still alive?

This is actually a debate amongst the Rishonim. Radak in his opening comments to the Perek says that Eliyahu died… or at least lost his human form:

"The storm raised Eliyahu from Earth into the air … above the "ball of fire." There his clothes burned except his cloak, his flesh and his physical form were consumed, and his spirit returned to God."

Whereas Ralbag suggests something very different:

"One cannot understand that he (Eliyahu) was taken to Heaven because a human body cannot be taken there. But rather (when it refers to Eliyahu's ascent in a storm to שמים) it means high in the air as (the spies said) "cities, large and fortified "to the heavens;" or (with the Tower of Babel) "a tower with its peak in the heavens." An angelic force of God raised Eliyahu to an unknown location and he lives there."

Indeed there is an opinion in the Gemara that Eliahu never dies (Reish Lakish Moed Katan 26a)

There is much to say about the persona of Eliyahu in Midrash and subsequent literature, and about the Aggadic traditions regarding his frequent earthly visits. If we can put that question on hold, then we shall try to understand the Perek on its own value, despite the sense of curiosity we may have about Eliyahu and where he might reside!

Having said all this by way of introduction, it would certainly be true that this manner of "death" is unique in Tanach, and there is a palpable sense of mystery that surrounds the Perek. We, the readers, know what is to happen by the very opening passuk:

"1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah by a whirlwind into heaven"

but even though Eliyahu knows, as does Elisha, as do the Bnei Neviim, no one is willing to mention the unthinkable – that Eliyahu will die. And so when I say that there is a veiled feel to this Perek, as sense of a secret, something shrouded in mystery, it is not simply a subjective feeling but ever-present in the text itself.


But let us get our teeth into the Perek and begin to work through its structure.

You will notice a clear symmetry to the Perek. This can be delineated by means of the places visited:

Beit El
the Jordan
The East bank of the Jordan
the Jordan
Beit El
Har Hacarmel

Obviously the crucial centre of this chiastic structure is the pesukim in which Eliyahu is taken heavenwards by the fiery chariot. What does this structure mean? I think that the key might lie with the final stop, Har Hacarmel. Obviously this is the site of Eliyahu's Piece de Resistance, the "duel" against the prophets of Baal.

If Elisha returns, stage by stage, in the footsteps of Eliyahu, he is in some manner taking upon himself, Eliyahu's persona. I do believe that this is a major dimension of this Perek, the process whereby Elisha becomes the National Prophet taking Eliyahu's place. Note how when Elisha crosses the Jordan, the Bnei HaNeviim exclaim:

"And when the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho some way off saw him, they said: 'The spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha!' And they came to meet him, and bowed down to the ground before him" (2:15)

Hence we have Elisha walking, place by place in Eliyahu's footsteps.

...more tomorrow...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Questions Chapter 2

פרק ב The "death" of Eliyahu
This perek describes the unusual departure/death of Eliyahu which is depicted in dramatic detail.
· As you are reading, do you see certain parallels with the previous perek?

2:1 Trace the route taken by Eliyahu and Elisha throughout the perek. Note that the Gilgal here is a different place to the Gilgal by Jericho - see Da’at Mikra on פסוק א

2:3 Can you explain the centrality of the Bnei Haneviim in this Perek. LIST where they come into the story?

2:13-14 See the role of Eliyahu’s cloak here. Notice the connection with מל"א י"ט/י"ט. What is the symbolism behind this cloak?

2:19-21 What is Elisha's first act as a prophet of the people?

2:25 You will notice that Elisha has followed Eliyahu’s route in reverse. Why does he go to Har Hacarmel at this point in time? Does it fit into the pattern?

2:23-5 This is a very difficult story. Why do these people die?
- How does Elisha's PHYSICAL appearance as described n these pesukim, contrast with Eliyahu's physical appearance as demonstrated in 1:8?
- What are these people saying when they call Elisha "bald" focussing on this physical feature in particular?
- Which city do these "na'arim" come from?

Chapter 1 – Achazyahu.

Make sure that you have read this dramatic and exciting perek. It tells us much about Eliyahu but even more about Nevuah in general and the relationship between the Navi and the king.

The Betrayal.
Achazyahu is not a good king (22:53). He follows the path of his father … or maybe, if we are to be more accurate, he follows that path of his mother (Izevel – see 22:53 again.)

The Perek opens with an unfortunate accident in which Achazyahu is seriously injured. (Some see this as more than an accident. See Malbim.) Apparently he is in a medically critical condition and he wishes to know whether he will be healed from his injuries. I imagine that if he appeals to divine powers, he is looking for a combination of knowledge, and also some medical assistance. However instead of sending to Hashem, he chooses Baal Zvuv – a god in Ekron, one of the Philistine cities.

From the message that Eliyahu receives it is apparent that this act of sending delegates to Baal Zvuv is so severe, so radical that it warrants Achazyahu's death. Why? Maybe we can explain it as an escalation on two fronts. First, Achav served Avoda Zara, but we have never seen a Jewish king resort to Avoda Zara for his personal purposes. But Second, there is an enormous Chillul Hashem here, as the Philistines receive a royal delegation from Shomron enquiring as to their god. Eliyahu phrases it in the following way:

Is there no God in Israel that you go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?" (1:3)

What does this act say about Hashem? That Israel has totally abandoned its God! This is the inverse vision of Yishayahu's image where "many peoples shall go and say; Come let us go up to … the House of the God of Yaakov that hHe may instruct us in His ways, and that we may walk in his paths." (2:3) The Chillul Hashum is colossal.


It is then, not surprising that Eliyahu confronts the delegates and sends them home. By this act, Eliyahu thwarts the Chillul Hashem, as they never make it to Ekron at all! But Eliyahu goes a stage further, He sends them home in precisely the reverse manner in which they set off… this is to be the undoing of Achazyahu's delegation. Let us explain.

Let us point out that this Perek has a seven-fold "Mila Mancha" or leitwort – leading word. It is the verb Sh"L"Ch. (See passuk 2, 6 twice, 9,11,13,16). Eliyahu does not simply send a message to Achazyahu but rather, uses HIS MESSENGERS in order to deliver his message. Instead of "Lechu dirshu" (1:2), we have "Lechu Shuvu.."(1:7).

There could be many reason for Eliyahu using Achazyahu's delegates but let us raise the following possibilities:
1. It could be that Eliyahu is not allowed in Shomron, and that there is still a death warrant on his head. Hence he needs surrogate to deliver the message.
2. There is something powerful about Eliyahu catching Achazyahu's messengers "in the act." In the same manner in which Eliyahu confronts Acahav davka in Navot's field, likewise, he uses the very instrument of sin to confront Achazyahu.
3. There is a sense that when someone returns "in the way that they came" it is a reversal of the previous action (see the statement in Melachim aleph 13:8 and the Ralbag there.) By sending the messengers home, Eliyahu is actually undoing Achazyahu's act. {In our next Perek we shall suggest something different!}
4. But there is something even more subtle going on here. By using Achazyahu's messengers, Eliyahu is forcing them – Achazyahu's loyal servants – to make a choice. Are they loyal to Achazya or to Eliyahu, to Baal or to Hashem? Here is the key to the rest of the perek where Eliyahu forces Achazyahu's soldiers into submission, by fire and death, so that they will obey Eliayhu rather than the king. It is very reminiscent of the Har Hacarmel story where Eliyahu says to the people, "How long will you keep hopping between two opinions?" and the manner in which he forces them (by fire!) to realise that Hashem is God.

Just imagine the dilemma of Achazyahu's servants as they have to deliver Eliyahu's message to the king that "The bed that you ascended, you shall not descend, for you will most certainly die." How do you deliver that message to the king? But the irony is that Achazyahu's men had become Eliyahu's messengers! (See how they say "Ko Amar Eliyahu!")

BTW do note the use of the roots "Al"h" and "Yr"d". Up and down. These are also key phrases in this perek. Achazyahu FALLS. He then sends messengers says "kum aleh" – ARISE. Eliyahu tells him that the bed which he ASCENDED (al"h) he will nor DESCEND (yr"d) and of course the perek continues with the question as to whether Eliyahu will descend from the hill or whether the officer of the Fifty will ascend the hill.

The Threefold Story – 50 Men

One of the questions that are raised in this story is why Eliyahu had to kill the 50 men sent by Achazyahu. Was it justified? There is some discussion of Achazyah's motive in sending them. Ralbag mysteriously suggests that Achazyahu sent them to honour Eliyahu. Some suggest (Metzudot and barabanel) that Achazyahu wanted to summon him to his palace in order to hear the Nevuah directly … which eventually did happen. The objectionable thing according to both of these explanations was the manner in which the officer addressed Eliyahu putting him at the service of the king. Rav Samet is unhappy with these approaches. He suggests a third motive. That achazyahu wanted to kill Eliyahu and in that way to annul the decree of his own death. This explanation has advantages in that it gives some backdrop to the high drama here. What is at stake is the very authority of Nevua. Achazyahu thinks he can manipulate the devar Hashem by violent means and Eliyahu proves that the Devar Hashem is far stronger that the hands of man.

Structurally, here is a classic structure of 3 and 4 whereby there is a repeated pattern over 3 rounds, leading to a fourth "breakthrough" that emerges from the previous three. (A great example might be Bilaams curses.) In general, the munber 3 is prominent in Eliyahu stories (3 years of famine, 3 pourings of water on har hacarmel, 3 years of peace between Aram and Israel) and of course the theme of fire is an Eliyahu theme.

In this vein, do an exercise whereby you compare the language and body language of each of the three army officers and you will see how there is a distinct progression as the 3rd one fully accepts Eliyahu's role as a representative of God, and hence ASCENDS to him, and BOWS to him, and talks with submission and persuasion and request rather than barking orders at the Navi. You will see how tha language of the Tanach here beautifully demonstrates the gradual submission of Achazyahu's men.

So in summary, this is a perek which describes a titan struggle between the truth of God, and Nevuah, on the one side, and the king, the national representative, who seeks to abandon God, or to see himself as the authority above God's authority. The final scene in the Perek is where Eliyahu is granted entry to Shomron, and delivers the message in person. In the final analysis, the king is forced top accept God's word rather than that of Baal Zevuv, and he is also coerced into receiving Eliyahu is the prophet of Israel.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Yehoshafat (King of Yehuda) is a fascinating character who raises surprisingly contemporary dilemmas.

Sefer Melachim has sparse detail regarding Yehoshafat. The main information may be gleaned from Divrei Hayamim. And yet, as an exercise in close reading, it is worthwhile to focus on the pesukim here in order to learn how to extract significant information from a minor phrase in the Tanach.

First, Sefer Melachim tells us (v.44) how Yehoshafat acted in a manner which is ישר בעיני ה' – in other words, he did not succumb to Avoda Zara. In addition, it refers to a widespread campaign to rid the country of the Kadesh (v.47) which was around in the reign of his predecessor and father. In other words, Yehoshafat made special efforts to eradicate any traces and trappings of idolatrous culture.

Second, Sefer Melachim refers to the peace with the Northern Kingdom (v.45).

Third. We can tell that this was a period of enormous prosperity and extensive political hegemony over the region. There are a number of clues here: Yeshoshafat's control of Etzion Gaver (Eilat v.48) and the ability to raise a fleet of אניות תרשיש - ships that are strong enough to withstand a lengthy sea voyage – is a sign of wealth and power. Only the kings who had absolute regional control could mount such a project. Furthermore, v.48 tells us that Israel had stationed a נצב as king in Edom, (the desert leading to Eilat) in other words, Yehuda dominated Edom.

So we gain quite a solid picture of the events of Yehoshafat's life from a careful reading of the details here in Melachim.

One thing is left as an open question. Passuk 50 describes how Achazyahu offered to assist Yehoshafat, but that he was rebuffed, and the offer turned down. One wonders why. Divrei Hayamim has some answers.

Divrei Hayamim

Please do read דברי הימים ב' פרק י"ז-כ' which gives a far more extensive and detailed insight into the reign of Yehoshfat. Since this blog is supposed to be relatively brief AND since we are studying Melachim, not Div. Hayamim, I will do a minimal analysis.

Divrei Hayamim desribes many aspects of Yehoshafat's reign: (all in ch.17 there)
Wealth: 17:5
Torah Learning 17:7-9
Regional Power 17:10-11
Building projects 17:12
Industry and GNP 17:!3
Army 17:14-19

In other words, Yehoshafat's reign is reminiscent of Shlomo's. (Except that he didn't afll at all into the trap of Avoda Zara.) Maybe this also explains his desire to unify the nation with his alliance with Achav and later Achazyahu. He saw the country returning to its heyday, and the natural thing to do in this environment was to unify… hence his son's marriage to Achav's daughter

And yet the Nevi'im criticize him again and again for associating with the idolatrous Northern Kings. Regarding Achav, the Navi confronts him with the accusation: הלרשע לעזור ולשונאי ה' תאהב (י"ט:ב') and his response is to launch a new campaign (19:4-11) of spreading Torah by appointing Judges, and boosting the place of Law and Torah nationwide. (Note the emphasis on Mishpat with YehoSHAFAT!) . Likewise see 20:37 where Yehoshafat engages in a joint naval project at Eilat with Achazyahu. Apparently a storm takes place damaging the ships. The Navi explains that this is a punishment for his alliance with Achazyahu. And this solves our question from Sefer Melachim. Indeed after the ships were broken, Yehoshafat decides to take a break from his cooperation with Achazyahu, king of the Northern Kingdom.

So, is it always wrong to create Achdut, if the other side are acting against Torah? Could it not be correct to create unity despite the difference in religious orientation? Or perhaps, Achav and Achazyahu were so potentially harmful that in THIS case it was inadvisable. It is difficult to figure this one out. When do we overlook religious differences and unite, and when do we act discriminatingly?

In the final analysis, Yehoshafat is a powerful story of how a king follows God impeccably, and that when he does so, God vanquishes his enemies. See Chapter 20 - the incredible story of how Hashem rewards Yehoshafat with an unbelievable victory and how they respond with Hallel to Hashem … and how the nations see that God is fighting for Israel!

Monday, June 12, 2006

An interesting article
on מלכים ב' פרק א' by Rav Samet can be accessed at

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Chavruta Questions
Yehoshafat - Melachim Aleph 22:41-51

1. We have already met Yehoshafat in the earlier part of this perek.
· Try to summarise the information that can be gleaned about Yehoshafat from that story of the war against Aram
· Here (passuk 41-51) is the “official summary” of Malchut Yehoshafat. What details do you notice here?
What is the significance of the information here?

#48 explain this passuk
#49-51 What are אניות תרשיש? Where is עציון גבר? (look at a map!)
Who else went looking for Gold in Ophir? (see 9:26-7; 10:22) Why is the comparison significant?
What happened to this mission? See Div Hayamim II 20:37.

2. To understand Yehoshafat in full detail, please see Divrei Hayamim II ch.17-19 (Yes, lots of reading!)
· In particular pay attention to the prophetic message that Yehoshafat receives in the wake of his alliance with Achav. How does he react/ respond to the prophetic communication?

מלכים ב' פרק א' - Ahazyahu ben Achav.
Read from 22:52 onwards.

1:1-2 The rebellion of Moav
· How does this rebellion manifest itself? To find out, look at the meaning of the root "פשע" in ויפשע מואב בישראל. You will find an answer by referencing מל"א י"ב/י"ט
· What relationship is there between the rebellion of Moav and the state of Achazyahu’s health? (Daat Mikra)
· For more on this rebellion, see ch.3.

1:2-17 Achazyahu sends messengers to Ba’al Z’voov.
· Where is Ekron? see Yehoshua 13:3
· Why does Eliyahu send messengers back to Achazyahu? Why not deliver the message in person? - What answer does the rest of this story give to this question?
· For what purpose does Achazyahu send soldiers back to Eliyahu? Why is there a need for 50 men? Why does Eliyahu kill them? [Note - HOW does Eliyahu kill them. Is this “characteristic” of Eliyahu?]

To help us with this, pay attention to the threefold story here. Note progressions between each group:
- The way that the שר החמישים addresses Eliyahu, and to Eliyahu’s response. What do you notice. Note the progression between the first and second incident. (Where have we seen the phrase כה אמר in this perek?) What happens the 3rd time?

Is this story about Eliyahu and the messengers of the king, or about Eliyahu and Achazyah himself?

· 1:8 How is Eliyahu’s external appearance described here? In contrast, see Elisha, 2:24

· Finally, think about this story in the light of the account of Yerovam's wife (Melachim I ch.14.) What is similar here and what is different. What is this particular story aiming to convey?

Melachim Aleph ch.22

In shiur, we failed to learn together the final Perek of Melachim Aleph, so lets begin with that and then move on to Melachim Bet.

The background and basic outline: After 3 years of peace between Yisrael and Aram, Achav decides to attack Aram. If you recall, Chapter 20 had ended with a peace treaty between Aram and Israel detailing that certain cities be returned to Jewish sovereignty. It appears that these agreements were ignored and hence Yisrael aims to recover them in battle.

Interestingly, Achav's ally here is none other than Yehoshafat, King of Yehuda. As they plan for war, we see a fascinating scene in which the prophets of Baal prophesy before the kings. Yehoshafat however requests a Navi Hashem, and when he is brought to the kings the Navi Hashem – Michayahu ben Yimla - predicts defeat in war. In the battle, Achav is hit by an arrow. He remains in the battlefield in order to encourage his troops, but by the end of the day they lose the war, and Achav dies and is buried in Shomron. The text describes the death of Achav as a fulfillment of Eliyahu's decree in 21:19. (It also obviously fulfils the decree of 20:42)

Some focus points:

"My fate like your fate, my people together with your people, my horses with your horses." (22:4)

One of the features of the Achav years is that there was incredible unity between Yisrael and Yehuda. Indeed, despite the fact that Yeoshafat was a Melekh Tzaddik, he married his own son Yehoram to Achav's daughter (see Melachim II 8:17-18.) So they were in-laws! Who knows, maybe with their children getting married, they even saw themselves as reuniting the kingdom in some sense so that Am Yisrael would not be divided into two. (Chazal seem to pick up on this pervasive atmosphere of unity as opposed to division and opportunism in other eras – see Vayikra Rabba 26:2)

Nevi'ei Sheker

The first half of the Perek is focused upon the scene at the threshing floor in which the Neviim "perform" for the Kings. In the classic Jewish tradition, (Shoftim 20:27, Shmuel I 23:10-12, Shmuel II 5:19) Yehoshafat wants to consult with God before war. And here begins a struggle between a band of 400 prophets of Baal who all act and speak in unison, giving an identical message. These are Achav's prophets.

On the other hand is Michayahu Ben Yimla. He has been summoned by request of Yehoshafat, who, being from Yehuda, is very uncomfortable with the prophets of Baal and requests a Navi Lashem.

Two things are significant here.

1. Note how in Judaism, the word of God can stand on its own. Other religions had strength in numbers. Judaism always has the prophet delivering the word of God as he stands alone. It is worthwhile thinking about this. Is it because by its very nature, God empowers only one individual as his messenger. The logical outcome is that only a single individual is eligible to deliver the message. He got it directly from God. Only he can deliver it.

On the other hand are 400 people who talk the same, walk the same. In fact when Michayahu Ben Yimla is summoned, the messenger INSTRUCTS him what to say i.e. given his "lines", so that he will say precisely the same as the other Neviim. My Rav, David Netiv once said in connection with this perek, that we should always be suspicious when we see hundreds of people acting exactly the same way, talking the same, and all in the name of God. God never asks people to act as a herd like that. I have always wondered about this message, and I am still unsure how much this is a reliable rule of thumb. Nonetheless, we are struck by the lone (True) prophet against the 400.

2. A second point is the manner in which these prophets engage in SYMBOLIC ACTS in order to demonstrate their point. Here in passuk 11 the false Navi Zidkiya creates iron horns that symbolize the victory of Israel against Aram.

In this manner, the false prophets follow a Jewish prophetic practice of symbolic actions. From Yirmiyahu walking around Jerusalem with a yoke on his shoulders (ch.27) or Yishayu walking barefoot and undressed as a prisoner of war (ch.20) or Hoshea's marriages etc. Neviei Yisrael frequently were commanded to engage in demonstrative "drama" in order to transmit the message in question. In this manner these Neviei Sheker reinforce their message by acting in the true prophetic tradition.


Obviously here we once again see the nerves of steel necessary for a prophet. Michayahu is used to delivering unpopular messages to the king (see passuk 8.) This time he angers the king so much that the king strikes him and jails him with meager rations, "until I come home safe" Nonetheless, Michayahu holds his ground, saying "we will see who has to flee from room to room." (passuk 25 – a clear reference to the failure of ch.20 … se the same phrase, passuk 30 there.)

In the end of the perek, Achav, though disguised in battle, is injured, and yet he remains in the battlefield, probably losing volumes of blood that cost him his life. He stayed there to encourage his troops. Once the figurehead of the nation was dead, it was unlikely that the rank and file soldiers would hold their discipline, and thus Achav remains propped in his shariot, even though it cost him his life. Chazal in Massechet Moed Katan (28b) talk about this selfless and heroic trait very positively.

As we said in our introduction, Achav is killed as the fulfillment of prophecies in BOTH the end of ch.20 and ch.21. Find the manner in which the end of OUR chapter reflects BOTH of these decrees.

Achav is one of the Kings mentioned in Perek Hachelek who have no place in Olam Habba - a sign that they betrayed their role in the most fundamental of ways.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Just some suggestions for books to use as you learn:

1. Mikraot Gedolot - Rashi, Radak, Metzudot etc.
2. Daat Mikra - the best modern work that fuses peshat with wider theme summaries, occasional literary comments, character studies, linguistics, etc. The series is written by frum people and as such is strongly recommended.
3. Rav Yigal Ariel's work - Mikdash Melekh. It is a commentary on Sefer Melachim
4. Rav Yissachar Yaacobson's book of questions on Neviim Rishonim.
5. Rav Samet's book - Pirkei Eliyahu - which covers the first 2 chapters of the Sefer!
6. Many useful Tanach articles can be found on Just look in the Tanach section.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


If you are reading this, then I imagine that you are one of my students from Bekiut Nach.
Here we go.
Get your Tanach and start the first chapter of Melachim Bet!!