Melachim Bet

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

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.