Then they said to each other, "What we're doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace." - 2 Kings 7:9
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Tazria-Metzora, from Leviticus 12:1-15:33. Tazria means "conceived" and Metzora means "diseased." The Haftorah is from 2 Kings 7:3-20.
In this week's Haftorah portion, we read a story of salvation that came about through four lepers - men who were struck with the very same spiritually rooted malady mentioned in the Torah reading. The verses that precede our reading inform us that there was a siege in Samaria, an area of Israel where the king and most of the people lived. People were literally starving to death. Elisha the prophet made a stunning announcement that within 24 hours, the famine would end.
This is where our reading picks up. It tells us that there were four lepers who were sent outside the city. They were in an even more precarious situation than the rest of the nation. In their condition, without any provisions, they realized that it wouldn't be long before they died. They decided to take a calculated risk. Since they were bound to die anyway, they decided to risk surrendering to the Arameans, the enemies of Israel responsible for the siege.
The four lepers headed out at dusk; however, when they arrived at the Aramean camp, they found it completely deserted! Unbeknownst to them, God had caused a miracle by sending a loud noise which convinced the Arameans that Israel had brought allies and was coming toward them with numerous armies. The lepers didn't know why the camp was deserted in such a hurry that everything was left behind; all they knew was that they had struck gold.
At first the lepers began to collect the treasures for themselves - silver, gold, clothing, and food. But then, they turned to each other and said, "What we're doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us." The lepers recognized that it was wrong to keep the good news to themselves. Their life-saving news had to be shared at once.
Today, we live in a world where most people may not be starving physically, but so many are certainly lacking spiritual nourishment and positive inspiration. The Jewish sages teach that a person who gives an evil report is punished and someone who has a good word to say but holds it back is also deserving of punishment. When we have something good to say - be it good news, a word of inspiration, a compliment, or some encouragement - we must say it right away. Even a few hours' delay may be too late for someone who is deep in depression or spiritual deprivation. So next time God gives us the gift of good news, let's be sure to share it - without delay.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President