On GOP Debate Night, I'm Not Sure How to Spin this (disturbing) Haftarah

This week's haftarah is all about prophets and miracles, and I'm not quite sure what to do with it. Since it's taken from II Kings, you probably haven't read it. Here's the nutshell.


Miracle I:

An unnamed widow, heavily in debt, is being threatened by her creditors. They want her two sons as slaves in payment for what she owes. 
Enter Elisha (not Elijah) the prophet, who says, "Well, what else do you have to pay with?"
"Nothing. One vial of oil. That's it"
Elisha tells her to go borrow as many jugs as she can from her neighbors and pour the oil from her vial into the jugs. 
She does and -- miracle!! -- the oil flowed enough to fill all the jugs.
She sells them, repays her debts, and lives comfortably.

There are some pretty clear kernels of wisdom here:

  • When you're in need, open your eyes and consider what you already have. 
  • Don't dismiss seemingly small things. 
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch every little thing to its maximum value.
  • Your friends are probably willing to help you out, but you may have to ask them.
  • Big jugs are good!
  • God loves making a little oil go a long way.

Jug matching.



Miracle II:

Elisha traveled through Shunam a lot.This really cool, older couple would always welcome him, and they even built an addition to their house just for Elisha.The couple didn't have any kids, and when Elisha learned this, he blessed the woman that she should give birth to a child in exactly one year's time. Whaddya know? She does!Then it gets weird...
A few years later the son complained of a headache and died shortly thereafter.
The Shunamit woman laid the lifeless body on the bed in Elisha's designated guest room.
Elisha hurried to the woman's home and miraculously brought the boy back to life, like this:
Elisha came into the house, and there was the boy, laid out dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the Lord. Then he mounted [the
bed] and placed himself over the child. He put his mouth on its mouth, his eyes on its eyes, and his hands on its hands, as he bent over it. And the body of the child became warm. He stepped down, walked once up and down the room, then mounted and bent over him. Thereupon, the boy sneezed seven times, and the boy opened his eyes. [Elisha] called Gehazi and said, "Call the Shunammite woman," and he called her. When she came to him, he said, "Pick up your son." She came and fell at his feet and bowed low to the ground; then she picked up her son and left.



What are we to make of this? The Stone Chumash, produced by Artscroll, an Orthodox publisher, says that the way Elisha heals the child is "an eternal lesson fr those who wish to inspire and teach and inspire Jewish children -- to breathe life into them. A teacher must give himself over to his charges of he hopes to succeed."

That's a pretty big logical leap from the "facts" of the story.

I'm also so uncomfortable with people in the bible who get their problems solved through miracles while the rest of us in real life just have to tough it out, miracle-free. Personally, since I don't believe in miracles that happen as a result of the will of a supreme being, I don't feel left out when they don't happen to me.

If this nameless woman in the scripture is worthy of her bareness being "cured" by a prophet, why not the woman of faith who is desperate to get pregnant in 2015?

If a prophet can bring a child back to life because the family was especially hospitable, what is the faithful mother who buries a child left to think?

In some ways, life is so much easier when it's random and reason-less. It's taken me a long time to come to terms with that, but paradoxically, studying these stories helps the reconciliation.




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