The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the Torah portion that is called “Tazria”, from Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33, and from the prophets the Haftarah portion is from 2 Kings 4:42 – 5:18, 7:3-20. From the New Testament we read Matthew 8:1-4.
The Torah portion of Tazria starts with some important information that connects me to the Gospel of Luke:
“Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’” – Luke 2:22-24
Luke knows the Torah and is telling us here that Joseph and Mary did everything according to the law of Moses. Mary waited for the days of her purification to be fulfilled before she takes (probably with Joseph) the baby to the Temple for circumcision and purification. Luke wants us to know that Mary and Joseph kept the Torah and observed every command of the Torah.
“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.”’” – Leviticus 12:1-4
Why do you think that Luke is the only one of the four gospels that is giving us such details about the birth and the circumcision of baby Yeshua? I think that Luke, specifically because he is a medical doctor and also a non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua and Paul, wanted us to know that Yeshua was a legitimate boy born to Jews, who observe the commandments of the Torah to the letter.
You see, the fact that Joseph and Mary took the baby to the Temple in Jerusalem, and did all the purification rights and the circumcision of Baby Yeshua, is an indication that there was no doubts or legal consideration of the birth of Yeshua. From the text in Luke we also connect with the Torah reading that reveals to us that Joseph and Mary were not financially rich, but at best they were on the lower scale of the middle class in Israel.
They brought as their sacrifice in Jerusalem two turtledoves. This was the prescription for people who could not bring a bull or a cow or a goat or a sheep, but like blue-collar workers living in a very small place in the lower Galilee, they could bring the two turtledoves.
The reading from the prophets, from 2 Kings 4:42 – 5:18 is a part of Elisha the prophet’s narratives. The connection between the Torah and the prophets’ readings this Shabbat is also the issue of leprosy.
The story that interests me most from this reading is the story of Naaman, the minister of war of the kingdom of Assyria. The text starts with these words:
“Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.” – 2 Kings 5:1
This verse is the text that sets the stage of the whole story. The introduction of the hero of this story, Naaman, is that he was a great and honorable man, in the eyes of his master.
There is only one small problem – this great general of Assyria has leprosy. He is very sick with a terrible incurable illness, a very infectious illness – leprosy.
The second important person of this story is actually a young slave girl that Naaman captured in his wars with Israel. Here is the text:
“And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.” – 2 Kings 5:2
We have a great and honorable man, a general of the army of Assyria that has no solution to his problem, the terrible problem of leprosy. The young Israelite slave girl, a person without a name, has a solution for her mistress’ husband – the great man, Naaman.
This nameless Israelite slave girl can’t even talk to her master, Naaman. The best she can do is talk with the wife of Naaman, her mistress, her boss. This is what the text says:
“Then she said to her mistress, ‘If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.’ And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, ‘Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.’” – 2 Kings 5:3,4
The slave girl tells Naaman’s wife that in Israel, in Samaria, there is a prophet, a man of God, that can heal Naaman. There is a tension between the great Naaman and the small, young, nameless Israelite slave girl, who was captured in Israel during one of Naaman’s raids on Israel.
A great man doesn’t just pack his bag and travel to another country at his will. Naaman needs a referral letter from his king to the king of Israel, to introduce him and help him find that prophet of Israel, Elisha.
The king of Assyria writes a letter to the king of Israel and asks him to help Naaman find the prophet Elisha, and send a recommendation to Elisha to heal Naaman. Elisha is not impressed by the king of Assyria’s letter, and not impressed by Naaman (a pagan general who has waged war against Israel and taken captives).
Naaman also brought rich gifts for the man of God who would heal him from leprosy. Elisha the prophet is not impressed by Naaman, nor by the king of Assyria, nor by the king of Israel.
As the chariots of Naaman come to Elisha’s estate, and the dust settles, and Naaman’s servants knock on Elisha’s door, Elisha doesn’t even get up to the door.
“And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So, he turned and went away in a rage.” – 2 Kings 5:10-12
Elisha the prophet tells Naaman and his servants what he needs to do in order for the Lord to heal him from his leprosy. “Go wash in the Jordan seven times!”
The solution that Elisha the prophet gives Naaman is so simple, cheap, and plain, that it offends Naaman. He was thinking that there would be some grand production and ceremony, but Elisha sends him to the Jordan River. That is like a ditch in relationship to the great rivers of Assyria – the Abanah and the Pharpar.
Naaman is so offended that he gets in his chariot and drives east toward the crossing of the Jordan River, just south of the Lake Kinneret. Now again we move from the great man Naaman to his servants, his slaves, the ones who drive the chariots of Naaman.
They suggest to Naaman: “What do you care master? Here we are at the Jordan River. Go on and enter the waters of the Jordan and immerse yourself seven times.”
Naaman was already by the Jordan, and his servants are again instructing, suggesting, to this great man to hear the man of God, Elisha. And what does he have to lose?
Naaman obeys the command of Elisha the prophet, and immerses himself in the Jordan River seven times. And when he comes out the seventh time with skin as clean as a baby’s behind, he is so thankful for the healing that he experiences by listening to the direction of his slaves, the young poor Israelite girl slave that is serving his wife, and now the servants that are driving his chariot.
The whole story is how the small people, the slaves, who have God and hear God’s commands, have such a great advantage over the great people of the world.
The story is that the great and powerful leaders, kings and generals of war, are helpless if they don’t hear the advice of the Jewish, Israelite, slave girl that has only one asset, the word of God as it is delivered by the prophet of Israel, Elisha.
This story is a story of how the small people with the word of God, have a greater power than the mighty and strong and powerful people of the world. A captive young Hebrew slave girl is more powerful because of her knowledge of what the man of God can do, what God can do, which is greater than what the kings of the Earth and the powerful men of this world can do.
We must take this lesson to heart and put it together with the words of Jacob the brother of Yeshua (James) in his letter:
“Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” – James 2:5-9
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.