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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

There is Judgment and a Judge

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The haftara speaks about the great salvation to the city of Shomron that came about in the aftermath of Elisha’s prophecy. Due to the Aramite siege to the city, the starvation caused prices to soar to unsustainable levels. Elisha assured the king that the next day the prices would be back to normal "in the gate (b’sha’ar)" of Shomron, an idea that the shalish (king’s assistant) scoffed at. Elisha responded that the shalish would see it but would not eat from it (Melachim II, 7:1-2). As the story played out, much of the narrative repeats itself regarding the predictions and fulfillments of the prices in the gateway and the fact that the shalish was trampled in the gateway.
Why is there such stress on the sha’ar, both as a reference to a key place within a city and in regard to an exchange rate? One should realize from the outset that the court traditionally sat in the sha’ar and that one of its responsibilities was to ensure that the proper business practices would be kept. Let us put the recent history of the time in perspective and see how the gateway played a role in this whole story.
The king at that time was Yehoachaz, son of Yehu, who followed Hashem’s instructions to destroy the idolatrous infrastructure of Achav’s time and breaking ties with the Tzidonim, from where the wicked princess/queen Izevel came. This seemed to have been the cause of a major economic downswing, which was a major and vexing change from the material success at the time of the wicked Achav. The king expressed his great anger to the prophet, who apparently did not live up to his end of the bargain (see threatening language, ibid. 6:31). Yehoachaz, seeing such tragedy as mothers agreeing to give up their children to be used as food, remarked: "This evil is from Hashem. Why should I plea before Him anymore" (ibid.:33). In other words, the king gave up on Hashem with the claim that there is no judgment or judge, considering that he had followed instructions and the situation deteriorated.
The answer to the king was the sha’ar. Throughout Tanach, that place symbolized the place of judgment. Although the Divine judgment seemed to be absent, in fact Hashem was preparing the miraculous salvation, one that would come from the sha’ar. It came with the help of the four lepers who sat outside the sha’ar, and the food ended up going back to normal prices at the sha’ar. Those who doubted Hashem paid the price for their doubts at the sha’ar. It was proven that there was a Judge in the sha’ar and that He would prove His justice to those who would wait.
Hopefully, we can internalize the messages of patience and belief that are epitomized in this story.
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