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The Prophecy Project

While in the Torah, Tzaraat, scale disease, is lumped together with other impurities, in Navi it begins to embraces its unique status. Nowhere is this more evident than during the prophetic tenure of Elisha. In two cases, II Kings 4 and II Kings 7 (our Haftorah), tzaraat becomes a dominant issue for Elisha. In II Kings 4, the general of Israel’s bitter enemy Aram, Naaman, turns to Elisha to cure his scale disease. Elisha advises him to bathe in the Jordan. Naaman is at first unconvinced of the effectiveness of the Jordan, as the rivers of Aram are greater. If they had not cured him, the Jordan could do no better. Naaman is disproven, and ultimately thanks the God of Israel for the successful cure. In II Kings 7, 4 sufferers of tzaraat, serve as harbingers of the miraculous fall of Aram which had laid siege to the northern kingdom of Israel. R. Moshe Lichtenstien points out that while the Israelites attribute the success to the hand of God, the Arameans seek to explain their fate naturally. “For the Lord had made the camp of Aram to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, the noise of a great host: and they said to one another. Lo, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of Egypt, to come upon us. So they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life” (II Melakhim 7:6-7). In both cases, the Arameans eschew the supernatural explanation in favor of the naturalist. Naaman sees the Jordan river as inferior in natural ability. So too the Aramean army rejects the notion that God fought for the people of Israel, blaming the Egyptian instead. Scale disease invites the same perspective. The sufferer attributes his changing skin to some disease or virus, and the kohen reminds him that it is in fact the hand of God. The Torah never declares directly that scale disease represents a punishment. The demand for interpretation corresponds to the demand for introspection. The Population of Israel On the eve of Israel’s 64th Independence Day, the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics announced that the population of Israel numbers 7,881,000 – of them 5,931,000 Jews (75.3% of the total population) and 1,623,000 Arabs (20.6%). On the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 the total population numbered 806,000. Today, over 70% of the total Jewish population are “Sabras” – born in Israel – compared with 35% native-born in 1948. Since Independence Day last year 161,000 babies were born, and 19,000 new immigrants arrived in Israel. The total population of Israel grew since the 63rd Independence Day by approximately 137,500 – a growth of 1.8%. In 1948 there was only one city in Israel with more than 100,000 residents – Tel Aviv-Yafo. Today, 14 cities number more than 100,000 residents, of which six number more than 200,000 residents: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Haifa, Rishon LeZiyyon, Petah Tiqwa and Ashdod.