M’lochim 2 4:1
This week’s Haftorah reveals to us an incredible dimension of faith and its far-reaching effect. The prophet Elisha, in an unsolicited gesture of appreciation for a Shunamite lady’s hospitality promised that she would bear a son. This prediction raised significant concern from the Shunamite due to the elderly state of her husband as well as herself, complicated by her medical impossibility of bearing children (see Malbim 4, 14). In response to the prophet’s words, she expressed a sincere request that the child live a normal healthy life. The prophet’s promise was fulfilled and she gave birth to a baby boy on the exact date predicted. When the boy became a young lad, tragedy struck and he suddenly became deathly ill, and died soon after in his mother’s arms. The Shunamite lady did not despair and she immediately travelled to the prophet Elisha. Upon arrival she calmly reminded the prophet of his promise, whereupon Elisha rushed to the scene of her dead child. Elisha prayed to Hashem, warmed the boy’s body and Hashem miraculously returned the child to life.
It is most astounding to follow the behavior of this Shunamite lady in the shadow of her own son’s death. Upon discovering the tragic turn of events, the Scriptures state, “She arose and laid the (dead) child on the prophet’s bed, closed the door and left.” There is no mention here of any emotional outburst, cry of despair, or even pains of her enormous tragedy. The Scriptures continue to relate that she calmly requested a donkey from her husband and informed him that she wished to make a peaceful journey to the prophet. Even upon arrival at the prophet’s doorstep she maintained that everything at home was in order. Only after entering his private quarters did she allude to his promise and hint to the seriousness of her situation.
This entire episode reveals her indescribable strength of character rooted in her perfect faith in Hashem and His prophets. Evidentially, the Shunamite lady believed in an unspoken dimension of faith, that nothing was impossible for Hashem. Her conviction was so strong that even the resurrection of her dead son was not outside of reality. She refused to accept the fact that her son would no longer be. She reasoned that if her son was born through a miracle, he could likewise be restored through a miracle. If Hashem had accepted the prophet’s prayers and given her a son Hashem could just as well accept the prophet’s prayers and return her son. And so, with total faith she calmly awaited an indescribable miracle, the return to life of her dead son. Hashem rewarded her for this perfect faith and in this merit she actually experienced this nearly unprecedented miracle and her son was returned to life.
This lesson echoes from that of our matriarch Sarah who was taught her lesson directly from Hashem. It is conceivable that the Shunamite lady’s true source of strength actually came from Sarah Imeinu’s lesson. In this week’s sedra we are told that our matriarch Sarah was informed by unknown travelers that she would bear a son. Sarah, a ninety year old barren lady whose husband was also quite old, didn’t pay much attention to her guests’ prediction . She found their words somewhat amusing and chuckled at the notion of bearing a child at such an old age. Hashem responded and rebuked her for her behavior. Hashem said, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Can I give birth when I am so aged?’ Says Hashem, ‘Is anything out of Hashem’s reach?'” Sarah was sharply reprimanded for her response which reflected her position that childbearing at her age was an impossible feat. The Ramban (18:15), putting matters into perspective, reminds us that the prediction came to Sarah via three angels disguised as ordinary Arabs. She had no clue that her guests’ prediction was actually a prophetic revelation and therefore responded accordingly. The Ramban reveals, “But Sarah’s faith should have been perfect and her response even to the prediction of Arabs should have been, ‘Amen, it should only be!'” Our matriarch Sarah was so pious that she was expected to remain open to even the most remote of suggestions. She should have realized that Hashem could certainly cause anything to happen and when receiving a blessing for children even from ordinary Arabs she should have eagerly entertained the possibility, albeit nearly impossible. The Shunamite lady learned Sarah’s lesson well and truly entertained such impossibilities. She wasn’t willing to despair and with total faith in the prophet’s blessing she calmly awaited its continuous fulfillment. Her approach proved to be appropriate and in the merit of her indescribable faith, Hashem responded to the prophet Elisha’s superhuman efforts and her son was actually brought back to life.