Kings II 4:1-37: This week’s haftarah mirrors the parsha in a depiction of miraculous promises. Vayeria haftorah describes two miracles performed by the prophet Elisha: the first, an indebted widow is instructed to bring forth all the vessels in her home and borrow those of her neighbors to fill with a miraculously never-ending vial of oil in order to stave off debt collectors from taking her sons as slaves. The second, Elisha promises a hospitable couple they would have a child in exactly one year’s time, which they do, and then miraculously brings the boy back to life after a sudden death several years later.
When I read through the text, I thought to myself, “who is the prophet Elisha? Is this the same as the prophet Elijah, for whom we leave our extra glass of wine on the seder? Maybe just spelled differently in this text?”
Indeed Elisha and Elijah are two different dudes altogether.
Interestingly, Prophet Elisha appears not only in the Torah, but is a venerated saint in several Christian traditions (Roman & Eastern Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism) and also appears as a prophet in the Qur’an as the successor to Elijah.
Elisha was said to inherit the wonder-working power of Elijah as his student and successor and several miracles to his credit are referenced in all aforementioned texts. As a political figure, Elisha seems to represent a soothsaying role as the 66-year long “prophet of Israel”–repeatedly saved Kings of Israel from various plots, predicted enemy movement and the end of a famine, was said to blind the Syrian soldiers, and revealed treachery.
Considering just how divergent our faiths and traditions, it’s really quite remarkable how the specific references to Elisha and Elijah are similar across all the texts: similar depictions appear of their prophetic powers, miracles worked, and their general roles in the political landscape of the time.
Isn’t it nice when we all get along?
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com