Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Prophet's Apprentice

Ah, no, you are not the chosen one.

You are not the prophet. You are the prophet's apprentice. Perhaps not even that, perhaps a mere assistant, seeking to learn, seeking his power, seeking in so many very desperate ways, to emulate him and to be what he is. You struggle to learn from him, you idealize him, you spend your life in search of his truth.

Perhaps you succeed.

And perhaps you fail.

Perhaps, bitterly, after having done so much, having suffered so much, having striven and broken through all those doors, perhaps then, then, you fail.

How were you chosen? How was it done? Did you hope all that time, hope to become a prophet? Were you content in the role of assistant? Were you angry?

There are four main prophets' assistants.

1. Joshua, assistant to Moshe
2. Elisha, assistant to Elijah
3. Gaichazi, assistant to Elisha
4. Barukh ben Neriah, assistant to Jeremiah

They are different in personality, temperament, and in the way they were chosen. We are introduced to them in different ways. And the way they act varies as well. Some are good, some are bad, some are merely unworthy. They were all assistants. They shared that role, perhaps that honor.

So who were they?

1. Joshua- The Warrior
We are introduced to Joshua in a very action-oriented situation, knowing nothing of him. The verse reads:

ט וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּחַר-לָנוּ אֲנָשִׁים, וְצֵא הִלָּחֵם בַּעֲמָלֵק; מָחָר, אָנֹכִי נִצָּב עַל-רֹאשׁ הַגִּבְעָה, וּמַטֵּה הָאֱלֹהִים, בְּיָדִי.

9 And Moses said unto Joshua: 'Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.'

(Exodus 17: 9)

The first depiction of Joshua, therefore, concentrates on his strength in battle, his ability as a war leader and military commander. Moses places him in a situation where he must fight an enemy, the first enemy willing to come after the Jews once they escaped from Egypt. Joshua, therefore, must be brave and bold, not cowed like most slaves, not a man who suffered from the slave-mentality and would therefore be unable to fight. Joshua is described as "discomfiting Amalek" in almost a one-man effort; the wording of the verse does not state that the people, the nation, or the Jews fought Amalek, but rather, "Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." Joshua's military prowess shows to great advantage; indeed, God even desires Moses to inform Joshua that one day Amalek will be utterly blotted out- perhaps in order to assure him that he need not worry about killing every last one of them.

The next time we see Joshua he has become Moses' right-hand aide. The verse itself attests to this:

יג וַיָּקָם מֹשֶׁה, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ מְשָׁרְתוֹ; וַיַּעַל מֹשֶׁה, אֶל-הַר הָאֱלֹהִים.

13 And Moses rose up, and Joshua his minister; and Moses went up into the mount of God.

Joshua is "m'sharso," the servant or aide of Moses, his man through and through. He accompanies Moses to the mount of God. He then sets up a tent, according to Rashi, and waits for him at the foot of the mountain. Warlike as his personality is, he immediately detects the sound of discontent and trouble in the camp, exclaiming, "'There is a noise of war in the camp" (Exodus 32: 17) It is Moses who must gently remind him that not all noise is the noise of battle, and having been informed by God as to what this commotion portends, grimly informs Joshua that it is "kol anos," a noise of singing and jubilation, that he hears.

Joshua served Moses as a loving, loyal and dutiful man, sworn to protect his liege-lord. The Torah informs us of how attentive he was to Moses, stating that Moses "would return into the camp; but his minister Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the Tent" (Exodus 33: 11). Joshua made himself available, always desirous of helping Moses, of being near him.

In keeping with his warlike personality and the love he bore Moses, Joshua could tolerate no slight to his master's honor. A hothead, he must tell the truth, knowing no subtlety and cognizant of no plans or plots. His reactions are tinged with nobility; Joshua is the type of man who defends the honor of those he loves, who keeps his oaths and promises faithfully.

There is a very revealing conversation in the Torah that describes the relationship between Joshua and Moses:

    כז וַיָּרָץ הַנַּעַר, וַיַּגֵּד לְמֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמַר: אֶלְדָּד וּמֵידָד, מִתְנַבְּאִים בַּמַּחֲנֶה.
    27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said: 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.'

    כח וַיַּעַן יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, מְשָׁרֵת מֹשֶׁה מִבְּחֻרָיו--וַיֹּאמַר: אֲדֹנִי מֹשֶׁה, כְּלָאֵם.
    28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses from his youth up, answered and said: 'My lord Moses, shut them in.'

    כט וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ מֹשֶׁה, הַמְקַנֵּא אַתָּה לִי; וּמִי יִתֵּן כָּל-עַם יְהוָה, נְבִיאִים--כִּי-יִתֵּן יְהוָה אֶת-רוּחוֹ, עֲלֵיהֶם.
    29 And Moses said unto him: 'Art thou jealous for my sake? would that all the LORD'S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His spirit upon them!'

    (Numbers 11:27- 11: 29)

How vividly we can imagine this scene! A footrunner, a servant, his eyes wide with the news he bears, almost stutters as he hurries to inform Moses of the men who have the audacity to prophecy in the camp. Joshua, outraged on behalf of his master, stands suddenly, his hand to his sword, his eyes aflame. He must speak, even though it breaks the bonds of respect, even though he is answering before his master (in much the same tradition that Laban spoke before Besuel, or Shmuel before Eli), his words cannot be contained. "My lord Moses, incarcerate them!" he cries, his voice youthful and furious, ennobled with the weight of the law.

But Moses has seen much, experienced much. A smile forms on his lips, a smile at the youthful innocence and distress Joshua displays. This honor- this desire to defend his honor- for what purpose? There is no threat here. There is no need for a sword, for a prison. Moses is joyous. "Art thou jealous for my sake?" he inquires pleasantly. And then, teaching by example, Moses exclaims, "Would that all the people could be prophets, and God's spirit rest upon them!"

(In truth, this reminds me of nothing so much as an exchange between Obi-Wan Kenobi and a young, hotheaded Anakin Skywalker.)

Joshua bows to Moses' judgement, but doubtless continues to smoulder with righteous indignation on behalf of his master.

Moses realizes that Joshua is stifled at the camp, has no desire to play the nursemaid to the needs of a wandering, meandering and stiff-necked nation. These are not Joshua's qualities- these qualities of patience, understanding, a learned feeling on behalf of the nation. Moses therefore decides to put Joshua's qualities, his warlike nature, the ability he shows for fighting and planning, to use. He casts Joshua as a spy. Doubtless Joshua would have preferred to go openly and attack, rather than resort to subterfuge. Such ploys are not of his choosing. But he will, of course, obey Moses- and he knows Moses needs a man he can trust as a member of the group of spies.

There is a specific verse where Moses appears to rename Joshua, "And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun Joshua" (Numbers 13: 16) The common interpretation is the suggestion that Joshua would be in danger while in the company of men who had no qualms about lying, and the addition of the "yud," a letter from God's name, to Joshua's name, is protection against this.

But I think, simply from the literary point of view, that this is a significant moment in the life of both Moses and Joshua. Moses renames Joshua, symbolic of a rebirth, a new beginning. This is your naming. You will be my ears and eyes in the Land. I trust you. This Joshua, the same Joshua whom we formerly described as the man who remained at all times "within the Tent" of Moshe, of Moses, is now to be released, sent outside the Tent, sent off on a dangerous mission. This Joshua is now a man, a man grown, a man whom Moses can trust. When Moses names him Joshua, he (and/or the Torah) dispenses with the word "m'sharso" or aide. Joshua is no longer an aide, an assistant, an apprentice. At this moment, Joshua has come into his own.

When the spies return, they attempt to mislead the people. It is Joshua and Caleb who attempt to salvage the situation.

    ו וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, וְכָלֵב בֶּן-יְפֻנֶּה, מִן-הַתָּרִים, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ--קָרְעוּ, בִּגְדֵיהֶם.
    6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were of them that spied out the land, rent their clothes.

    ז וַיֹּאמְרוּ, אֶל-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר: הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ--טוֹבָה הָאָרֶץ, מְאֹד מְאֹד.
    7 And they spoke unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: 'The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceeding good land.

    (Numbers 14: 6)

Notice, once again, the way in which Joshua is named. He is no longer called a "meshares," an aide or apprentice. Rather, he is Joshua son of Nun, a man granted his full name and lineage.

God spares Joshua and Caleb the fate of their generation, and both of them live.

Moses is commanded to pass on the role of leadership to Joshua:

    יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, קַח-לְךָ אֶת-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן--אִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר-רוּחַ בּוֹ; וְסָמַכְתָּ אֶת-יָדְךָ, עָלָיו.
    18 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay thy hand upon him;

    יט וְהַעֲמַדְתָּ אֹתוֹ, לִפְנֵי אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן, וְלִפְנֵי, כָּל-הָעֵדָה; וְצִוִּיתָה אֹתוֹ, לְעֵינֵיהֶם.
    19 and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.

    כ וְנָתַתָּה מֵהוֹדְךָ, עָלָיו--לְמַעַן יִשְׁמְעוּ, כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.
    20 And thou shalt put of thy honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may hearken.

    (Numbers 27: 18)

Notice the description here. Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit. Joshua's warlike nature, his ability to command and rule, the strength of the individual in the face of many, the strength that allowed him to tell the truth and fight those who would have preferred him to lie and malign the land, is this "spirit." Joshua is a man with "spirit" in him; it is for this reason that he is to lead the people at this juncture of time, during which they will have to fight for and subsequently conquer the land of Israel. Moses as leader would not be appropriate to this situation; Moses is able to deal with the people, with their complaints, can sit in judgement over them, but warfare is not his forteit. Even during the battle of Amalek, Moses is the one who holds his hands up symbolically as he prays, rather than engaging in physical combat. He kills specific individuals (the Egyptian man who was beating the Jew, Sichon), but is not the kind of man who can successfully lead an army into battle.

Joshua, however, can. Joshua is a "man of spirit," a man of war. He is the man who is necessary at this point of time, the man who is required in order to fulfill the destiny of the Jews.

God commands Moses (notice that God, when speaking to Moses, does still refer to Joshua as a "meshares" or aide, perhaps in honor of Moses) to strengthen and encourage Joshua, which he does, and to give him command in front of the entire nation (so that there will be no question of who is the rightful leader once Moses dies.) There is a very interesting verse that states:

    ט וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן-נוּן, מָלֵא רוּחַ חָכְמָה--כִּי-סָמַךְ מֹשֶׁה אֶת-יָדָיו, עָלָיו; וַיִּשְׁמְעוּ אֵלָיו בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּעֲשׂוּ, כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת-מֹשֶׁה.

    9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him; and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses.

    (Deuteronomy 34: 9)

We have seen Joshua described as a man of spirit. He only becomes a man with the spirit of wisdom when Moses lays his hands upon him, a direct cause and effect here. Moses recognized that in addition to Joshua's warlike nature, which would be necessary in defeating and conquering the enemies of the Jews, Joshua would also need wisdom- wisdom to know when to have mercy, to show kindness, to try to demonstrate compassion. Joshua's zeal, and eagerness needed to be tempered with wisdom. And so it is that Moses gives Joshua a gift- the gift of the spirit of wisdom.

The Gemara is more critical of Joshua. Some examples:

    ומשרתו יהושע בן נון נער לא ימיש מתוך האהל מיד תשש כחו של יהושע ונשתכחו ממנו שלש מאות הלכות ונולדו לו שבע מאות ספיקות ועמדו כל ישראל להרגו אמר לו הקב"ה לומר לך אי אפשר לך וטורדן במלחמה

    "And his aide Joshua son of Nun did not move from the Tent," [after death of Moses] the strength of Joshua was weakened and he forgot 300 halakhos and 700 uncertainties/ doubts came before him, and all of Israel stood against him to kill him. God told him that it was impossible for him to relearn the laws, and instead he should distract Bnai Yisrael with war."

    From Temurah 16a

and also

    כל דמותיב מלה קמיה רביה אזיל לשאול בלא ולד שנאמר (במדבר יא) ויען יהושע בן נון משרת משה מבחוריו ויאמר אדוני משה כלאם
    וכתיב (דברי הימים א ז) נון בנו יהושע בנו ופליגא דר' אבא בר פפא דאמר ר' אבא בר פפא לא נענש יהושע אלא בשביל שביטל את ישראל לילה אחת מפריה ורביה שנאמר (יהושוע ה) ויהי בהיות יהושע ביריחו וישא עיניו וירא וגו' וכתיב ויאמר <לו> [לא] כי אני שר צבא ה' עתה באתי וגו' אמר לו אמש ביטלתם תמיד של בין הערבים ועכשיו ביטלתם תלמוד תורה על איזה מהן באת אמר לו עתה באתי מיד (יהושוע ח) וילך יהושע בלילה ההוא בתוך העמק ואמר רבי יוחנן מלמד שהלך בעומקה של הלכה וגמירי דכל זמן שארון ושכינה שרויין שלא במקומן אסורין בתשמיש המטה

    Eruvin 63a-63b

This section references, as Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner writes:

1. Joshua dying without children because he made a suggestion before Moshe, in dealing with Eldad and Medad: Eruvin 63a-b

2. Joshua dying without children because he didn't return the Ark to its place in Gilgal on the night before the war with Gilgal, and so the people were not allowed to engage in procreation: Eruvin 63b

In these cases, therefore, Joshua was at fault. From the Torah, however, he is the picture of the apprentice who fulfills his potential- he was the Prophet's Apprentice, learned from him, aided him, remained at his side, and was proclaimed worthy by God and by Moses to become the next leader. He was even leader alongside Moses for a day (Sotah 13b).

The Yalkut Shimoni references a fantastic Medrish regarding Moses and Joshua. It is mentioned online here, and my quotes are from there:

    The Medrash says that Hashem instructed Moshe to call Yehoshua. Moshe, as it were, offered the Almighty a deal: "Let Yehoshua take over my role and lead the Jewish people, but allow me to live." Hashem responded: "If so, you will have to relate to Yehoshua as he related to you. He will be the leader and you will be his disciple."

    According to the Medrash, Moshe Rabbeinu agreed to this offer. He went to Yehoshua's house (as opposed to the former arrangement that Yehoshua came to him). From there they both went into the Tent of Meeting - Yehoshua the Rebbe and Moshe the disciple. The Pillar of Cloud descended and spoke to Yehoshua. When the Pillar ascended, Moshe asked Yehoshua "What Word came to you?"

    Asking such a question for the first time in his life must have been a most humbling experience for Moshe. But even more humbling was the response that the Medrash put into Yehoshua's mouth answering Moshe: "When the Word came to you, did I know what was spoken to you?" This was a very gentle way of telling Moshe "It is none of your business. I am the Rebbe and you are the disciple now."

    The Medrash concludes that at that moment, Moshe began to scream "Let me die 100 times rather than suffer this one pang of jealousy that I am now feeling."

From here we see that for the Prophet to be demoted to the level of the Prophet's Apprentice is an unbearable thing. It is painful, awful- and Moses felt jealousy on account of it.

Now we come to the second interaction - that of Elijah and Elisha.

2. Elisha- The Family Man

In this situation, Elijah is specifically told by God that he is to take an assistant, and that this assistant or apprentice will "succeed you as prophet." Our first introduction to Elisha, therefore, is in his being pronounced the successor by God.

טז וְאֵת יֵהוּא בֶן-נִמְשִׁי, תִּמְשַׁח לְמֶלֶךְ עַל-יִשְׂרָאֵל; וְאֶת-אֱלִישָׁע בֶּן-שָׁפָט מֵאָבֵל מְחוֹלָה, תִּמְשַׁח לְנָבִיא תַּחְתֶּיךָ.
16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room

(Kings I, 19: 16)

We are introduced to Elisha in a situation that is very similar to the one where we met Saul, first King of Israel. The very similarity of the situations suggests that Elisha is someone who owns a quiet kind of royalty, similar to Saul's. He is occupied with a seemingly mundane task, as Saul was, but he claims the task as his, and works at it uncomplainingly and with a kind of good will that makes him likeable.

Elijah comes to claim Elisha and does so symbolically and tersely. He doesn't offer explanations to Elisha's parents, doesn't explain anything at all. He simply casts his mantle over Elisha, and allows Elisha to explain the matter.

    יט וַיֵּלֶךְ מִשָּׁם וַיִּמְצָא אֶת-אֱלִישָׁע בֶּן-שָׁפָט, וְהוּא חֹרֵשׁ, שְׁנֵים-עָשָׂר צְמָדִים לְפָנָיו, וְהוּא בִּשְׁנֵים הֶעָשָׂר; וַיַּעֲבֹר אֵלִיָּהוּ אֵלָיו, וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ אַדַּרְתּוֹ אֵלָיו.
    19 So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth; and Elijah passed over unto him, and cast his mantle upon him.

    כ וַיַּעֲזֹב אֶת-הַבָּקָר, וַיָּרָץ אַחֲרֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶשְּׁקָה-נָּא לְאָבִי וּלְאִמִּי, וְאֵלְכָה אַחֲרֶיךָ; וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ לֵךְ שׁוּב, כִּי מֶה-עָשִׂיתִי לָךְ.
    20 And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said: 'Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.' And he said unto him: 'Go back; for what have I done to thee?'

    כא וַיָּשָׁב מֵאַחֲרָיו וַיִּקַּח אֶת-צֶמֶד הַבָּקָר וַיִּזְבָּחֵהוּ, וּבִכְלִי הַבָּקָר בִּשְּׁלָם הַבָּשָׂר, וַיִּתֵּן לָעָם, וַיֹּאכֵלוּ; וַיָּקָם, וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ--וַיְשָׁרְתֵהוּ. {פ}
    21 And he returned from following him, and took the yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him. {P}

    Kings I, 19

Beautiful phraseology, both textual and symbolic, here. "Casting the mantle" over Elisha gives us a vivid image of the situation (in addition to reminding us of Yeravam, the cloak, and the ten pieces of cloth), allows us to imagine how thoroughly and symbolically Elisha was "claimed," and the fact that Elijah simply moves on, without stopping, simply furthers our understanding of his personality as well. It is Elisha who must run after Elijah to beg permission to bid his parents farewell. Elijah is very non-committal, "What have I done to you?" implying, "Do as you will! But I will not wait for you."

Elisha's first introduction to us is sweet. Having been offered a wonderful and terrible opportunity- the opportunity to become a prophet- his first response is to bid his parents farewell. He is a family man, and we receive the impression that he would have been content to stay and plow with his oxen. Having been chosen, however, he makes a complete and clean break with his past, to the point that he eats the oxen with whom he had been plowing (symbolism at its best.) Only after he has eaten the oxen, and done away with his old life does he arise and follow Elijah.

The most famous section with regard to Elijah and Elisha is that of Elijah ascending to heaven in a chariot of flames.

Three times does Elijah try to dissuade Elisha from coming with him, and three times does Elisha reply, "'As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." Elisha is assistant, aide and apprentice in the same manner that Joshua was. He would not leave his master's side.

It is implied that because of this Elisha is worthy of reward (for it is only after Elisha has accompanied Elijah as far as they can go together that Elijah inquires as to what Elisha desires.)

    ט וַיְהִי כְעָבְרָם, וְאֵלִיָּהוּ אָמַר אֶל-אֱלִישָׁע שְׁאַל מָה אֶעֱשֶׂה-לָּךְ, בְּטֶרֶם, אֶלָּקַח מֵעִמָּךְ; וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלִישָׁע, וִיהִי נָא פִּי-שְׁנַיִם בְּרוּחֲךָ אֵלָי. 9 And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha: 'Ask what I shall do for thee, before I am taken from thee.' And Elisha said: 'I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.'

    י וַיֹּאמֶר, הִקְשִׁיתָ לִשְׁאוֹל; אִם-תִּרְאֶה אֹתִי לֻקָּח מֵאִתָּךְ, יְהִי-לְךָ כֵן, וְאִם-אַיִן, לֹא יִהְיֶה.
    10 And he said: 'Thou hast asked a hard thing; nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so.'

    יא וַיְהִי, הֵמָּה הֹלְכִים הָלוֹךְ וְדַבֵּר, וְהִנֵּה רֶכֶב-אֵשׁ וְסוּסֵי אֵשׁ, וַיַּפְרִדוּ בֵּין שְׁנֵיהֶם; וַיַּעַל, אֵלִיָּהוּ, בַּסְעָרָה, הַשָּׁמָיִם.
    11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, which parted them both assunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

    Kings 2, 2

Here we see that Elisha is not only rewarded, but he transcends his master's powers, receiving a double portion. (My own theory is that this has to do with the fact that Elijah accompanied his master, overriding his protests. In Tanakh as a whole we see many instances where physical steps to a place, from a place, or accompanying another, are given great reward. The best example may be that of Ruth and Orpah; Ruth who actually accompanies Naomi back to her land, and Orpah, who, even though she does not go all the way, is rewarded for the tears she does shed and the steps she does take. We see in other places that one who stands or runs in the honor of God is rewarded- Eglon, for example, who rose when he heard God's name, was rewarded, and Chazal relate that when Nevuchadnezzar ran after a letter that had been improperly addressed, with the salutation to Chizkiyahu placed before the salutation to God, he had to be physically stopped lest he attain so much merit that he be able to overtake the Jews and destroy them. Similarly, we have the idea that one's awe of one's master or Rabbi is to be similar to that of God (with regard to the idea of "es" and how "es" is "l'rabos," to include something else, the disciple answers that the one whom one should fear similarly to one's God is one's Rabbi) and so it would make sense to me that any who persist in showing honor to their master, especially in this manner of walking or accompaniment, receives great reward.)

Elisha, too, then, fulfilled his promise. He was a Prophet's Apprentice, and he not only rose to his potential but rose beyond that of his master's, an absolute success story.

3. Gehazi- The Trickster

Now we come to the "bad" apprentice, the one who didn't work out as he should. Joshua reached his potential, although he did not (indeed, could not) exceed his master's talent. Elisha reached and exceeded his master's talent. But Gehazi (Geichazi) is the "bad" apprentice. He does not reach his potential. He does not succeed. Perhaps he does not even try.

Gehazi's appointment is not preceded by a statement of God's to choose him as an apprentice. Indeed, he is not referred to as a "meshares," but rather as a "na'ar," a foolish lad or servant.

Here is our introduction to Gehazi:

    יב וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-גֵּיחֲזִי נַעֲרוֹ, קְרָא לַשּׁוּנַמִּית הַזֹּאת; וַיִּקְרָא-לָהּ--וַתַּעֲמֹד, לְפָנָיו.
    12 And he said to Gehazi his servant: 'Call this Shunammite.' And when he had called her, she stood before him.

    יג וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, אֱמָר-נָא אֵלֶיהָ הִנֵּה חָרַדְתְּ אֵלֵינוּ אֶת-כָּל-הַחֲרָדָה הַזֹּאת, מֶה לַעֲשׂוֹת לָךְ, הֲיֵשׁ לְדַבֶּר-לָךְ אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ אוֹ אֶל-שַׂר הַצָּבָא; וַתֹּאמֶר, בְּתוֹךְ עַמִּי אָנֹכִי יֹשָׁבֶת.
    13 And he said unto him: 'Say now unto her: Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host?' And she answered: 'I dwell among mine own people.'

    יד וַיֹּאמֶר, וּמֶה לַעֲשׂוֹת לָהּ; וַיֹּאמֶר גֵּיחֲזִי, אֲבָל בֵּן אֵין-לָהּ--וְאִישָׁהּ זָקֵן.
    14 And he said: 'What then is to be done for her?' And Gehazi answered: 'Verily she hath no son, and her husband is old.'

    טו וַיֹּאמֶר, קְרָא-לָהּ; וַיִּקְרָא-לָהּ--וַתַּעֲמֹד, בַּפָּתַח.
    15 And he said: 'Call her.' And when he had called her, she stood in the door.

Gehazi's role here is to do what he is told, and to procure information. His role does not change throughout his service.

Notice how Gehazi either fails utterly, or, according to most common interpretations, refused to listen to Elisha's instructions and broke them.

    כט וַיֹּאמֶר לְגֵיחֲזִי חֲגֹר מָתְנֶיךָ, וְקַח מִשְׁעַנְתִּי בְיָדְךָ וָלֵךְ, כִּי-תִמְצָא אִישׁ לֹא תְבָרְכֶנּוּ, וְכִי-יְבָרֶכְךָ אִישׁ לֹא תַעֲנֶנּוּ; וְשַׂמְתָּ מִשְׁעַנְתִּי, עַל-פְּנֵי הַנָּעַר.
    29 Then he said to Gehazi: 'Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thy hand, and go thy way; if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not; and lay my staff upon the face of the child.'

    ל וַתֹּאמֶר אֵם הַנַּעַר, חַי-יְהוָה וְחֵי-נַפְשְׁךָ אִם-אֶעֶזְבֶךָּ; וַיָּקָם, וַיֵּלֶךְ אַחֲרֶיהָ.
    30 And the mother of the child said: 'As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.' And he arose, and followed her.

    לא וְגֵחֲזִי עָבַר לִפְנֵיהֶם, וַיָּשֶׂם אֶת-הַמִּשְׁעֶנֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַנַּעַר, וְאֵין קוֹל, וְאֵין קָשֶׁב; וַיָּשָׁב לִקְרָאתוֹ וַיַּגֶּד-לוֹ לֵאמֹר, לֹא הֵקִיץ הַנָּעַר.
    31 And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he returned to meet him, and told him, saying: 'The child is not awaked.'

Gehazi fails in this task- he cannot wake the boy. (Most probably, according to the commentaries, he fails because he stopped to talk to another.)

Notice Gehazi's appalling lack of compassion or understanding when the miserable woman throws herself at Elisha's feet. His action could be construed as an attempt at respect for his master, except for the fact that the verse pointedly does NOT mention any zeal or jealousy on Elisha's behalf, but rather states:

    כז וַתָּבֹא אֶל-אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים, אֶל-הָהָר, וַתַּחֲזֵק, בְּרַגְלָיו; וַיִּגַּשׁ גֵּיחֲזִי לְהָדְפָהּ, וַיֹּאמֶר אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים הַרְפֵּה-לָהּ כִּי-נַפְשָׁהּ מָרָה-לָהּ, וַיהוָה הֶעְלִים מִמֶּנִּי, וְלֹא הִגִּיד לִי.

    27 And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came near to thrust her away; but the man of God said: 'Let her alone; for her soul is bitter within her; and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told Me.'

    Kings 2, 4

The other episode in which Gehazi shows his true colors (along with his greed) is with Na'aman. Elisha instructs Na'aman in how to cure his tza'raas (leprosy.) Na'aman is overjoyed once he is cured, and desires to reward Elisha, but Elisha refuses.

Now note what Gehazi does- three things.

1. Judges Elisha as being "too lenient" on Na'aman
2. Runs after Na'aman and lies to him, using Elisha's name to get the reward (money and clothes)
3. He lies to Elisha

Here is the episode:

    וַיֹּאמֶר גֵּיחֲזִי, נַעַר אֱלִישָׁע אִישׁ-הָאֱלֹהִים, הִנֵּה חָשַׂךְ אֲדֹנִי אֶת-נַעֲמָן הָאֲרַמִּי הַזֶּה, מִקַּחַת מִיָּדוֹ אֵת אֲשֶׁר-הֵבִיא; חַי-יְהוָה כִּי-אִם-רַצְתִּי אַחֲרָיו, וְלָקַחְתִּי מֵאִתּוֹ מְאוּמָה.
    20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said: 'Behold, my master hath spared this Naaman the Aramean, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought; as the LORD liveth, I will surely run after him, and take somewhat of him.'

    כא וַיִּרְדֹּף גֵּיחֲזִי, אַחֲרֵי נַעֲמָן; וַיִּרְאֶה נַעֲמָן, רָץ אַחֲרָיו, וַיִּפֹּל מֵעַל הַמֶּרְכָּבָה לִקְרָאתוֹ, וַיֹּאמֶר הֲשָׁלוֹם.
    21 So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw one running after him, he alighted from the chariot to meet him, and said: 'Is all well?'

    כב וַיֹּאמֶר שָׁלוֹם, אֲדֹנִי שְׁלָחַנִי לֵאמֹר, הִנֵּה עַתָּה זֶה בָּאוּ אֵלַי שְׁנֵי-נְעָרִים מֵהַר אֶפְרַיִם, מִבְּנֵי הַנְּבִיאִים; תְּנָה-נָּא לָהֶם כִּכַּר-כֶּסֶף, וּשְׁתֵּי חֲלִפוֹת בְּגָדִים.
    22 And he said: 'All is well. My master hath sent me, saying: Behold, even now there are come to me from the hill-country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets; give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of raiment.'

    כג וַיֹּאמֶר נַעֲמָן, הוֹאֵל קַח כִּכָּרָיִם; וַיִּפְרָץ-בּוֹ, וַיָּצַר כִּכְּרַיִם כֶּסֶף בִּשְׁנֵי חֲרִטִים וּשְׁתֵּי חֲלִפוֹת בְּגָדִים, וַיִּתֵּן אֶל-שְׁנֵי נְעָרָיו, וַיִּשְׂאוּ לְפָנָיו.
    23 And Naaman said: 'Be content, take two talents.' And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of raiment, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bore them before him.

    כד וַיָּבֹא, אֶל-הָעֹפֶל, וַיִּקַּח מִיָּדָם, וַיִּפְקֹד בַּבָּיִת; וַיְשַׁלַּח אֶת-הָאֲנָשִׁים, וַיֵּלֵכוּ.
    24 And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand, and deposited them in the house; and he let the men go, and they departed.

    כה וְהוּא-בָא, וַיַּעֲמֹד אֶל-אֲדֹנָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו אֱלִישָׁע, מאן (מֵאַיִן) גֵּחֲזִי; וַיֹּאמֶר, לֹא-הָלַךְ עַבְדְּךָ אָנֶה וָאָנָה.
    25 But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him: 'Whence comest thou, Gehazi?' And he said: 'Thy servant went no whither.'

    כו וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלָיו לֹא-לִבִּי הָלַךְ, כַּאֲשֶׁר הָפַךְ-אִישׁ מֵעַל מֶרְכַּבְתּוֹ לִקְרָאתֶךָ; הַעֵת לָקַחַת אֶת-הַכֶּסֶף, וְלָקַחַת בְּגָדִים, וְזֵיתִים וּכְרָמִים וְצֹאן וּבָקָר, וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחוֹת.
    26 And he said unto him: 'Went not my heart [with thee], when the man turned back from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards and vineyards, and sheep and oxen, and men-servants and maid-servants?

    כז וְצָרַעַת נַעֲמָן תִּדְבַּק-בְּךָ, וּבְזַרְעֲךָ לְעוֹלָם; וַיֵּצֵא מִלְּפָנָיו, מְצֹרָע כַּשָּׁלֶג.
    27 The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever.' And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.

    2 Kings 5

Gehazi is therefore cursed with leprosy (the intimation being- you received the blessings and reward from Na'aman, come and receive his curse as well!) and according to various commentaries, he and/or his descendants are those referenced in the story of the four lepers outside Jerusalem.

Gehazi and his character flaws are discussed in the Talmud:

From Berachot 10b:

    R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: He is holy, but his attendant is not holy. For so it says: And Gehazi came near to thrust her away;37 R. Jose son of Hanina said: He seized her by the breast.38

From Sotah 9b:

    We thus find it with the primeval serpent [in the Garden of Eden] which set its eyes on that which was not proper for it; what it sought was not granted to it and what it possessed was taken from it. The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I declared: Let it be king over every animal and beast; but now, Cursed art thou above all cattle and above every beast of the field.1 I declared, let it walk with an erect posture; but now it shall go upon its belly. I declared: Let its food be the same as that of man; but now it shall eat dust. It said: I will kill Adam and marry Eve; but now, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.2 Similarly do we find it with Cain, Korah, Balaam, Doeg, Ahitophel, Gehazi, Absalom, Adonijah, Uzziah and Haman, who set their eyes upon that which was not proper for them; what they sought was not granted to them and what they possessed was taken from them.

From Sanhedrin 90a:



Notice, by the way, that all these relationships have thus far ended in gift-giving. Moses gives Joshua the gift of the "spirit of wisdom." Elijah bestows upon Elisha double his powers. Elisha gives Gahazi tza'raas (not exactly the gift he might want, but a gift nonetheless.) From here we may assume that at the end of the relationship between Prophet and Prophet's Apprentice, there is an exhange or interchange, the giving of something, a gift of some sort.


4. Baruch ben Neriah- The Failure
Baruch ben Neriah is possibly the saddest Prophet's Apprentice. His story is so sad because he tries so hard, he desires prophecy ever so much, he extricates Jeremiah from all kind of sticky situations...and still he is not rewarded with his desire. He considers himself a failure, lost, and is extremely disheartened and saddened by his inability to achieve prophecy.
Our first introduction to Baruch is as a trustworthy man, a man who can be trusted in legal matters. Here's the verse:

    יב וָאֶתֵּן אֶת-הַסֵּפֶר הַמִּקְנָה, אֶל-בָּרוּךְ בֶּן-נֵרִיָּה בֶּן-מַחְסֵיָה, לְעֵינֵי חֲנַמְאֵל דֹּדִי, וּלְעֵינֵי הָעֵדִים הַכֹּתְבִים בְּסֵפֶר הַמִּקְנָה--לְעֵינֵי, כָּל-הַיְּהוּדִים, הַיֹּשְׁבִים, בַּחֲצַר הַמַּטָּרָה.

12 and I delivered the deed of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel mine uncle['s son], and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the deed of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the guard.
Jeremiah 32: 12
Baruch is described in glowing terms; he does all that Jeremiah commands him on various occassions, he clings to him and saves him from various terrible situations. One such praiseworthy verse states:

ח וַיַּעַשׂ, בָּרוּךְ בֶּן-נֵרִיָּה, כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּהוּ, יִרְמְיָהוּ הַנָּבִיא--לִקְרֹא בַסֵּפֶר דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה, בֵּית יְהוָה. {פ}

8 And Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book the words of the LORD in the LORD'S house. {P}

(Jeremiah 36: 8)

Observe, then, with great sadness, the dialogue that takes place between Baruch and Jeremiah in chapter 45:

    א הַדָּבָר, אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יִרְמְיָהוּ הַנָּבִיא, אֶל-בָּרוּךְ, בֶּן-נֵרִיָּה--בְּכָתְבוֹ אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה עַל-סֵפֶר, מִפִּי יִרְמְיָהוּ, בַּשָּׁנָה הָרְבִעִית, לִיהוֹיָקִים בֶּן-יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה לֵאמֹר.
    1 The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke unto Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying:

    ב כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה, אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, עָלֶיךָ, בָּרוּךְ.
    2 'Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say:

    ג אָמַרְתָּ אוֹי-נָא לִי, כִּי-יָסַף יְהוָה יָגוֹן עַל-מַכְאֹבִי; יָגַעְתִּי, בְּאַנְחָתִי, וּמְנוּחָה, לֹא מָצָאתִי.
    3 Woe is me now! for the LORD hath added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.

    ד כֹּה תֹּאמַר אֵלָיו, כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, הִנֵּה אֲשֶׁר-בָּנִיתִי אֲנִי הֹרֵס, וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר-נָטַעְתִּי אֲנִי נֹתֵשׁ; וְאֶת-כָּל-הָאָרֶץ, הִיא.
    4 Thus shalt thou say unto him: Thus saith the LORD: Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land.

    ה וְאַתָּה תְּבַקֶּשׁ-לְךָ גְדֹלוֹת, אַל-תְּבַקֵּשׁ: כִּי הִנְנִי מֵבִיא רָעָה עַל-כָּל-בָּשָׂר, נְאֻם-יְהוָה, וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ אֶת-נַפְשְׁךָ לְשָׁלָל, עַל כָּל-הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֶךְ-שָׁם. {פ}
    5 And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not; for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD; but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.' {P}

There are different reasons given as to what Baruch is asking for here, and what God's reply means. The most common interpretation is that Baruch, out of the great bitterness and desire of his heart, is asking for prophecy, and God's answer (as brought down in the Mechilta) is that "All prophecy is given for the sake of Bnai Yisrael." Since Bnai Yisrael are not worthy and are about to be exiled, there is no reason to instate Baruch as prophet.

Radak, however, suggests (in accord with the Rambam's philosphy) that Baruch lacked the ability to prophecy, did not have the natural inclination towards it, and that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to receive prophecy.

The Shadal offers a completely different interpretation, and suggests that Baruch was complaining about the physical abuse he suffered at the hands of mobs who were after him and Jeremiah, and requests that God save him from this abuse.

If Baruch truly was the man we know him to be in Jeremiah, a dutiful, loyal, kind person, who did all that he could to achieve prophecy, we find ourselves questioning why he did not then receive it. There seems to be no real reason- he is not flawed, like Gehazi, does not suffer from the same avarice and greed. He has suffered more than either Joshua or Elisha, for everywhere he goes his master is mocked and maligned, and oftentimes he has to figure out creative ways to help his master. Baruch wanders, suffers, and is not fulfilled. He is the saddest of the Prophet's Apprentices...for his lack of prophecy cannot, according to most approaches, be construed as his fault.

There we have them, then, our four Prophets' Apprentices. The warrior, the family-man turned wanderer, the evil trickster and the failure, each very different kinds of men involved in very different occupations, and paired with very different prophets (for surely there is a great difference between the tutelage of Elijah and the tutelage of Jeremiah; their teaching styles and life experiences are different.) These four men were similar in their roles, but very different in personalities. They also differ in their potentials. Joshua lived up to his potential, Elisha exceeded that of his master, Gehazi was evil and threw everything away, and Baruch struggled for the prophecy but was not granted it.

Men, but very different men, Prophet's Apprentices at very different costs. For Joshua to be a Prophet's Apprentice was no doubt a position of honor, by the time we reach Baruch, the position is one of disdain as others malign and defame Jeremiah. The interest, however, lies in the roles themselves- these were the men, these are their lives, this is who they were...these men, who aspired to be prophets, and did not always succeed.


Anonymous said...


really enjoy your "bible patterns"

some of the details in your analysis are debatable (like almost anything in the TaNaCh), but overall I'm really enjoying your schematic posts.

keep 'em up!!!

signed: a curiousjew blog lurker :-)

Anonymous said...

If you can get ahold of the sefer "Ishei Hatanach" take a look at the first referance under Yehoshua ben Nun (at leat it is the first one in the hebrew edition, I have not had a chance to look through the english edition as of yet), it may give you an even deeper understanding of his warrior make-up.