Parsha Halacha

Parshat Tazria Metzora- Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Iyar

Olam HaBa

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Both the Haftorah of Tazria and that of Metzorah deal with Elisha’s student Geichazi.[1] (Please note that this year we read neither of these Haftorot; rather we read the Haftorah of Rosh Chodesh.) Geichazi started out as the foremost student of Elisha but was banished from that position after he became a leper as punishment for lying in order to get funds from Na’aman, the general of Aram.[2]

According to the sages of the Mishnah,[3] Gechazi is one of four commoners (i.e., non-kings) who have no portion in the World-to-Come (Olam HaBa). The others are Bilaam,[4] Doeg,[5] and Achitofel.[6]

Sins That Lose Olam HaBa

According to the Mishnah,[7] there are eight sins for which one can lose his portion in the World-to-Come.[8] They are:

1)     One Who Denies the Resurrection of the Dead[9]

The Talmud explains that one who denies the resurrection loses his share in the resurection as a commensurate punishment.

2)     One Who Denies That the Torah Is from Heaven.

The Talmud explains[10] that this refers to one who denies the Divine origin of even one part of the Torah.

3)     An Apikores (One who treats Torah scholars with contempt)

The Talmud[11] presents various attitudes that may be considered the behavior of an Apikores. (Generally, an apikores is understood to mean a heretic.) Some of them are:

a)     One who embarrasses a Torah scholar

b)     One who embarrasses his fellow in front of a Torah scholar (which shows a lack of respect for the Torah scholar).

c)     One who says, “What benefit do we get from the rabbis? They only learn Torah for themselves.”

d)     One who says (in a derogatory manner), “Those rabbis!”

e)     One who calls his teacher by his first name (which is a lack of respect).


4)     One who profanes holy matters

This refers to someone who uses sacrificial animals or other holy items for their own benefit. This indicates that he doesn’t believe in the Divine presence in this world.[12]

5)     One who treats the holidays (even Chol HaMoed) disgracefully

Such behavior indicates that he denies G-d’s involvement in the workings of this world.[13]

6)     One who embarrasses his fellow publicly

The perpetrator of such behavior shows his disdain for humanity as he treats other humans like animals. Such equating denies the uniqueness of the Divine soul with which humanity was imbued which, in turn, would mean that there is no purpose in our existence. Were one to do this only towards an enemy, the behavior (although unacceptable) is targeted only towards an individual. But if one behaves this way towards his “fellow” (i.e., colleague), it indicates a general lack of respect for humanity.[14]

7)     One who abrogates the Brit (covenant) of Abraham, either by not undergoing a Brit Milah (circumcision) or by trying to reverse his circumcision.

The Talmud derives this from the verse[15] אֶת מִצְוָתוֹ הֵפַר הִכָּרֵת תִּכָּרֵת. This can be interpreted to mean that one who abrogates [the mitzvah] of brit, shall be cut off both in this world and in the Next World.[16] This behavior is a denial in the uniqueness of the Jewish people and their special Divine mission.[17]

8)     One who interprets the Torah improperly

The Talmud derives this from the verse[18] כִּי דְבַר ה׳ בָּזָה … הִכָּרֵת תִּכָּרֵת- “For he has disgraced the name of G-d… he will surely be cut off…”

The Talmud gives the following examples for this matter. Menashe, King of Yehudah, would mock the verses in the Torah which he found to be redundant. He would say, “Why did Moshe have to write ‘And Lotan’s sister was Timna’,[19] ‘And Tima was a concubine,’[20] and ‘Reuven went during the wheat harvest and he found flowers in the field.’[21]” Although this sin seems small, eventually Menashe sinned in the most severe ways.

The commentaries add that one who interprets the Torah in a non-literal manner and completely denies the plain meaning of the verse, is also included in this category. (Although the sages of the Talmud do this on rare occasions,[22] they only do so if they have a tradition to that effect.) For example, one who interprets the verse “And you shall not give your seed to be passed through the Molech” to mean that a Jewish man may not have relations with a non-Jewish woman [thus creating a child who will serve idols] is considered to be interpreting the Torah improperly.[23]

In addition, one who brazenly and publicly transgresses the Torah is included in this category.[24]

Geichazi’s Sin

It is not clear as to which sin doomed Gechazi to lose his share in the World-to-Come. Here are some of the explanations given by the Talmud and commentaries:

●      Called his Teacher by his First Name[25]

The verse tells how Geichazi was recounting to King Yehoram the miracle of how Elisha brought the son of the Shunamite woman back to life. At that moment, the boy and his mother came to the king to beg him to restore their property that was stolen from them. Geichazi proclaimed, “This is the woman, and this is her son whom Elisha revived.”[26] Calling his teacher Elisha by his first name without a title showed Gechazi’s lack of respect for Torah scholars which is one of the definitions of an Apikores.

●      Led the Masses to Serve Idols[27]

According to the Talmud,[28] after being banished by Elisha, Geichazi influenced many people to worship the golden calves made by Yeravam ben Nevat. He did so by setting up magnets which made it appear as if the calves had the power to move. Some say that he placed a Divine name in its mouth which allowed it to say, “I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of Egypt.”

One who causes the masses to sin does not get a portion in the next world.[29]

●      Discouraged Torah Study

The Talmud says[30] that Geichazi discouraged people from studying Torah with Elisha. This too is considered that he caused the masses to sin.

●      Didn’t Believe in the Resurrection

The Jerusalem Talmud says[31] that although Geichazi was a great Torah scholar, he had three faults. He was stingy and would discourage people from studying with Elisha (see above). He was licentious as we see that he groped the Shunamite woman when she came to see Elisha in her distress.[32] And he denied the miracle of the resurrection (i.e., he cast aspersions on Elisha’s ability to resurrect the Shunamite child). This can indicate that he doubted the whole concept of the resurrection. This is a sin for which, according to the Mishnah, one can lose his portion in the World to Come.

The Zohar’s View

According to the Zohar,[33] Geichazi has a portion in the World to Come in the merit of his serving (i.e., assisting) Elisha, the prophet. In the words of the Zohar, “Elisha said to him, ‘You, wicked one caused a blemish in me. You swore falsely, you coveted, and you transgressed the entire Torah. One who transgresses in this way should ‘die’ (i.e., lose his portion) in the World-to-Come. But because you served me and this service cannot have been in vain, your death will be only in this world, but not in the Coming World…’”

According to another opinion in the Talmud[34] all of the wicked Jewish people mentioned in the Mishnah as having no portion in the World to Come (Achav, Menashe, Yeravam, Doeg, Achitofel, and Geichazi) will receive a portion in the World to Come as G-d will find merit for them and restore them to their portion.

May We all Merit to Receive our Portion in the World to Come!


[1] Although he is not mentioned in the Haftorah of Tazria, the story of that Haftorah in Kings II (5:20)continues with how Geichazi ran after Na’aman, the general of Aram, and asked him for money in the name of Elisha and the tragic results of this sin.

The Haftorah of Metzora begins with the words “And there were four lepers at the gate [of Shomron] (Kings II 7:3).” According to our sages (Sanhedrin 107b) these were Geichazi and his three sons.

[2] See II Kings 5:20 and here

[3] Sanhedrin 90a

[4] Although Bilaam was not Jewish, the Mishnah informs us that he had no portion in the World to Come, as does a righteous gentile, despite the fact that he was a prophet (Rambam, see Sanhedrin 105a).

[5] Doeg was a murderer and a slanderer (ba’al lashon hara) [Sanhedrin, 106b]. See Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah 3:6.

[6] According to the Tiferet Yisrael, Achitofel lost his share in the World to Come because he committed suicide. See II Shmuel, 17:23

The Mishnah enumerates these four although there must have been many others who lost their portion in the World to Come as these four men had some positive qualities and three of them were great Torah scholars. Despite this, they had sinned grievously and were therefore judged harshly (Kisaot LaMishpat).

[7] Ibid and Avot, 3:11

[8] The Rambam (Laws of Teshuvah, 3:6-10) lists 24 sins for which one loses one’s share in the next world and another eight sins that, when committed habitually, cause one to lose his share.

[9] Rashi says this refers to one who denies that the Torah foretells the resurrection even if he believes it will happen.

[10] Sanhedrin, 99a

[11] Ibid, 99b and on

[12] Yachin on Avot 3:11

[13] Ibid

[14] Ibid

[15] Numbers 15:31

[16] The Rif (in the Ein Yakov) cites another verse (Gen. 17:14) which indicates this punishment for abrogating a brit milah.

[17] Ibid

[18] Numbers 15:31

[19] Gen. 36:22

[20] Ibid, verse 12

[21] Ibid, 30:14

[22] Yevamot 24a

[23] Bartenura on Avot, ibid. See Megillah chapter 4, Mishnah 9.

[24] Ibid

[25] Sanhedrin 100a

[26] II Kings 8:5

[27] See Rambam, Laws of Teshuvah, 3:6

[28] Sanhedrin 107b

[29] See Bartenura on Avot 5:18 that as it would not be right that he be in Gan Eden and his students (i.e., those he influenced) in Gehinom.

[30] Ibid

[31] Sanhedrin 10, end of Halacha 2

[32] See II Kings 4:24

[33] Vol. 3, page 51a

[34] Sanhedrin 104b and 105a and Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 10, end of Halacha 2

Wishing you a Chodesh Tov and a Shabbat Shalom Umevorach!

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