Sometimes, a service is inspirational. Sometimes, the answer just appears. Here is my midrash on this week’s haftarah:
Don’t you dare judge me! I loved him. He loved me too. It was special. God didn’t disapprove either or what happened wouldn’t have happened. We couldn’t be together – I was an important woman, married to a successful, rich, retired, ancient clerk, and he was a prophet – a man of God. Our love was ridiculous – impossible. We tried not to allow it, with all that we had. Still, I wanted him to be comfortable, my Elisha. He took comfort in me – he called me his “Shlomi” – his peace. I was a place of rest and peace for him, my home a small nook where he could lay down his burdens and relax. We tried to be friends only – that’s all. That’s all that was allowed.
Yet we could not. The way we felt about each other, our need for each other – it was so, so strong. I had nothing, you understand. Oh, plenty of food, a good position – but my husband was old when I married him and he could neither love me as I wanted nor give me the babies I craved. And Elisha? He was so beautiful! Deep penetrating eyes, wild hair streaming behind him, strong wiry body honed by walking every terrain in every weather. He was smart – I thought he was brilliant. The concepts he knew, the ideas… A true man of God, too. You could see how much he loved his faith. It was in everything he said and did, in every breath he took. Oh, I loved him. And I – I knew I wasn’t gorgeous. I was plain, and didn’t fuss about my appearance much – but Elisha, the way he looked at me, I felt I was beautiful. I – I could do more, accomplish feats of strength and intelligence that bordered on the miraculous. He saw things about me that didn’t even exist except when he looked at me.
We were so in love! He wasn’t with me much or often – he was a prophet, after all, and his job took him all over, but when he was in Shunam, we couldn’t stop looking at each other. Being in his arms felt so very good. I loved him immeasurably, unreasonably. We almost panicked when I found out I was with child. It would have been a disaster – the end of everything – for him, and for me, if anyone knew. We had hidden our love from everyone, even from Gehazi. So, we turned to God – we didn’t lie, exactly. The baby was a miracle – an impossible gift from God. I loved that boy – he grew up to be a strong lad, and my husband got him a good apprenticeship on a nearby farm, where he loved to sit around and reminisce with the older farmers. I think my husband knew, actually. He just felt it was better to let sleeping dogs die, I think. He was a good man, my husband. He never said anything to me, but in the way he said, “your son,” well, I could tell….
Elisha always chatted with that boy and played with him when he visited, but kept some distance. We couldn’t let on about who he was to the boy. People thought it was good of Elisha to take such care and really – there were many fathers who paid less attention to their sons. When Elijah got ill (I named him for Elisha’s mentor, of course), I held him. I willed love and strength into him. I prayed with everything that I had – God, don’t punish our love like this. Think of the boy, of my husband – don’t think of me. I held him for hours – and then, he died. He stopped moving, stopped making noise. I think he even stopped breathing! It was at that moment that I realized – I knew exactly what to do. I went straight to Elisha. Neither my husband nor Gehazi needed to be part of that conversation. I said it would be all right to them – oh, I was so scared that it wouldn’t, but I had no choice! I had to believe that it would be all right, that somehow, my baby wasn’t dead and would run and play and work again. I had to tell them all was well in such a way that they would believe so that I could believe too.
I could see Elisha’s face tremble. I was mad at him too – I didn’t even have to act. If only he’d been there, if only he had been a bigger part of my son’s life, if only he had seen my Elijah’s face, Elijah wouldn’t be lying there so pale and still. This was his fault as much as mine, and if God decided to punish anyone, it would affect him too. He tried to stay away, to send Gehazi – the fear, the anguish on his face would give our lives away in a breath. I insisted. My son’s life meant more to me than any rules! My son was how I knew my life had meaning, had accomplishment. My boy was how I knew that my love was blessed by God. My son HAD to live. It wasn’t until the door closed on Elijah and Elisha that I knew all would be well. I knew my beloved would lie down with my son. I knew that he would take Elijah’s cold little hands into his big, warm calloused ones. I knew that he would look deep into Elijah’s beautiful black eyes, I knew that he would kiss Elijah’s lips with his own and warm him with his body and his breath. I knew that Elisha would love and love and love that boy and that God would accept that love and our love as a gift. I had no doubt then that Elisha would not leave that room without pouring his life and his heart and his faith into the still, quiet body of his son and that, hand in hand, my two loves would emerge from that room together.
They did. God didn’t judge me. So don’t you dare.