Relevant Talmud

It is interesting how the Talmud covers every facet of life and can never be accused of being outdated or irrelevant. In one small section in מסכת ברכות, the Gemara deals with the question of accepting gifts in one’s capacity as a leader, as well as a case of sexual harassment.

The Gemara compares the Prophet Elisha to the Prophet Shmuel. Elisha accepted gifts from the Shunamite woman in the form of a luxury suite in her home. It was equipped with a bed, table, chair, and lamp. The room was referred to as מעולה, an excellent dwelling.

Nevertheless, Elisha is not viewed as having overstepping boundaries by using his exalted position for extra privileges. He resuscitated the woman’s child as an act of הכרת הטוב, recognizing good, and not as an obligation for her generosity. It is also a Mitzva to serve a Talmid Chacham, so Elisha behaved properly.

Shmuel, on the other hand, did not want to take the risk of being accused of using his position to accept gifts. He traveled with a tent and his basic necessities and never accepted any gift of any kind.

Both prophets acted appropriately and set an example for future leaders as to how to serve the people. That position was not meant to be a vehicle to gain wealth or for personal advancement. Amazing how relevant the Talmud is.

And, by the way, Gehazi was the one who acted inappropriately with the Shunamite woman and was unable to keep his hands to himself. Elisha was holy. His servant, Gehazi was not.