Parshat Metzora (Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33)
Parshat Metzora delves into the case of a person who discovers symptoms of a disease in the skin or other parts of the body. In describing the disease and the way to be purified of it, the Torah goes into fine detail, and we learn that the case of tzara’at – commonly (and inaccurately) translated as “leprosy” – can afflict not only human beings, but their clothes and homes, as well.
The disease is anything but a pleasant experience. Once symptoms are discovered, a Kohen is summoned to dismantle the stones in which the affliction was sighted, for a test period. If the affliction does not subside, but rather spreads to other places in the house, the entire house must be destroyed.
This process is extremely traumatic. Seeing the house in which someone’s children were raised dismantled and destroyed is heart-rending. It’s no different than seeing a house leveled by a Katyusha rocket. The Torah, however, relates this event as though it were a long-awaited celebration! The verse reads:
“When you will arrive in the Land of Canaan… and I will place a tzara’at affliction upon a house in the land of your possessions.” (Vayikra / Leviticus 14:44).
It is as though we had eagerly awaited our arrival in the Land of Israel just so that we could have some tzara’at in our homes. Shouldn’t this strike us as odd?
Our sages relate in a Midrash that the tzara’at that would suddenly appear in the walls of our houses was a blessing in disguise. The Canaanites, who inhabited the land before the arrival of the newcomers from Egypt, decided to hide their money and gold in the walls of their homes. The Israelites would never have discovered these treasures naturally. “Thanks” to the tzara’at, however, they were given the opportunity to discover these treasures and benefit from them, and that is the reason for the celebratory tone of the verse.
However, was this indeed the case every time tzara’at was discovered in a house? After all, once the second and third generations came to inhabit these homes, these treasures would have already been long gone! Besides, once several people had “discovered” this buried treasure, a “gold rush” would have certainly ensued, with all of their neighbors dismantling all of the tiles in their homes and even tearing down walls to uncover these riches.
The biggest question of all is this – why the need for tzara’at in the houses in the first place? The entire nation could have simply been told that there were hidden treasures, and that it would be worth everyone’s while to check the walls in order to discover whatever was concealed within them.
It seems that the Midrash and the Torah are trying to condition us to seeing imminent disasters hovering over us, both as individuals and as a society, through different lenses. When we are beset with a calamity that forces us to take apart our home, we can become hysterical and tense, and fall into despair and depression. Most of all, we can become bitter and resentful, towards ourselves, our spouses, or perhaps even our children or our country.
The Torah teaches us that concealed behind every blemish in our homes is a treasure packed between our walls. The treasure won’t always consist of gold and diamonds. It could contain new insights for our lives, which could be exponentially more significant than gold and silver. In our frustrated state, we won’t always have the will and the strength to uncover these treasures, but we will surely know that the treasure is there. This doesn’t mean that disaster struck because of the treasure. However, the treasure stashed in the wall could be far better than a few words of comfort to those who need to tear apart their homes.
Our generation is a bridge between the horrors of the Holocaust and the triumphant reincarnation of the Jewish People from the ashes of the crematoria at Auschwitz and Majdanek, and in this generation, we are obligated to seek out the treasures hidden between our walls. This isn’t because our quest would provide us with a reason or justification for these horrors, but rather because the treasure of souls hidden within the burial pits and ovens is the living fountain that nourishes the very roots of our existence here, in the Jewish state.
The souls of our martyred brethren entreat us to ensure that Jewish identity continues onward throughout the generations. They cry out to us, beseeching us to understand what they represented in life and in death. Millions of our fellow Jews, who were murdered by those villains, left us a treasure trove of spiritual riches in the form of writings and stories of their lives and their courage, which will illuminate our paths for generations to come.
[Translated from the Hebrew by Ilan Yavor]
Would you like to receive Rabbi Stav’s weekly Dvar Torah and updates from OTS direct to your inbox?