Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Metzorah - 5774

TZARA’AS AS A BLESSING?

Based on Ner Uziel....

The Torah introduces Tzara’as of the skin with the words, “If a person has a spot.”  Similarly it introduces Tzara’as of the garment, “If a garment has a mark.”  However, when it introduces the Tzara’as of the house the Torah states “when you come to the land of Canaan I will place the mark of Tzara’as in houses in the land you inherit.”  This unusual wording indicates that Hashem had preordained Tzara’as for the houses of the Jewish people whether or not the people deserved such a curse.

Rashi explains that the Torah does not make Tzara’as in the houses conditional (by using the word if, as it does with the other forms of Tzara’as) because it was actually a blessing for the Jews who were entering the land of Canaan.  The former inhabitants of the land were accustomed to hiding their treasures in their houses between the stones of double-layered wall.  When a Tzara’as mark appeared on the wall of Jew’s house and he, complying with the kohen’s instructions, tore it down, he found the hidden treasure.

How can this be explained?  Were the Jewish people so undeserving of blessing that they could receive it only after having suffered the trauma of Tzara’as?  Furthermore, why should Tzara’as, of all things, be a source of blessing?  Rashi’s explanation seems to be inconsistent with the sages who teach that Tzara’as found in the walls of a person’s house is a punishment for miserliness - because he refused to share his prosperity, his house, a symbol of his wealth, begins to rot away.

These laws of Tzara’as form the Torah’s most detailed example of the manner in which Hashem punishes the Jewish people.  As such, they say much about Hashem’s system of punishment.  People tend to look upon punishment as a form of retribution and revenge but the Torah considers punishment as a means of achieving tikun, rectification of a flaw and a form of education.  In addition, punishment is an act of kindness to the one who receives it, for it is a means of spiritual cleansing.  David Hamelech in Tehilim said that “Happy is the man whom You punish O Hashem.”  His happiness stems from his understanding that if Hashem bothers to grant him a personal lesson, it can mean only one thing: Hashem loves him!

Shabbat Shalom