Tazria-Metzora: Treasure Within

Depending on how you look at it....

Rabbanit Shira Smiles,

Young women study Torah
Young women study Torah
Flash 90

As summarized by Channie Koplowitz Stein.

There is an interesting seeming contradiction about tzora'as, commonly but incorrectly translated as "leprosy".
Tzora'as is not a physical ailment.
Before discussing the contradiction, however, it must be understood that tzora'as is not a physical ailment, but rather a manifestation of a spiritual malady. It is the priest and not the physician who diagnoses this illness, whether in the home, on one's clothing or on one's person.

What is the contradiction we are speaking of? Before tzora'as is declared to have infected the home, the owner would have removed all his possessions from the home so they would not fall under the "quarantine". We have already stated that this was not a physical illness, or this would not be possible. Then, the infected stones must be removed and replaced; and perhaps, if the house is not "cured", then the entire house must be demolished.

Here is where the contradiction occurs. The Sifra on Vayikra perceives this as a blessing for the homeowner, who will now find treasures the previous occupants, the Canaanites, hid behind the stones; while Maimonides claims the homeowner's home is being destroyed as a punishment for his selfish behavior and gossip. Is it possible to find common ground between such diverse opinions?

First, we must acknowledge that our surroundings, whether animate or inanimate, are influenced by our psyche, actions and relationship to them. Not only do pets react to us and to others based on the mood of the humans in their sphere, but also horticulturists now tell us that plants thrive when spoken to gently. And we are all familiar with "vibes" emanating from a particular place, whether positive or foreboding danger, most often associated with the people who frequent that particular location. So it should not surprise us that one's home may suffer when the residents therein are behaving improperly. This is exactly what happens when tzora'as strikes a home.

It is this relationship between man and his world that brings us to the mitzvah of tevilas keilim, of elevating utensils manufactured by a non-Jew to the use of someone who is following God's Torah. It is the reasoning behind celebrating a chanukas habayis when we move into a new home, for within that celebration we are dedicating our new home to be used as a mikdosh me'at, a mini-Temple for a holy life to be lived within its confines. Yet, man does not always live up to his potential and expectations of holiness. When that happens, tzora'as may strike.

Tzora'as cannot occur anywhere or with anyone. Indeed, tzora'as will only strike a very pious individual who would be sensitive to these outward changes to effect inward improvement, and only in as holy a place as the land of Israel. A man of this caliber would be too humble to announce that he has received a personal warning from God. He approaches the priest with hesitancy and uncertainty, and asks the priest to confirm his suspicion. If he is truly repentant, then he will find that hidden treasure to help him rebuild his home. If not, his house will continue to be destroyed until he learns the lesson of the offering he is to bring, two birds that represent constant, thoughtless twittering and chatter, cedar wood to represent his haughtiness, and its antidote, the lowly hyssop plant.

Indeed, it is a narrow, egotistical vision of oneself that begets language that downgrades another human being.
He will realize that HaShem has given him a gift that allows for self-improvement.
When one realizes that his eye (the Hebrew letter ayin) has the ability to see things from different perspectives, one can begin the healing process. One can have a narrow vision (metzar) in which his vision ends at himself. He will then be afflicted (nega), with his eye (ayin at the end of the word) always looking backward, or he can have a broader vision, where his eye (ayin at the beginning if the word) will be forward looking and see the big picture. This change in perspective will allow him to rejoice (oneg) in all that HaShem has given him. In this frame of mind, even the nega, the affliction, will become oneg, pleasure, for he will realize that HaShem has given him a gift that allows for self-improvement.

Indeed, one must understand that speech, like the wind, is nothing but air. While both can be soothing, when they are strong and out of control, each can be highly destructive. This is the lesson the Torah impresses upon us by having the house remain pure until the priest declares it with his words to be impure, and then declares it, in words again, to be rehabilitated and pure. If our eye is in the right place, we will understand that even afflictions are really blessings in disguise from our loving Father in Heaven.

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