"When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and
I will place a tzoraas (1) affliction upon a house in the land of your
possession." (Vayikra/Leviticus 13:33) Tzoraas manifested itself not only
in the form of skin blemishes, but also affected clothes and houses in the
form of discolorations. This, in certain situations, required burning of
the garment or demolition of the entire house.
The Midrash expounds that although seemingly counterintuitive, this was
good for the owner of the house. The heathen inhabitants who previously
lived in the Land of Israel, before abandoning their homes, often
concealed their money and possessions in the walls of their houses.
Demolition of the house uncovered these treasures, allowing the new Jewish
owner to benefit.
Yet the Talmud (Eruchin 16a) teaches that this plague came as a punishment
for an individual's indiscretions. If G-d was castigating the wrongdoer,
why was it orchestrated that the houses broken down as a punishment would
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (2) explains that although the plague came to benefit
the house owner with treasure, that objective was possible to achieve
without going through the ordeal of destroying their house. The tzoraas
experience was demanding and unpleasant, to alert the recipient of his
wrongdoing and need for change. The plague worked to achieve both
punishment and reward.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller (3) further elaborates that the Creator of the World,
in His infinite wisdom, has a master plan that our finite human minds
cannot fathom. This plan will materialize, and cannot be stopped or
frustrated by our decisions and actions. Certain events are destined to
occur regardless of our actions, but the sequence or details of the events
may be manipulated to teach us a Divine lesson. G-d wished to benefit the
house owner by exposing the treasure. At the same time, the individual
made choices and committed sins punishable by tzoraas. The tzoraas was a
punishment, causing the afflicted to repent and commit to a more spiritual
life, while simultaneously fulfilling G-d's master plan with the discovery
of the treasure.
People often undergo some misfortune or suffering that appears on the
surface to be a negative message from the Divine. However, later reflection
upon the events brings the understanding that while they were difficult and
challenging, they provided him with a fantastic opportunity for growth and
development. The Torah is reminding us of the well known and much
experienced axiom: what at the moment may seem like a punishment is, in
reality, an opportunity and a treasure.
Have a Good Shabbos!
(1) an affliction that is commonly misidentified as leprosy; whereas
leprosy is a medical condition, tzoraas is the physical manifestation of a
spiritual deficiency, such as slander, arrogance and miserliness
(2) 1895-1986; Rosh Yeshiva/Dean of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem in New York
City; the leading Halachic/ Jewish legal decisor of his time and one of the
principal leaders of Torah Jewry through much of the last century
(3) 1908-2001; a prolific author and popular speaker who specialized in
mussar (introspective Jewish self-improvement) and Jewish history, Rabbi
Miller commanded a worldwide following through his books and tapes: of the
tens of thousands of Torah lectures he delivered, more than 2,000 were
preserved on cassettes