Office of the Chief Rabbi

D’var Torah: Parashat Metzora

The Chief Rabbi explores how the concept of Tsara’at HaBayit (‘Leprosy of Houses’) that is introduced in this week’s sedra of Metzora, may have actually served as a reward for the Children of Israel. For the full transcript, please see below.

Parshat Metzora introduces us to the fascinating subject of Tsara’at HaBayit, ‘Leprosy of Houses’. The Israelites were informed that upon entry into the Land of Canaan, there would be a possibility that their houses could become leprous. If there was to be the discolouration of walls, that could spell the ultimate scenario in which a house would have to be raised to the ground.

As can be expected, the Midrash Tanchuma explains that this would come as a punishment for a serious sin that the householder would have committed. The Gemara in Masechet Erchin identifies that sin as being dishonesty.

The Midrash Rabbah tells us that actually this would come as a punishment for somebody who was wealthy and yet acted in a miserly way, always claiming that he had nothing to give to charity. As part of the process of Tsara’at HaBayit, he would need to take all of his possessions outside his front door, and therefore everybody would see how wealthy he actually was.

‘Now how can this be possible? You lose your home and it’s a reward?’

Fascinatingly, the Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah tells us that Tsara’at HaBayit comes as a reward. Now how can this be possible? You lose your home and it’s a reward? Explains the Midrash. When the Canaanites were fleeing from the Holy Land, they hoped that one day they would return to their homes. And so they hid their most valuable possessions inside the walls of those homes. And so Hashem identified those homes by placing the discolouration on the walls.

Consequently, once the homes were raised to the ground, the owners were able to find that hidden treasure.

‘Sometimes the greatest of treasures in life come through difficulty and travail.’

I believe that there is a powerful message here for all of life. Sometimes things go wrong, and we cry out to God and we say: ‘Why have you cursed us in this fashion?’ Little do we realise that actually we are taking a few steps backwards in order to move hundreds of steps forwards. Sometimes the greatest of treasures in life come through difficulty and travail. This is how the Gemara in Masechet Brachot puts it, Kol man d’avid Rachmana l’tav avid. Whatever God does, he does for the good. Shabbat Shalom.

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