Hidden TreasureApril 3, 2014 - 5:00 am
“If the defiling mold reappears in the house after the stones have been torn out and the house scraped and plastered, the priest is to go and examine it and, if the mold has spread in the house, it is a persistent defiling mold; the house is unclean. It must be torn down—its stones, timbers and all the plaster—and taken out of the town to an unclean place.” — Leviticus 14:43-45
The Torah portion for this week is Metzora, which means “diseased,” from Leviticus 14:1–15:33, and the Haftorah is from 2 Kings 7:3–20.
In last week’s Torah portion, we learned about the laws regarding defiling skin diseases. In this week’s Torah reading, we learn about another manifestation of the same disease, which is known in Hebrew as tzara’at. We come across the laws regarding instances where tzara’at was found on the walls of a home. Ultimately, a home that was found to be infested with tzara’at was completely destroyed, and the owner had to start all over again.
The Sages make a fascinating comment on these laws. They explain that the Amorites, who lived in Canaan before the children of Israel entered the land, hid their gold and valuables in the walls of their homes. The Amorites understood that the Israelites one day would come into the land and conquer it. They thought if they couldn’t have their treasures then nobody should be able to have them, and so they hid all their valuables from the Israelites. However, God had another plan. When tzara’at was found on the walls of a home and the Israelite owner was forced to destroy it, he or she would often find a king’s ransom hidden inside. The hidden treasures would invariably fall into Israelite hands.
As fascinating as this insight is, it leaves us with much confusion. On one hand, we are told that the appearance of tzara’at was a punishment for sin. On the other hand, the Sages’ explanation leads us to believe that tzara’at was a great blessing as the homeowner was often enriched beyond his or her wildest dreams. So which is it? Was tzara’at an affliction or a blessing?
The Sages explain that it was both.
Often times in life we are given hardships and struggles. We go through painful experiences and sometimes it seems like our lives, like the houses with tzara’at, are being utterly destroyed and razed to the ground. However God, in His great love and mercy for us, only places hardships in our lives for our benefit. It is often in the rubble of our lives that we find our hidden treasures.
Interestingly, the Hebrew word for the spot of tzara’at found on a home is nego, which means “affliction.” But when you rearrange those letters, you get the word oneg, which means “pleasure.” This is because any affliction in our lives can ultimately become a great source of pleasure. Everything that God does is for our very best. Sometimes our silver lining is more apparent, and other times we need to dig well beneath the surface, but it is always there.