Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Metzora
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Berel Wein

Rashi quotes a tradition appearing in Midrash in this week’s parsha to the effect that the discovery of a plague that infected the house of a Jew that settled in the Land of Israel in biblical timers was in reality a blessing in disguise. The Canaanites, anticipating the arrival of the Jews into the Land of Israel, stored their valuables in hollowed out sanctuaries within the walls of their houses. When the Jew was settled in that house after the Canaanites had been defeated and had abandoned their homes this mysterious plague descended upon the house. The appearance of this plague forced the house to be dismembered in order to be purified from the plague and when this occurred the hidden Canaanite treasure was revealed and acquired by the Jewish owner of the house. This somewhat strange Midrashic tradition contradicts the opinion expressed in the Talmud that house plagues never really occurred in real life and that the Torah included this subject only so that we would reap reward for studying and analyzing this purely theoretical subject matter of purity and impurity. There is another opinion in the Talmud that this house plague did actually occur but there is no mention in the Talmud of the blessing of hidden treasure being discovered in such a house. However it is obvious that Rashi chose this Midrashic tradition to highlight this particular subject of the parsha of this week. In so doing he undoubtedly signaled to us -his students - that there is an important lesson to be learned from this parsha and this tradition.

It is not only that this tradition comes to teach us the old platitude that often has truth with it that in every cloud there is somehow a silver lining. It teaches us something far deeper than that, namely that the ways of the Lord and therefore the vagaries of life are inscrutable, unpredictable and not given always to rational explanation and analysis. The Lord wants us to somehow inherit Canaanite treasure. But it is not given to us directly, clearly, simply. Rather it somehow comes through initial pain and disappointment, the apparent destruction of our house and the shame of being found residing in a dwelling of spiritual impurity. Only then when one has to pass through this series of difficulties - consultations with kohein, quarantine of the house and finally its dismemberment - does the apparent purpose and gift of God to the inhabitant of the house become apparent. We would all certainly prefer being granted hidden treasure and other good fortune be given to us directly and clearly. But that is not the reality of life. Many times in our lives we suffer disappointments and trials and only later are we able to realize how much true good fortune came to us through those seemingly unpleasant events. That is why the rabbis admonished us to make a blessing on seemingly bad events in the same manner that we make a blessing when we feel that good things have happened to us. For many times the "bad" event may turn out not to be so bad after all and therefore in life we are always bidden to accept what the Lord has granted to us.
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