Not Just Skin Deep

Posted on April 6, 2022

by Hazzan Jacob Sandler

Parshat Metzora, like its sister parasha Tazria, further discusses the Tzara’at, and the process for regaining ritual purity once affected by it. We learn from the Rabbis that Tzara’at is a spiritual ailment manifesting on the skin of a person. Connecting to the case of Miriam who experienced this disease after speaking ill of Moses’ wife, the Rabbis asserted that it was lashon haRa that caused the Tzara’at. So, it isn’t just skin deep. But Metzora informs us that Tzara’at can also infect our houses. Not only does it go further inward, but tzara’at can spread further outwardly as well.

Leviticus 14:34-35 reads, “When you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as a possession, and I place* a lesion of tzara’at upon a house in the land of your possession, and the one to whom the house belongs comes and tells the kohen, saying, ‘Something like a lesion has appeared to me in the house’…”

Rashi notes that the Hebrew in verse 34 ‘venatati’ literally means “and I give [a lesion, etc.]” He explains that this is good news! The Canaanites hid treasures in the walls of their homes, so when a lesion of Tzara’at appeared, it would cause the Israelites to remove those stones and find it. While I’m sure not every case of tzara’at came with hidden treasure, there’s an opportunity to imagine that when inconveniences or great challenges come into our lives, we should keep our eyes open to the gift God is giving us just behind affected stones.

Life is not always easy. There are global challenges like war, illness, and poverty, and there are more local challenges like managing interpersonal relationships, home repairs, or even just preparing for Pesah — c’mon, we’re all thinking about it. We can choose to see these challenges as they are at the surface, or we can dig deeper. We can look inward to see how we might live better lives to overcome the tzara’at, or we can look outward to see what silver linings and hidden treasures might be waiting for us when we meet the challenge head on and overcome them.