Friday, April 08, 2011

Parshat Metzora - פרשת מצורע

This week's D'var Torah was written jointly by the Miller brothers...

“כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל-אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן, אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה; וְנָתַתִּי נֶגַע צָרַעַת, בְּבֵית אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶם. - When you come to the land of Israel which I give to you as a possession, and I will place a tzeraas affliction upon a house in the land of your possession.”
(ויקרא י"ד:ל"ד)

Picture the scene: After years in the wilderness, you have finally moved into your home in Israel, Eretz Hakodesh. You have been living in your house for a few years. And then one day the law comes to tell you that you have to destroy your house. Sound familiar? No, I am not talking about the disengagement of Gush Katif. I’m talking about the main theme of this week’s parsha.

The quote above speaks about a house in the land of Israel that has received what appears to be what’s called a “Nega Tzara’at”. An affliction or mark of some kind, on one of its bricks, that’s of a reddish or greenish colour. The Torah tells us that a Cohen has to come and check this marking to confirm our suspicions. If so, the house may eventually have to be broken and knocked down.

We know that the punishment of Tzara’at comes about due to a person speaking Lashon HaRa, badly about others. Without discussing how this seems a proportional, fair punishment, let’s look at this from a slightly different angle. What happens if the owner of the house, upon seeing the mark, would just ignore it? For those of us who aren’t completely pious and act exactly as the Torah instructs, (and that’s 99% of us), it would be very difficult to ignore this option. “Why should all my neighbours see my house being destroyed and know I have spoken Lashon HaRa? I’ll just repent quietly; perhaps it will go away then” we would likely tell ourselves. We’re all human, after all. We like to rationalise the uncomfortable things.

In his commentary on this verse, Rashi reveals one of his most famous insights, commenting that the “Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses all forty years that Israel were in the desert and through the affliction he [the Cohen] breaks down the house and [as a result] finds” the hidden treasure.

Read that again - “the Amorites hid treasures... all forty years”. This seemingly sudden moment of fortune was in the works for four decades! God was planning this good for 40 years! Given that we are told that the generation that came into Israel is a different one than the one that left Egypt, this means God was actually planning this even before the generation that would find the gold was born!

Before reading Birchat HaMazon on Shabbat, we read the following verse in Shir HaMa’alot: “הזורעים בדימה, ברינה יקצרו – They who sow with tears will reap with joy”. We don’t always see the good in this world immediately. But if we only wait a while, we may see how everything really does work out for the best.

But to get there, we have to take the first step. It is up to us to make an effort. Nothing in this world comes by itself; this is a world in which work is necessary. Whatever God asks us to do, we have to do it, no matter how hard it seems. If we just take the very first step, if we make the initial effort, God will do the rest and take care of everything else. God will not just match our effort, but carry on and help us many times over. We don’t need to worry about anything else. As the Gemara says in Masechet Megillah: “הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים”. Everything is in God’s hands except from fear of God himself. All we need to do is demonstrate our love and reverence of Hashem.

It is important to realise that out of every situation comes good. Even from bad situations that we make for ourselves, can come good. Returning to my opening thought, sometimes we make bad decisions for ourselves. The disengagement should never have happened. We should never have given our enemies the capabilities to (more easily) target and attack a school bus. We should never speak Lashon HaRa. It is hard right now to see how good will come of our present situation. But it is out of these very situations that much good can be found. All we have to do is listen to what Hashem tells us and follow his commandments. God will take care of the rest.

Shabbat Shalom

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