Parashas Metzora

This week’s parashah includes a segment about tzaraas lesions that erupt on the walls of a house. The Torah states (Vayikra 14:34): “When you come to the land of Canaan, that I am giving you as a possession, and I cast [lit. and I give] a tzaraas lesion on a house within the land of your possession ….” The Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah 17:6 picks up on the phrasing “I give a tzaraas lesion” – the language seems to suggest that Hashem is giving a person something good by casting a tzaraas lesion on his house. This prompts the Midrash to ask: “Is this good news?” The Midrash goes on to answer that in the process of tearing down the houses with such lesions, the Jews would find treasures hidden away by the Canaanites, which obviously is good news. The Maggid, however, gives a different explanation of how a tzaraas lesion on a house can be viewed as good news.
The unusual phenomenon of tzaraas lesions erupting on houses is a sign, the Maggid says, of the special relationship between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel, which was at full strength in the era when the Beis HaMikdash was standing. At that time, the Land was just like one of our own limbs. When a Jewish soul suffered damage through the scourge of sin, a lesion immediately erupted on the walls of his house. It was as if the Land felt our infirmity and the pain of our souls.
The Maggid brings out the point further with a parable. A man’s hand dried up like wood and lost sensation. The doctors did what they could to bind the hand up and brace it. They then told him how to monitor his condition: “If a little sensation returns to your hand, you will know that the treatment is working very well and your hand will recover its former strength.” After some time, someone struck this person on his hand and he felt severe pain. He was very happy about this. Indeed, the more pain he felt, the happier he got, for the pain was a sign that his hand was coming back to life. Similarly, the eruption of a tzaraas lesion is a sign of the vibrant natural tie between the Land and us, like the tie between the body and the soul. Hence, when the Torah tells us about these lesions, it is indeed bringing good news.
The Maggid discusses how a verse from Tehillim reflects the same idea. It is written (Tehillim 87:5): “Regarding Zion it is said, ‘This one and that one were born within it, and He, the Most High One, maintains it thus.’” This verse describes the people of Zion not simply as having been “born there,” but as having been “born within it.” Zion and its natives are strongly bound to one another. The tie between them is like that between a fetus and its mother, or between the soul and the body. What happens to one is felt by the other. The verse concludes: “And He, the Most High One, maintains it thus.” Extending the Maggid’s commentary, we can say that while the tie between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel is not as strong as in days of yore, Hashem still makes sure that some degree of relationship is maintained. The Land falters when we falter, and is elevated when we elevate ourselves.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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