2000Parashat Metzora addresses the treatment of a house that is plagued by a growth of some sort. At first we may find it difficult to relate to this text. Yet we can use it as a metaphor for our own lives. First a priest inspects the house. If he determines that it has a malignant disease, the house is quarantined, the stones are replaced, and the walls are scraped and replastered. If the plague does not reappear, the house is declared "clean." A purification ceremony takes place. If the plague reappears, the house is torn down.
"When you enter the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I inflict an eruptive plague upon a house in the land you possess, there shall come the one whose house it is and report to the priest, saying, (Something) like a plague has been seen by me on the house!
The priest is to command that the house be cleaned before the priest enters to look at the plague, so that nothing that is in the house becomes unclean; after that the priest may enter to look at the house.
...When the priest returns on the seventh day, and he looks, and here: the affliction has spread on the walls of the house, the priest is to command that they pull out the stones on which the affliction is and throw them outside the city, into an unclean place."
Your Leviticus Navigator
1. What is this plague that is on the house?
2. What does the priest command the owner of the house to do?
3. If the plague remains after seven days, what does the owner of the house do?
4. Have you ever experienced a sickness or a problem that seemed to take over every part of your life?
5. Have you ever cleaned something so well, that you must take it apart in order to clean it thoroughly?
(in Leviticus Rabba 17:6 and Sifra) on "I inflict an eruptive plague":
This was an announcement to them that these plagues would come upon them because the Amorites concealed treasures of gold in the walls of their houses during the whole 40 years the Israelites were in the wilderness in order that they might not possess them when they conquered Palestine, and in consequence of the plague they (the Israelites) would pull down the house and discover that God is conveying good news to the people through the plague.
Your Rashi Navigator
1. According to Rashi, what will the Israelites find when they tear down the walls of their houses?
2. Who put these treasures of gold in the houses?
3. What does God have to do with it?
4. Is it possible to find treasures amidst moments of weakness?
Each of us experiences moments like the above, in which our lives seem to come crashing down. Whether it comes from hearing bad news, learning of illness in ourselves or a loved one, or experiencing a setback in our personal or professional lives, each of us has, at times, found a plague in our house. As we begin to pull out the stones on the walls of our house, it is possible to find treasures of gold within our walls. Maybe it is the strength we find in ourselves. Perhaps it is the presence of friends or loved ones to comfort us. Judaism teaches us that it is our job to find these hidden treasures, even in moments of our greatest weakness. May each of us find gold within our walls.
Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Midwest Director for Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning and Campus Rabbi, University of Wisconsin.