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The Treasure Behind the Wall


The Treasure Behind the Wall

The two portions of Tazria and Mitzora are perhaps the most difficult and technical in the book of Leviticus.

The first portion, Tazria, describes the laws of  impurity caused by Tzaraat, a form of leprosy, that afflicts human flesh and garments. Tzaraas is a malady which came upon an person as a consequence for slandering or gossiping about another person..

The next portion, Metzora, describes the process of purification from this leprosy. Only after discussing the manner of purification for the leprosy of the body and garments, does the Torah then introduce the topic of a third type of leprosy, one that afflicts the walls of a home. This is  immediately followed by  the laws of purification for the leprosy which afflicts the home.

The question that poses itself is: why, when talking about the leprosy that afflicts the person and the garments, are the leprosy and it’s purification taught in two separate portions? This is not the case, when  discussing the topic of leprosy of the home. In this case, the purification process is taught immediately after, and in the same portion as the affliction.

Anyone, looking at life objectively, can appreciate that a setback can be an opportunity for growth. Challenge has the potential to bring out the best in the human soul

But that is theoretical.

When one is experiencing an actual struggle in life, his perspective may be very different  He does not feel anything positive or constructive in his moment of  despair and pain. Pain hurts it does not build.

Eventually, when the individual finds the courage and strength to  pick up and overcome the challenge he feel as though he has reached a new state of being. Only after he is removed from the painful situation is he capable of looking  back and realizing, that the person he has become is very much a result of the previous challenge that he tried so hard to escape.

This is the reason that the affliction of Tzaraat  and it’s purification are written in two separate portions. From the human perspective, the  purification is a new beginning, it is an escape from the impurity, not it’s culmination.

Things are very different from Hashem’s perspective. The purpose of the challenge is to lead a person to greater heights. We humans, are not always capable of seeing it that way.

In describing the Tzaraat that afflicted the home the Torah says “When you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as a possession, and I place an affliction of Tzaraat upon a house in the land of your possession”. The Midrash teaches that from the words of the verse, G-d himself is placing the affliction of Tzaraat on the house, we understand that this, in fact, is good news. The good news was, that while removing the afflicted stones the Israelites discovers treasures that the native Canaanites hid within the walls of their homes. When the Tzaraat would appear and some stones would have to be removed, the treasures would then be discovered.

The Tzaraat of the home was taught to us from G-d’s perspective. Every affliction is just a facade, begging to be pulled away, in order to allow the discovery of a great treasure.   By writing the laws of the home’s  purification immediately after the affliction, the Torah asks us to keep G-d’s perspective in mind. This will give us the strength to transform challenge to treasure.

Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Balancing Perspectives

Balancing Perspectives 

Children’s emotions are straightforward; when a child wants something he wants it fully, when a child hates or fears something, the emotion fills her little heart completely. As we mature, however, our emotions become more complex. We want something but at the same time we are capable of feeling it’s downsides as well. We love the piece of chocolate but we hate it’s calorie count. We may hate to hard work but we love how it makes us feel at the end. We can hate and pity someone at the same time. We can love certain traits of a someone while hating others.

As we mature spiritually, our emotional complexity develops further. As the holy Zohar states “Weeping is lodged in one side of my heart, and joy is lodged in the other”. I may be saddened because of the state of my material being, but at the same time I can rejoice about the state of my spiritual soul.

On what was the most emotionally intense day of his life, Aaron the high priest was called upon to achieve extraordinary emotional maturity.

It was the moment he anticipated all his career, the portable temple was finally complete, the seven day inauguration period has past, and, for the first time, he was performing the priestly service, cause G-d’s presence to descend. As the verse states:

And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fats upon the altar, and all the people saw, sang praises, and fell upon their faces.   

And yet, just a few short moments later, Aaron suffered the greatest tragedy of his life, two of his sons tragically died:

And Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.

Moses turns to his brother Aaron and instructs him to put his personal pain aside. This is a joyous day to G-d, and Aaron and his remaining two sons were called upon to serve as representatives of all the people, and therefore they were called upon to experience the Divine joy.

And here is where the story gets complicated. Moses finds out that one of the offerings, that was meant to be eaten Aaron and his sons, was burnt. Moses was furious. He asks Aaron:

"Why did you not eat the sin offering in the holy place? For it is holy of holies, and He has given it to you to gain forgiveness for the sin of the community, to effect their atonement before the Lord!”.

Moses was asking “why have not eaten the offering? How could you have placed your personal mourning ahead of G-d’s joy?" 

Aaron responds by explaining to Moses that the correct thing to do was to eat some of the offerings (the ones that were unique to that day), and to burn the other (the one that was to be offered on a regular basis). The verse concludes that “Moses heard [this], and it pleased him”.

Aaron taught Moses an important lesson. Aaron taught Moses that it is relatively easy for the spiritual seeker to ignore himself and devote himself completely to the Divine reality. That, however, is not G-d’s will.

The correct spiritual path, argues Aaron, is to be spiritually mature enough to experience both perspectives. 

Aaron understood that a relationship with G-d, does not mean suppressing our own sense of reality, it means being able to balance and experience our reality as well as G-d’s. It means being able to burn some of the offerings, as an expression of feeling personal pain, yet eating other offerings, as an expression of feeling the Divine joy.

The Sandwich

The Sandwich  

When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, Passover was celebrated as it was meant to be celebrated. The highlight of the celebration was eating the sandwich that contained the meat of the Paschal offering together with the Matzah and the bitter herbs. Once the Temple was destroyed, and we are unable to offer the Paschal offering, there is no Biblical obligation to eat a sandwich. Instead, we eat a portion of biblically mandated Matzah[1], after which we eat the Rabbinically mandated bitter herbs, followed by a sandwich of Matzah and bitter herbs to commemorate the Passover sandwich of temple times. Before we bite into the sandwich we say:

“Thus did Hillel do at the time of the Holy Temple: He would combine Passover -- lamb, Matzah and Maror and eat them together, as it said: "They shall eat it with Matzah and bitter herbs."

In our lives we each have "Matzah moments", moments in which we experience the liberating blessings of life. Moments when we feel truly free and liberated. We also have "bitter herb" moments, moments in which we feel the bitterness of challenges and difficulty.

The bitter herbs are part of life. Every person experiences some measure of hardship and challenge. The “free” person is one who is not enslaved by life’s difficult challenges, but rather, he or she grows from them. The bitter experiences of life, when approached with faith and courage, have the ability of bringing out the greatest potential of the human being.

Yet, initially, the Matzah and the bitter herbs are eaten separately. That’s because In the moment of pain, we often don’t see any redeeming factor. In the moment of challenge all we see is difficulty. Only after the fact, once we climb out of the challenge, once we attain freedom, can we look back and view the past suffering as a step toward freeing our deepest spirits. From our perspective, the pain and the freedom cannot mix. We therefore eat the Matzah and the bitter herbs separately.

And then we make a sandwich.

We remind ourselves, that there was a place in time, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, That spirituality was easily accessible. At that time, a person like Hillel could combine the Matzah and the bitter herbs. He could combine the suffering with the salvation. At the very moment that he was experiencing the challenge, he could feel that his challenge was part of a sandwich. His challenge was an integral part of the free person he would become.

The Jew living in spiritual exile, may not be able to feel that the challenges in his life is part of a bigger story of freedom. He, however, could and should remember Hillel’s perspective. Eating the sandwich, in addition to being a source of encouragement, will make him a bit more like Hillel. 


[1] The Torah commands us to eat the meat of the paschal sacrifice together with Matzah and bitter herbs. After the destruction of the temple, when there are no sacrifices, there is no biblical Mitzvah to eat the bitter herbs, since the bitter herbs are an accessory to the Paschal sacrifice which we no longer offer. There is, however, another verse that commands us to eat Matzah on the night of Pesach. Since this verse does not mention the paschal sacrifice we understand it to mean that there is a commandment to eat Matzah even when there is no paschal sacrifice.  


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