It’s been about six weeks now. Six weeks of being closed in, six weeks of irregular life, six weeks of thoughts and questions and feelings and effort.
This week we read the double parsha of Tazria-Metzora. In the Piacezna Rebbe’s searing work, the Aish Kodesh, he records only one talk on Parshas Metzora over the two and a half years of being in the Warsaw Ghetto. It is a Torah for then and a Torah for us right now.
It opens with the passuk (VaYikra 14:34-35):
כִּ֤י תָבֹ֙אוּ֙ אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֲנִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶ֖ם לַאֲחֻזָּ֑ה וְנָתַתִּי֙ נֶ֣גַע צָרַ֔עַת בְּבֵ֖ית אֶ֥רֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶֽם׃
וּבָא֙ אֲשֶׁר־ל֣וֹ הַבַּ֔יִת וְהִגִּ֥יד לַכֹּהֵ֖ן לֵאמֹ֑ר כְּנֶ֕גַע נִרְאָ֥ה לִ֖י בַּבָּֽי
“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, the owner of the house shall come and tell the kohen, saying, ‘Something like a plague has appeared upon my house’.”
Rashi then comments that this seems like a promise rather than an if-then statement. But Tzara’as is a plague, not a good thing. Why would Hashem promise us that there will be a plague on our houses as if this is a good thing? Rashi explains that actually, the tzara’as would activate a process where once the house is declared tameh, ritually impure, it would have to be torn down. But, as a result of being torn down, the owner would find treasure that had been hidden inside the walls by the Emorites in the time that Bnei Yisrael was in the desert.
This seems a rather complicated and extreme way to reveal the treasures. If Hashem wants to give treasures to the Jewish People, why doesn’t He just give with an open hand? Why such hiddenness?
The Piacezna Rebbe explains that since one of the basic premises of Judaism is that everything that Hashem does for us is out of His love for us, then we must have faith that everything He does to us is good- even if we can’t see it outright. Essentially this whole process is a way of teaching us to be patient and to look at the events around us with different eyes.
The Torah says that the language a person uses when he goes to the Kohen to report suspected tzara’as is that “something like a plague has appeared.” He cannot say “it is tzara’as,” because only the Kohen can declare it officially tzara’as. In other words, the Rebbe explains, we cannot judge the events that are happening in our own lives with certainty. We can only say, “it looks pretty bad” but not “it is bad.” Because, in truth, maybe there is treasure laying in wait for us just under the surface. Maybe jewels of perspective, gems of insight and diamonds of compassion are what we are meant to find in the events of our lives?
This is not the Warsaw Ghetto. We are not facing anything like what the Jews of the ghetto faced. We have food, Baruch Hashem, we have water, we have medical treatment, we are in our homes, we have technology that enables us to speak to family members and friends whom we cannot see in person at the moment. And yet….the confusing and surreal situation we are in is extremely challenging. People are suffering and have lost loved ones. We are in a whole new world, facing an unseen danger and travelling an unknown road, with no “return to normalcy” in sight.
In the midst of this fear and uncertainty, can we find the strength and the courage to see this as a process? A stage that the world must go through in order to discover the treasures within? Are we willing to dig deep to grow our patience and faith? To work on ourselves to see the world in the light of the knowledge that everything Hashem does is for our good and to enable us to grow?
I bless us to want to develop the skill and ability to look for the good. I bless us to understand that not all good is obvious and that sometimes things take time to develop. I bless us to look with our heart and to find the hidden treasures.