(Torah Portion Tazria/Metzorah) Remedying Envy!
As the Second World War was raging and the inevitable assault and capture was approaching, many Jews hid their valuables in the hope that if they survived, they would be able to retrieve their money, wealth and family heirlooms.
As we know, most of them did not have the fortune to survive, and even those that did, when they returned to their homes, were turned away by people who had taken over their property and would not allow them back in.
A survivor told me that his family hid their wealth in the base of a window sill, and when he came back and checked, it had already been found and taken.
Mr. Dovid Kleinman, the grandfather of my daughter-in-law Estee, survived the war, and returned to his home after the war to find it occupied by another family. He knocked on the door and convinced the people to allow him, for sentimental reasons, to sleep in his old bedroom for one night. During the night, he took out his tools and loosened the floorboards and recovered his hidden valuables and fled. With these resources in hand he was able to immigrate to the USA, start a new family, and build a successful business.
At one of the Sheva Brochos – celebrations in honor of our son Shua and Estee’s marriage, Estee’s uncle gave a beautiful and heartwarming speech. At the conclusion of his remarks, he said, “As you all know my parents were both survivors of the Holocaust. As we celebrate the marriage of a member of our family it is another demonstration of the ultimate revenge and retribution to Hitler and his cohorts!” He then triumphantly proclaimed, “Take that Hitler – another Kleinman family member is beginning a new family in the Jewish tradition!”
This week’s two Torah portions discuss the laws concerning impure blemishes called Tzoraas.
One class of this malady appears on the walls of one’s home in the Land of Israel. When the Torah introduces this law, it gives the impression that there are some benefits involved.
What possible benefits can there be if one ultimately has to destroy his house when these impure blemishes reappear?
The Talmud teaches us that during the 40 years the Jews traveled towards the Land of Israel, the Amorites, who dwelled in the Land of Canaan, fearing the Jews, hid their treasures in the walls of their homes – not that they could retrieve them at a later date, rather, so that the Jews would not find and benefit from their wealth when they conquer the land.
When the malady of Tzoraas would appear on the Jews’ home and it had to be knocked down, as a result of the demolition, the owner would unearth the treasures the Amorites hid – this is the benefit the Torah alludes to.
The question is raised; our Sages tell us that the reason the blemish comes on the house in the first place, is to punish the inhabitants of the house for being stingy, tightfisted and filled with envy of others. Why then is there a blessing in disguise attached to it?
An approach to answer this is offered through analyzing the root cause of envy.
Jealousy takes over a person when he imagines that others are better off or wealthier then he is. If he would realize his own wealth and riches, he would not be quick to begrudge his neighbor for his wealth.
Symbolically, the good tidings of finding treasures in the broken down walls of one’s home is directed at those who are envious. The Torah is telling them to tear down the walls of their personal homes and examine their own circumstances and recognize the rich blessings they themselves have.
When their homes are razed and they experience this pubic humiliation – that alone may not remedy the root of their envy. The hidden treasures will send home the message that there was no reason for envy in their heart, and it will help them decide to live productive, kind, giving and unselfish lives.
Each person is endowed with a wealth of unique potential, capabilities and possibilities. All we have to do is know that it is there; discover it, unearth it, appreciate it, and share it with others.
Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks