Friday, April 17, 2015

Parsha: Why is it Good to Get Nega’im? Three Approaches

Rav Turetsky

[We will be following the Torah reading schedule of Israel. We are reading Parshat Tazria and Parshat Metzorah this week]

Nega’im can exist on a person’s body, clothing, and home, and Chazal (Erchin 16a) understand that they come as a result of sin. For that reason, as well as the difficult process one who has Nega’im must endure, Nega’im are usually perceived as a type of punishment and, at minimum, a negative occurrence. Yet, Rashi (Vayikra 14:34) explains that there is a positive element to Nega’im when found on one’s home.[1] He cites a comment of Chazal that such Nega’im bring riches; previous inhabitants of Israel buried treasure in their homes, and they are only discovered when one is forced to knock down one’s home due to Nega’im in the structure of one’s home[2].

Are Nega’im on one’s home positive or negative? They appear to come as a result of sin, but Rashi understands they also have positive elements.[3]

1. Ramban (Vayikah 13:47) notes that these Nega’im reflect God’s unique relationship with the Jewish people. These Nega’im show that God had been very close to the Jewish people, but removed Himself as a result of this person’s sin. Rav Avraham Schorr (HaLekach ViHalibuv תשס"א pg. 175) explains that this is the positive element of Nega’im; it highlights and reflects the relationship we can have with Hashem.  While sin has caused Hashem to distance Himself from us, it also reminds us that we were once close and have the capacity to return again.

2. Rav Schorr (ibid) adds an additional point. There is something uniquely important about Nega’im found on one’s home. They clearly show that holiness exists not only within individuals but also within homes. Only that which is holy can become impure[4], so the existence of Nega’im in homes shows the extent to which one’s home can be filled with the Divine presence. In that sense, it is both punishment and reward. It is because of our sins, but it also reminds us of the level of potential for holiness found in our homes.

3. A third homiletic interpretation could be offered as follows.  One of the challenges in religious life is a lack of clarity in one’s own personal Avodah. It is not always clear which areas of religious life need improvement. In that sense, there is a blessing at times in knowing one has sinned. Not just because it reflects a relationship, as suggested above, but also because it allows one to have greater clarity in what area in one’s religious life requires increased investment. That kind of guidance is priceless. Ambitious Ovdei Hashem embrace that kind of clarity instead of running away from it.

Nega’im do come as a result of sin. At the same time, they also remind us of the wonderful relationship with Hashem we are capable of having. They remind us that our homes can be infused with holiness and they offer us guidance in our own Divine worship.

Shabbat Shalom!

[1] See Malbim (ad loc) for textual support for this view.
[2] See, for example, Vayikra 14:45.
Imrei Shefer, cited by Otzar Mefarshei HaPshat (14:34), explains that this wealth is more punishment than reward, but most appear to assume these riches are a blessing.
[3] loc.
[4] See Rav Zevin’s LiOhr Ha’Halacha about this.

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