top of page

D’var Torah Metzora

D’var Torah Metzora

D’var Torah Metzora

When you enter the land of Canaan which I am giving you as a possession, and I place a tzara’at lesion upon a house in the Land of your possession. (Leviticus 14:34)

Houses within the Land of your possession can become ritually impure as the result of tzara’at, but not houses outside the Land. (Mishna, Negaim 12:4)

The laws of tzara’at of houses apply exclusively within the Land of Israel west of the River Jordan, which is the “unique Land.” [Midrash Safra, Metzora 5:5]

Clearly, tzara’at of houses is a super-natural phenomenon, as Naḥmanides [commentary on Leviticus 13:47] teaches:

Tzara’t of clothing is not at all a natural occurrence, and so too, tzara’at of houses. Rather, when Israel is complete with God, the Divine spirit rests upon them to keep their bodies clothing and houses in good order. However, an Israelite’s sin casts ugliness in his flesh or his clothes or his house, demonstrating that God has turned away from him. Therefore, the verse states “And I place a tzara’at lesion upon a house in the Land of your possession,” for it is God’s plague upon that house. Behold, this applies only within the Land which is God’s possession, as the verse states “When you enter the land of Canaan which I am giving you as a possession.” This is not because it is an obligation of the land, but that such things should not happen in the Chosen Land wherein God dwells.

The Torah’s determination that tzara’at of houses is restricted to the Holy Land is not connected to the mitzvot which apply to the Land; rather it reflects the fact that the Chosen Land is the Land of the Shechina.

Ḥizkuni writes in a similar manner:

Due to the unique level of the Land of Israel, in which the Temple was destined to be built, the Land must necessarily be clean and pure.

The laws of tzara’at of houses are a gesture to the sanctity of the Temple, the place where the Shechina dwells.

Our Sages [Babylonian Talmud, Arachin 16a] taught that seven things bring tzara’at, among them lashon hara (speaking ill of others), shedding blood, illicit sexual relations, arrogance (gassut ruaḥ) and tzarut ayin (translated as “envy,” literally “being of narrow eye.” Below we will present the Talmud’s definition). We may suggest that each of these has a special connection to the Land of Israel.

Lashon hara spoken of the Land by ten of Moses’ spies and its acceptance by the nation delayed Israel’s entry into its Land for a generation and necessitated the deaths of the adults of the generation of the exodus. Thus, it is likely that restricting the laws of tzara’at of houses to the Land of Israel serves as a reminder of the evil results of speaking lashon hara.

Bloodshed is, of course, one of the gravest sins, wherever it occurs, yet the Torah teaches that shedding blood within the Land is more severe. In preparing the nation of Israel to enter its Land, Moses was commanded to tell the nation:

Do not pollute the Land in which you live; it is blood that pollutes the Land. When blood is shed in the Land it cannot be atoned except through the blood of the person who shed it. You must not defile the Land in which you live, in which I dwell, since I, God, dwell among the Israelites. (Numbers 35:33-34)

Naḥmanides’ comment on these verses is similar to that quoted above:

Though these laws apply outside the Land as well, the Torah is stricter with those who dwell in the Land out of respect for the Shechina, and warns that we not defile the Land or make her impure.

As such, tzara’at of houses also conveys a reminder of the extra severity of shedding blood within the Holy Land.

Concerning illicit sexual relations, in summarizing the section of Parashat Aḥarei Mot which presents the relevant laws, the Torah states:

Do not defile yourselves by any of these acts, for the nations that I am driving away before you defiled themselves by all these things. The Land became defiled, so I punished it for its sin, and the Land vomited out its inhabitants. But (you shall not cause) the Land to vomit you out when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was there before you. (Leviticus 18:24-25,28)

Similar to bloodshed, there is an additional severity attached to illicit sexual relations within the Land, and again, the restriction of the laws of tzara’at of houses to the Land hints at this severity.

Rashi [Babylonian Talmud, Sukka 29b] defines “gassut ruaḥ” as “one who is arrogant about his wealth and lords it over his brethren,” that is, one who believes that his wealth is exclusively the result of his own abilities and actions. Such a person does not admit that whatever he has is a gift of God, and he therefore, as it were, “pushes away the Shechina.” (Ba’al haTurim’s phrase [Exodus 16:20], based upon a Talmudic comment [Sota 5a].)

As a punishment for arrogance, tzara’at of houses reminds one that the Land is ours solely as a gift of its true Owner and that inheriting the Land and therefore, having a house within her, comes from God.

The Talmud [Arachin, op. cit.] defines “tzarut ayin” as “He who reserves his house for himself.” Rashi explains that this means one who refuses to lend his household goods to another. Rashi’s teachers’ teacher, Rabbeinu Gershom, similarly comments “This is one who wants to be the sole beneficiary of all that is within his house, wanting no one else to benefit from them.” Based upon these explanations, tzarut ayin is clearly an application of gassut ruaḥ. Yet, beyond this, by being stingy with his possessions, the tzar ayin precludes connecting with his fellow-Israelites. As such the tzar ayin effectively denies the common brotherhood of all Israel, and in so doing, he also denies the power of the Land of Israel to unite the people as a single nation. Zohar [Leviticus, Parashat Emor 93b] elucidates the verse “And who is like Your nation Israel, one nation in the Land” [I Chronicles 17:21] to mean that Israel can be considered a united nation only within the Land, and the tzar ayin acts in a manner diametrically opposed to the power of the Land. Thus tzarut ayin brings tzara’at. (David Magence)

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Semeach

The Va’ad

bottom of page