Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The Torah Vayikra 14:34 introduces the topic of tzara'ath on houses as if it were a good tiding - from this, the Midrash learns that the good tiding is finding hidden treasure when having to demolish his house because of the tzara'ath.

כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל אֶרֶץ כְּנַעַן אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי נֹתֵן לָכֶם לַאֲחֻזָּה וְנָתַתִּי נֶגַע צָרַעַת בְּבֵית אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶם:

When you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as a possession, and I place a lesion of tzara'ath upon a house in the land of your possession,

Rashi: (Bold mine)

ונתתי נגע צרעת: בשורה היא להם שהנגעים באים עליהם, לפי שהטמינו אמוריים מטמוניות של זהב בקירות בתיהם כל ארבעים שנה שהיו ישראל במדבר, ועל ידי הנגע נותץ הבית ומוצאן:

and I place a lesion of tzara’ath: Heb. וְנָתַתִּי, lit. and I will give. This is [good] news for them that lesions of tzara’ath will come upon them, (Torath Kohanim 14:75), because the Amorites had hidden away treasures of gold inside the walls of their houses during the entire forty years that the Israelites were in the desert, and through the lesion, he will demolish the house (see verses 43-45) and find them

Now tzara’ath is inflicted upon a person for the sin of speaking Lashon Hara (as related in various biblical episodes such as Moshe at the burning bush and Miriam about Moshe etc)

According to the Rambam (Tum'at Tsara`at - 16:10 ), this also applies to tzara’ath on houses:

... When a person speaks lashon hora, the walls of his house change color. If he repents, the house will be purified. If, however, he persists in his wickedness until the house is destroyed, the leather implements in his house upon which he sits and lies change color. If he repents, they will be purified. If persists in his wickedness until they are burnt, the clothes he wears change color. If he repents, they will be purified. If he persists in his wickedness until they are burnt, his skin undergoes changes and he develops tzara'at. This causes him to be isolated and for it to be made known that he must remain alone so that he will not be involved in the talk of the wicked which is folly and lashon hora. ...

But it seems strange to me that a person who sins should be rewarded with Amorite treasure?

share|improve this question
    
It's possible that this tzaraat comes for no reason other than to let them find the treasure. –  Scimonster Apr 8 at 10:43
    
@Scimonster - that's not what the Rambam says –  Danield Apr 8 at 12:32
    
Does he explicitly deny that viewpoint? –  Scimonster Apr 8 at 13:04
    
Maybe tzoraas was a blessing -- then we got direct warning from Hashem to stop saying loshon hara. Now we say it without thinking twice and will face the consequences for all of our deeds sometime later. –  Bruce James Apr 8 at 15:32
    
Lashon Hara is not the only reason you can get Tzaraat (a common misconception). –  Double AA Apr 8 at 15:42

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

When we learned the parsha our rav explained that there are different reasons for a house getting tzora'as. The reason of lashon hara is as specified by the Rambam shown in the question is only one of the possibilities. Another possibility is that it comes to punish stinginess

See link

In identifying the reason that Tzoraas came upon a person’s house, the Talmud Yoma 11b centers on the words, “The person to whom the house belongs,” and explains that Tzoraas of the house comes upon a person who is stingy. Instead of being kindhearted and helpful, this man lived with the motto that his house belonged to him alone. Over the years, when neighbors asked to borrow things, he would answer, “I don’t have that.” Now with his contents strewn on his front lawn it became clear to all that he did have the items in question.

Unfortunately, when I try to follow the link to the quote, above, I do not get to the correct page. I will add another quote One-of-a-Kind Punishment

by Jesse Dunietz

At the tail end of the numerous laws of Tzaraat specified by Parshiot Tazria and Metzora, the Torah discusses the topic of Tzaraat on a house. The Torah introduces this topic by saying, “Ki Tavo’u El Eretz Kena’an…Venatati Nega Tzaraat Beveit Eretz Achuzatchem,” “When you come to the Land of Canaan…I will put an affliction of Tzaraat in the house of the Land of your inheritance” (14:34). Rashi on this Pasuk quotes the famous Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 14:7) that when the owner of a Tzaraat-stricken house would tear down his home, as per the Torah’s instructions, he would find golden treasures. These riches had been left by the previous Emori inhabitants of the houses, who, fearing Bnei Yisrael’s impending invasion, had hidden their valuables in the walls when Bnei Yisrael were wandering in the Midbar. Famous though it may be, this is quite a puzzling comment; after all, Chazal in a number of places clearly associate Tzaraat with major sins, particularly Lashon Hara. What could possibly lead Rashi (and the Midrash he quotes) to believe that Tzaraat on a house signifies something positive? Many commentators (Mizrachi, Siftei Chachamim, Yefei Einayim, Re’eim, and others) point to the difference between the Torah’s language in this Pasuk and that which it uses to introduce the other types of Tzaraat afflictions. In our Pasuk, Hashem specifically says “Venatati,” “and I will give,” a word with an active and positive connotation. In contrast, all the other Pesukim that describe the presence of Tzaraat, such as 13:2, 13:42, and 13:47, simply use “Yihyeh” or “Tihyeh,” “it shall be.” The Pasuk about houses is thus the only one with the positive undertones. Some commentators, based on the continuation of the Midrash, also bring support from the parallelism between our Pasuk and a promise Hashem later makes in Devarim (6:10). There we are told, “When He will bring you to the Land which He swore…to give you, and houses full of all good things….” Both of these Pesukim start by mentioning entrance into the Land, continue with a reference to Hashem’s commitment to give it to us, and conclude by discussing the houses of the Land. The fact that “houses full of all good things” in Devarim corresponds to our Pasuk’s reference to Tzaraat implies that the Tzaraat affliction on houses is actually a fulfillment of the promise in Devarim. This explanation provides a compelling textual basis for the assertion of Rashi and the Midrash that house-Tzaraat is, at least to some extent, a positive experience. However, this still leaves us with a philosophical conundrum: how could the phenomenon that carries so many negative associations, and which the Torah constantly calls a “Nega,” an affliction, have such a positive aspect to it? Furthermore, the Gemara states explicitly in several places (Yoma 11 and Arachin 16) that Tzaraat afflicts houses because of the owner’s stinginess, particularly because of denying that one has the means to aid others. This, according to the Gemara, is why the owner of the house must clear his possessions out of his house – he is being forced to publicly display the true extent of his means, contradicting his stingy claims. According to these Gemaras, Tzaraat on a house, like the other forms of Tzaraat, is clearly a punishment for inappropriate behavior. How can we reconcile this with the positive light in which Rashi seems to view this phenomenon? Rav Y. Eiger suggests that this is a form of punishment through Chesed. He brings the analogy of a king who has been insulted by a lowly peasant. Such a king may decide, rather than punishing the peasant harshly, to elevate him to a high position and give him gifts. Upon comprehending the kindness and greatness of the man whom he so disrespected and degraded, the peasant will become ashamed of the foolishness of his actions. Similarly, Hashem acts kindly and positively towards the homeowner afflicted with Tzaraat as part of his correction process – He causes the sinner to understand what and Whom he spurned by sinning, thus paving the way for shame, regret, and repentance. The Tzaraat is a punishment of sorts, but punishment through Chesed. Rav Eiger’s explanation, though quite clever, still leaves one gaping hole. Why is it specifically the man who has Tzaraat, and particularly Tzaraat on his house, who is given such treatment? We do not say, for example, that one who violates Shabbat should be rewarded for such behavior so that he will feel shame and repent! I would like to suggest (with thanks to my father for his help with this idea) that this model of reward combined with punishment is aptly suited to the particular sin that causes Tzaraat on a house. As we mentioned before, the Gemara states that such Tzaraat is a result of stinginess and unwillingness to share one’s possessions. To counteract this attitude, Hashem drives home to the offender the message of wholehearted generosity. In the midst of forcing this man to clear out and tear down his house, Hashem still showers him with gifts; even while expressing His strong disapproval of the man’s actions, Hashem’s generosity does not cease. To receive such a gift in the middle of what he knows to be a punishment forces the owner of the house to contemplate the concept of generosity. If Hashem is willing to grant such gifts to a lowly sinner such as himself, how much more willing should he be to lend and give to his worthy neighbors! Thus, because of the context in which he is given these “golden treasures” hidden in his walls, it is particularly the sufferer of house-Tzaraat who will be compelled to feel shame about what he did, and hopefully to reshape his mode of generosity and giving to fit the example that Hashem’s gift to him provides. Finally, Rabbi Chaim Jachter has suggested that we might understand Rashi’s approach to house-Tzaraat in light of a general phenomenon in Rashi’s commentary to the Chumash. It appears that Rashi hardly ever misses an opportunity to heap praise on the Jewish people. Even passages in the Chumash that would on the surface appear to be critical of Am Yisrael are often interpreted in a manner that reflects Hashem’s love for His nation. Perhaps Rashi’s positive spin on house-Tzaraat is one of the many expressions of the manner in which Rashi lifts the spirit and pride of Am Yisrael to empower us to resist the humiliations that many of our critics both past and present relentlessly heap upon us.

Thus the reason of finding the treasure is a third reason in order to both give a person a warning and to reward him because he does learn the lesson:

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein explains that although the plague came to benefit the house owner with treasure, that objective was possible to achieve without going through the ordeal of destroying their house. The tzoraas experience was demanding and unpleasant, to alert the recipient of his wrongdoing and need for change. The plague worked to achieve both punishment and reward.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller further elaborates that the Creator of the World, in His infinite wisdom, has a master plan that our finite human minds cannot fathom. This plan will materialize, and cannot be stopped or frustrated by our decisions and actions. Certain events are destined to occur regardless of our actions, but the sequence or details of the events may be manipulated to teach us a Divine lesson.

share|improve this answer
    
Where is your first block quotation quoting from? I don't see it anywhere. –  msh210 Apr 8 at 14:52
    
@msh210 The link is the word stinginess just before the block quote –  sabbahillel Apr 8 at 16:02
    
@msh210 When I follow the link from my post, I get the home page of the site. As a result, I added an additional quote. I hope that helps. –  sabbahillel Apr 8 at 16:17

Rabbi Menashe Klein writes in his מגיד משנה, that the houses of both the righteous and the sinners (whether tattlers or misers) can be afflicted with צרעת. Whether treasure will be found depends on whether or not the owner is righteous. Onlookers would have no way of knowing whether the צרעת has come to punish or to reward. That way, the sinner would be saved from embarrassment.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.