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Parashat Tazria-Mesora: Revealing Our Hidden Treasures

Parashiyot Tazria and Mesora describe several different kinds of manifestations of Sara’at – discolorations on a person’s skin, garment or home, which, under certain conditions, brings a state of impurity. Our Sages have explained that Sara’at would strike a person as a punishment for repeated violations of the sin of Lashon Ha’ra – negative speech and slander about other people.

One of the manifestations of Sara’at, as mentioned, is discolorations on a person’s home. If the discoloration is confirmed as Sara’at, then the entire house must be dismantled.

Rashi (14:34) famously cites from the Midrash that this manifestation of Sara’at was, in truth, a blessing for the people: "The Emorites hid golden treasures in the walls of their homes throughout the entire forty years when Yisrael were in the wilderness, and as a result of the affliction [on the walls], one dismantles the house and finds them." A Sara’at plague on the walls of one’s home would end up as a "blessing in disguise," as by dismantling the home, one would discover the treasures which had been hidden in the walls by the nations which inhabited the Land of Israel before it was conquered by Beneh Yisrael.

The question arises as to why Rashi mentions here specifically the "Emoriyim" (Emorites). Seven different nations inhabited the Land of Israel before being vanquished by Beneh Yisrael. Why are only the Emorites spoken of as concealing their treasures in the walls of their homes?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rav Menachem Mendel Schneerson, 1902-1994) explained that the word "Emoriyim" in Rashi’s commentary contains a deeper message. This word is associated with the verb "E.M.R." – "speech," and thus alludes to the cause of Sara’at – forbidden speech. Rashi here is alluding to the fact that Sara’at would strike specifically the homes of the "Emoriyim" – those who speak inappropriately about other people.

But if so, then we must ask why the person would then be worthy of receiving a precious gold treasure. If he is guilty of the grievous sin of Lashon Ha’ra, then why does he receive a large fortune?

The Rebbe explained that the "gold treasure" mentioned by Rashi alludes to "golden speech" – appropriate and valuable speech. After enduring the punishment of Sara’at, and taking the lesson to heart, the individual is then able to turn his speech around, to transform it from harmful and destructive gossip and slander, to precious "pearls of wisdom," to words of Torah, words of praise and encouragement to other people. The purpose of Sara’at is not to lead a person to be silent, to stop speaking, but rather to reveal his hidden treasures, to help him find the power of constructive speech, to uncover the greatness within him. Speech can inflict great harm, but can also bring great blessing. Once we recognize the evil of inappropriate speech, we can then unearth the hidden treasure of positive, productive speech.

More generally, Rashi’s comments teach us that sometimes, when our lives are "dismantled," disrupted and shaken, we are given the opportunity to discover "hidden treasures." We have many strengths and gifts which might be obscured by the pressures and bustle of day-to-day life. These "treasures" are concealed deep within us, but we cannot see them, because we are distracted by the many different things which occupy our time and our minds. But when our lives are "dismantled," these precious gifts are unearthed. We hope and pray that the current crisis, which has shaken our lives to their core, ends very soon, and that we will emerge from this difficult time with precious "treasures," newfound reservoirs of faith, strength, and love for our fellowman and for Hashem, Amen.

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