Like an Affliction on the Wall By Chaim Metzger


Parashat Metzora deals mainly with the Halachot regarding Tzaraat, a spiritual affliction.  One of the most interesting things about Tzaraat is that not only can it afflict the body, but it can even appear on clothes or buildings.  Someone who sees an affliction on his house must come to a Kohen and ask the Kohen to come to his house to check if the house has Tzaraat.  The Torah quotes such a person’s words to the Kohen using very interesting language, “KeNega Nirah Li BaBayit,” “Something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house” (VaYikra 14:35).  Why would the owner of the house need to say that something “KeNega,” like an affliction, appeared on his house? Why can’t he simply say that he saw a “Nega,” an affliction?

Rashi answers that it is necessary for the Torah to use this language in order to teach us that even if the owner of the house was a Talmid Chacham, he should still not say it definitively.  Tosafot Yom Tov resolves the question by saying that it is preferable to avoid speaking of unfortunate events, but if the case arises where it is necessary, one should speak about them in a roundabout manner, lest speaking of it causes the matter to occur again.  If one were to assume that Tosafot Yom Tov are correct, then how can he explain the Rashi on the previous Pasuk which said that Tzaraat appearing on the walls of a house was a blessing because the owner of the house would discover treasures that the Emorim hid in the walls?  If the Tzaraat was a blessing, why would there be reluctance to discuss the matter directly?

Rav Moshe Feinstein proposes that this contradiction can be solved through an illustration from the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, charity.  Based on the Pasuk, “Kol Cheilev Yitzhar VeChol Cheilev Tirosh VeDagan,” “All the best of your oil and all the best of your wine and grain” (BeMidbar 18:12), Chazal derive that one must give Tzedakah from the best of one’s possessions.  Thus, it can be assumed that if someone does not value money, then by simply giving the normal amount he cannot accomplish this, and only through the donation of a large amount could he fulfill “Kol Cheilev.”  This concept explains the Gemara (Ketubot 66b-67a) which states that Nakdimon ben Gurion lost his fortune because he did not give Tzedakah to the best of his abilities.  Nakdimon gave only an amount which he deemed insignificant, such as the placing of woolen garments under his feet and having the poor collect the treaded-on clothes, demonstrating his disregard for what he would give to the poor. 

On the other hand, perhaps giving a small amount of money does accomplish “Kol Cheilev.”  Many people are unconcerned if they lose sums of money that they deem negligible, for they still have enough to maintain their state of living.  However, when it comes to acts of kindness or charity they are careful not to waste a single penny, because the needs of the less fortunate are so great that every cent counts.  If someone has this mindset, then when engaging in acts of kindness and donating amounts they would normally deem negligible, they can fulfill the mitzvah of Tzedakah to the fullest. 

If Hashem desires it, he can grant someone riches without causing the beneficiary to lose a cent.  In business, however, there are times when one must spend large amounts to earn a profit, knowing full well that no benefit will be received for years.  But the time one waits for the profits is not spent in worry, as he knows that he will reap the benefits in the future.  By taking this into consideration, people will realize the importance and potential benefits of every penny and be careful not to let any small amount of money go to waste.  Such an individual would consider the demolition of sections of his house or a wall of his house a pointless expenditure, as the money could have been used for much better purposes.  To such a person, the Torah’s compelling him to demolish his wall is a punishment, and therefore he does not wish to say “an affliction has appeared to me in the house” but would prefer “something like an affliction” to speak about it an a roundabout way, as it truly is an affliction for him, not a blessing as Rashi says.  It is important to realize the value of every cent and to view any wasting of money as a true affliction.

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