In Parashat Metzora, the Torah states, “Ki Tavo’u El Eretz Kenaan…VeNatati Nega Tzaraat BeVait Eretz Achuzatchem,” “When you come to the land of Canaan… and I shall place a Tzaraat-affliction in the house of the land of your inheritance” (VaYikra 14:34). Rashi, quoting Torat Kohanim, states that this Tzaraat was a positive phenomenon. Since the Emorim had left treasures in the walls of their houses so that the Jews would not find them, the Jews would discover hidden wealth when the Tzaarat would necessitate the destruction of the walls.
The Panim Yafot wonders why Hashem had to inform Bnei Yisrael about the hidden wealth they would receive when they would arrive in Eretz Yisrael. Halachically, a person’s property can acquire an object for him (Kinyan Chatzeir). Why did Bnei Yisrael have to be informed about the treasures if they would have legally acquired them anyway? What did the foreknowledge add?
He answers that Kinyan Chatzeir does not apply when the object is something someone usually won’t find on property. Such items require the owner to be aware of their existence in order to acquire them (see Tosafot Bava Metzia 26a s.v. DeShatich). Therefore, it was necessary for Hashem to inform Bnei Yisrael what they would find so that when they would destroy their houses the treasures found inside will automatically become theirs.
The Midrash, however, adopts another approach to Tzaraat. It states that Tzaraat occurred because of the people in Eretz Canaan who were involved in trade.
The Netziv explains that businesspeople by nature spend a great deal of time talking to others. If they aren’t careful about what they say, it is possible that they may say Lashon HaRa about one of their competitors. Since Eretz Canaan was made up mainly of traders (see Onkelos to Bereishit 38:2), the Tzaraat sent a message to Bnei Yisrael that they should be careful to avoid Lashon HaRa while discussing their trade.
If we can internalize the message of Tzaraat from this week’s Parasha and be more careful about speaking Lashon HaRa, we will all become better people and will merit to see Mashiach come.