This week’s combined parshios deal with the halachic aspects of a woman after childbirth and the offering she is to bring in the Temple and of the laws of “leprosy” in Hebrew “t’zora’as.” These are complex, technical matters, but the commentaries have seen in them the Torah’s hidden messages.
The following Rashi-comment show how Rashi’s sensitivity to an unusual word usage reveals a hidden treasure.
“When you come to the Land of Canaan which I give you as an inheritance, and I shall put ( Hebrew “v’nasati” “give”) the affliction of leprosy (Tzara’as) in a house in the land of you inheritance.”
And I shall put the affliction of leprosy: Rashi. This is a good tiding for them, that the afflictions will come upon them. Because the Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their homes during the whole forty years that Israel was in the desert; thus as a result of the affliction, he tears down his house and will find them.
The question on this comment should be obvious.
A Question: Why does Rashi turn a plague into a good tiding!? Leprosy is certainly no blessing; on what basis does he see this plague as a positive message?
Hint: Compare our verse with other verses above that tell of other plagues. Some examples: 13:2; 13:9; 13:29; 13:42; 13:47.
Can you see what’s bothering him?
What Is Bothering Rashi?
An Answer: A comparison of our verse with other similar verses shows the remarkable fact that only in our verse does the Torah use a word (in Hebrew “v’nasati”) which literally means “and I will give,” when referring to the onset of a plague. For example, we find the verse dealing with an affliction on the head of a person: “A man or a woman in whom “there will be” (in Hebrew “yeh’yeh”) an affliction” etc. (Leviticus 13:29). It does not say “I will give an affliction”. Our verse is the only one in this chapter that uses the word “give”. We should also note that the word ðåúï has a positive connotation. The word is similar to the Hebrew for gift – “matanah”.
Rashi is wondering why the Torah would choose such a word when it speaks of inflicting an affliction on the Israelite houses? How does his comment deal with the question?
An Answer: Rashi (on the basis of a midrash) supplies the missing link, between affliction and blessing. The Canaanites (Amorites) who lived in the land before the Israelites conquered it, preserved their treasures in the walls of their homes. They did so because they had heard of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and the miraculous splitting of the Reed Sea. They also must have heard of the Israelites’ intended destination, their own Land of Canaan. They were preparing for the eventual war of conquest by trying to preserve their valuables from the invading army. Hashem, wanting to give the Israelites a gift, taught them the laws of house-afflictions and the need to tear down the walls. The Israelite owner would cure a plague on his house by tearing down its walls and invariably discover the hidden treasures.
See how this drash fits in so well with a future promise of Hashem.
In Deut. 6:10 ff it says:
“It shall be when Hashem your G-d brings you to the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, to give you great and good cities that you did not build. Houses filled with every good thing that you did not fill...”
Notice the similarity between these words and the words in our verse.
When you come to the land of Canaan which I give you and I will give a plague of Tzora’as in the house of you inheritance.
We see the parallelism between our verse, which mentions the plague in the house and the verse in Devarim which mentions houses filled with every good thing.
The above words make it clear that the plague of leprosy in the walls of their newly acquired homes in Canaan would be a fulfillment of this promise. The similarity between G-d’s promise as recorded in Deuteronomy and the wording in our verses is too great to be mere coincidence. Again we see the subtle hints of the Torah’s exacting choice of words. The connections, as in this case, sometimes carry over across different books of the Chumash.
What’s Bothering Rashi?” is produced by the “Institute for the Study of Rashi.” The Institute is in the process of preparing the Devorim volume of “What’s Bothering Rashi?” This volume will feature Rashi and the Ba’alie Tosephos. Readers interested in sponsoring a sedra in this volume are encouraged to contact us for further details at email@example.com Thanking you in advance.