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The Gemara (Pesachim 66a) brings a saying from Hillel the Elder: "If they (the Israelites) are not prophets, they are children of prophets." This means that even the unlearned ones of the Jews have customs which they inherited from their ancestors who were learned.

My neighbor is a fine Sefaradi man, from a prominent Moroccan family. Some of his relatives are Roshei Yeshiva and some are Kabbalists. He, himself, is a retired working man. One day he built a fence around his garden, at the entrance to his home. Then he painted it. I happened to come home just as he climbed up a ladder with a paintbrush in his hand. I wished him well and, just before he began painting, I heard him pronounce, "Leshem Shamayim - for the sake of Heaven." His declaration bothered me since this is something one usually says before he performs a mitzvah. Surely he was not decorating his home for Hashem's sake; merely for his own convenience. Whom was he trying to fool, I thought to myself, that he is building this fence for the service of Hashem?

Imagine my surprise when, years later, I learned the Chok LeYisrael on this week's parashah, and saw before my eyes a kabbalistic piece from the Holy Zohar.

Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying. "When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzara'as affliction upon a house in the land of your possession….The Kohen shall command, and they shall remove the stones that contain the affliction, and they shall cast them outside the city onto a contaminated place. And the house shall be scraped on the inside, all around; the mortar that they have scraped they are to pour outside the city onto a contaminated place. They shall take other stones and bring them in place of the stones; and they shall take other mortar and plaster the house…. Then the Kohen shall come and look, and behold! -- the affliction had spread in the house - It is a malignant tzara'as in the house, it is contaminated. He shall demolish the house -- its stones, its timber, and all the mortar of the house; they shall take it to the outside of the city, to a contaminated place" (Vayikra 14:33-34, 40-42, 44-45).

Rashi brings the words of the Sages: "Because the Amorites concealed treasures of gold in the walls of their houses, during the whole forty years the Israelites were in the wilderness, in order that they might not possess them when they conquered the Land of Canaan, and in consequence of the plague they would pull down the house and discover them."

However, the Zohar is not pleased with this explanation. If the only reason Hashem plagued the house, the Zohar argues, was so that the Jews would find the hidden treasures, then they should have been able to return the same stones to their place after they had removed what was concealed there. Why then, does the Torah command that those stones be taken to a contaminated place and other stones be brought in place of them?

There must be some other, hidden reason behind this procedure. The Zohar reveals the secret, Kabalistic meaning behind this mitzvah.

When someone who serves idolatry does something, and mentions the name of his god together with his actions, an unholy spirit dwells on that which he does. The Cana'anites built their homes in honor of their gods. Therefore, they all were imbued with tum'ah (spiritual uncleanliness). The Torah wanted the Jews to live in homes which were permeated with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Hashem caused the houses which were built by the Gentiles to become contaminated and commanded the Jews to destroy them and rebuild them; this time in honor of Hashem. In this way the Holy Spirit would rest on the Jewish homes and they, and their inhabitants, would be blessed spiritually and materialistically.

For this reason, concludes the Holy Zohar, one who builds an edifice should declare, at the very beginning, that he is building it for the service of Hashem, and then Hashem's help will dwell upon it; the Holy One, Blessed be He, will cause His holiness to be upon it and call to him in peace as it says (Iyov 5:24), "And you shall know that your tent is at peace."

Lest anyone think that these concepts are a bit medieval, I would like to relate a story which happened to a friend of my sister-in-law. She noticed that her baby boy was having trouble moving one arm. She took him to doctors, who could not find any reason for the problem. Finally, she went to a Rabbi who began to ask her all kinds of questions concerning how the child was taken care of and by whom. From the conversation he learned that she had a Polish maid who, besides cleaning the house, also helped with the children. This maid wore a crucifix, and, when she carried the baby, he would reach out and play with it. That was the arm he had trouble moving! The Rabbi told her to fire the maid immediately and not to allow any signs of idolatry in her home ever again. She did so, and the child recovered full control of his arm.

May we merit Hashem's Holy Spirit in all that we do. Then we will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-Come,

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel