If great wealth is such a blessing, why is it frequently accompanied by so many challenges?

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion (in Israel!) is the double reading of “Tazria-Metzora” (Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33). A major component of this reading deals with the mystical leprosy-like disease, known as “tzaraat.” Tzaraat would come upon a person for committing one of several sins. One of those sins was gossip, slander, and all other forms of evil speech, known in Judaism as “Lashon Hara.” Nowadays, however, this punishment, along with all other Biblical “open punishments” have ceased and are not seen.

Not only would a gossiper’s body be afflicted with this tzaraat disease, but also his or her clothing would develop marks, boils and blotches. What’s more, is even the person’s house could be affected with such blotches appearing on the walls of the person’s home. This can be seen from the verse which says, “When you enter into in the land of Canaan that I give you for a possession…I will place the tzaraat affliction upon your homes in your land.”

The tzaraat upon homes was not so common. Much more common was the appearance of tzaraat on the sinner’s body. But as we see, it did occasionally appear on the walls of a person’s home.

The rabbis tell us, that although tzaraat on one’s home was certainly a punishment, and one who received it was certainly a sinner, it was, however, a blessing in disguise. This is because when the Canaanites heard that the Jews were about to enter their land and take over (and they believed it would happen after all the other miracles that God performed for them!) they hid their money…in the walls of their homes! The Jews took over these homes and lived in them.

Now, when a person saw tzaraat appear on his walls, he was required to destroy the wall, and by extension, the house. And when the person did so…he found the money, and there was lots of it. Enough to rebuild the house and more!

The question is asked: If God wanted to bless someone with lots of money, why did it have to be done in this way? Why make the guy lose his house in order to get rich? Why make the guy go through the tzaraat procedure (and accompanying embarrassment)? What’s going on here?

It is explained that God intentionally chose to send wealth to the person in this manner. This is because wealth can be both a blessing and a curse. There are plenty of stories out there about people who won the lotto, or otherwise became incredibly rich but later lost it all. We hear about such people ending up getting divorced, becoming unemployed, and even winding up on the street. Unfortunately, most people are negatively affected by extreme wealth. Wealth is a test.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: