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The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 3
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


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Nega'im - A Study in Contrasts

In the Torah portion of Metzora, G-d notifies the Jewish people that "when you come to the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as an inheritance, I will place negah tzora'as [the mark of the leprous-like curse] in houses in the land you inherit."[1]

According to Rashi's commentary[2] - based on the Midrash[3] - "This was a welcome tiding... for the Emorites hid treasures of gold within the walls of their houses... as a result of the negah, the houses were razed and the treasure was found."

The Zohar,[4] after bringing this very reason for nega'im in the houses, goes on to mention a seemingly contrary reason: Since the Canaanites were notorious idolaters, their houses were spiritually impure. The nega'im found there caused the Jews to raze these houses, thereby removing the impurity.

As is to be seen from the text of the Zohar, the nega'im in the houses was a result of both these reasons:[5]

  1. It appeared in order to shower abundant good upon the new owners;

  2. It appeared as a result of the great degree of spiritual impurity found within the dwellings.

Moreover, it is readily apparent that "in houses" does not refer to all the houses; indeed, the Chinuch[6] states that nega'im were found in only a minority of the dwellings.

But most - if not all - Canaanites were idolaters, and, as such, there was spiritual impurity in all their domiciles. This being so, why weren't all their houses afflicted?

The reason is that there are different levels of spiritual impurity. When the spiritual impurity was not so great, it dissipated when a Jew, with his inherent sanctity, entered the home, or at least when he placed a mezuzah upon the door. It was specifically in those houses in which a greater degree of spiritual impurity was found due to the wholly impure conduct of the inhabitants that the nega'im appeared. In order to remove this vast degree of impurity, the house had to be razed.

According to the above, however, we are faced with the strange fact that the "treasures of gold" were found specifically in those homes where the spiritual impurity was greatest. How are we to understand this?

A similar anomaly is found with regard to nega'im in general: The spiritual impurity of nega'im was so severe that the person afflicted had to dwell in total isolation to prevent him from contaminating others. On the other hand, the purpose of nega'im was to bring about a spiritual elevation within the person. Thus the Rambam states[7] that nega'im were not a natural phenomenon, but came about in order to bring Jews to repent for the sin of slanderous speech.

Since a penitent is on an even higher level than a tzaddik,[8] it follows that the purpose of the severe spiritual impurity of nega'im was to raise the individual affected to a supremely high level.

It was for this reason that the "treasures of gold" came to the Jews through nega'im, and, specifically, through the most impure of the Canaanite dwellings, for this was in keeping with the general nature of nega'im: a descent to the nethermost levels achieved a degree of elevation to the highest of levels.

This concept was demonstrated by the nega'im that afflicted the houses, wherein it was apparent for all to see that the purpose of the nega'im was spiritual ascent - even unto providing the Jew with physical treasure.

This is why the verse states that it was G-d who placed the nega'im in the homes, for their goodly intent was revealed to all, thus proving that they came from above.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXVII, pp. 107-110



  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 14:34.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.

  3. (Back to text) Vayikra Rabbah 17:6.

  4. (Back to text) Tazria 50a.

  5. (Back to text) See also commentary of Nitzutzei Oros on the Zohar.

  6. (Back to text) Mitzvah 177.

  7. (Back to text) Conclusion of Hilchos Tumas Tzora'as. See also Likkutei Torah, Tazria, Maamar titled Adam; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXII, p. 72.

  8. (Back to text) See Berachos 34b; Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 7:4.

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