As we mentioned last week, the spiritual disease called “Tzaraas” shows itself as a physical blemish on the body and one’s clothing. The Torah reading this week describes how it might even afflict the walls of a house.
The process for diagnosis and removal of this disease from the house required the homeowners to first remove all their possessions from inside. This was done because once a home was diagnosed as having Tzaraas, any property inside it would be deemed impure. In other words, all the movable property was removed beforehand as a precaution, to avoid the inconvenience of either purifying all the housewares, or disposing of them entirely. This courtesy to the homeowner also demonstrated that Tzaraas wasn’t a physical ailment—the impurity only arrived once the Kohein, the priest, declared the house to be impure.
We discussed previously that the primary cause of Tzaraas was negative speech – Lashon Hara. When we speak negatively of others, we hurt not only the individual we’re speaking about, but we also cause damage to ourselves, and to one who listens or reads our defamatory words. Tzaraas, the consequence of such expression, permeated our bodies, our clothing, and our homes, to demonstrate that negativity does the same. It was intended to send a message, and induce changes in our attitudes and conduct.
At this time of year, with Passover approaching, I feel that we experience a similar phenomenon. Among the observances of Passover is the removal of all Chometz food (leavened grain products) from the home, or selling it so that it is owned by a non-Jew during the holiday. Reminiscent of the removal of Tzaraas, removing Chometz involves scouring areas of our property and possessions where Chometz may have travelled, even beyond the kitchen. It’s sometimes a game of hide-and-seek to find the small Cheerios and cookies buried in the kids’ playroom! As the Talmud compares Chometz to the Yetzer Hara (man’s natural inclination to sin), I like to think of the search for Chometz as a spiritual audit of my home, searching through all my possessions to see if they enhance my relationship with G-d, or have led me astray. The financial auditing involved in preparing my income taxes, which, in the United States, also coincides with this season, brings to mind similar thoughts.
So this is the season to Spring clean our homes, and ourselves, of all matters collecting dust over the year. May this cleansing process prepare all of us for the refreshing new beginning that the upcoming holiday of Passover brings with it. Passover is the birthday of the Jewish nation. Make it the birthday of the new You!
On a related note: Don’t forget to sell your Chometz with Project Genesis, as executed by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Benyowitz.