“When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzora’as affliction upon a house in the land of your possession” (Vayikra 14:34).
The Zohar asks: Is finding that one’s house is afflicted by the plague of leprosy intended to be something good? He cites the Sages’ explanation that it was indeed fortuitous, because when this house would be destroyed, as the Torah commands, treasures that the Canaanites had hidden within its walls would be discovered.
However, there is a much deeper insight here. Hashem loves the Jewish nation, and especially those who cleave to Him. He therefore brought the Jewish people to Eretz Yisrael so that they could bask in the glory of the Divine Presence, which is only possible in Eretz Yisrael.
The Torah tells us (Shemos 35:26), “The women whose hearts inspired them with wisdom spun the goat hair.” As the women worked on the coverings, they appropriated them accordingly, sanctifying their handiwork with a special holiness so that the Divine Presence would dwell on them.
Conversely, when items are consecrated for idol worship, the spirit of impurity immediately settles on them. When the Canaanites, who were idol worshippers, built their homes they immediately allocated their homes for tumah (impurity). Their fields and trees were likewise dedicated for their idol worship, causing the spirit of tumah to dwell on them. When the Jewish people entered Eretz Yisrael, Hashem wanted to purify the houses and sanctify the earth, so that the Divine Presence could dwell there. Therefore, He afflicted the houses with leprosy so that the structure would have to be destroyed. It would then be reconstructed with the proper intent and purpose. It is for this reason that the verse tells us (14:42), “They shall take other stones and bring them in place of the stones; and they shall take other mortar and plaster the house.” It was necessary to completely remove the spirit of impurity and build a new abode of holiness where the Divine Presence could dwell.
A number of other teachings are derived from this:
When one builds a house he should verbalize that he is building it for the service of Hashem. He will then merit the Divine Presence as it says (Iyov 5:24), “You will know that your tent is at peace, and you will visit your home and find nothing amiss.” No spirit of unholiness will dwell there and he will not come to sin.
When one buys or builds a new house, he should make a chanukas habayis. It’s an important act of thanking Hashem for having a place to live. It is also a time of dedication when one energizes the holiness of the dwelling. Prayers and Tehillim are recited and there is Torah learning at this time.
It is cited in the writings of the Ari HaKadosh and the Magen Avraham that when one prepares the Shabbos food on Erev Shabbos, and before one partakes of the food on Shabbos, he should intone that it is “l’kavod Shabbos” (in honor of the Shabbos). Additionally, when baking the challah for Shabbos there is a special tefillah that is recited.
The Machatzis HaShekel notes that the mere speech of the Jewish people has the potential to bring the Divine Presence.
Saved By the Right Angle
R’ Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam was deported to Auschwitz and soon found himself standing in line under the scrutiny of the SS officers and Dr. Mengele. The men were culling the new arrivals for skilled laborers, i.e. plumbers, carpenters, ironworkers, construction workers. If someone claimed to be trained in one of these areas, they were questioned closely to ascertain whether they were telling the truth or not. The prisoners understood that their lack of skills could sign their death sentence.
R’ Yechezkel Shraga immediately decided that he would say he had experience in the area of construction. One of the prisoners nearby was, in fact, a construction worker and he gladly offered to teach R’ Yechezkel Shraga whatever he could. He gave him a quick overview and then instructed him specifically on how to form a 90-degree angle.
Moments later, the SS officer approached R’ Yechezkel Shraga and asked him about his skills. R’ Yechezkel said he was a construction worker. Out of all the questions the officer could possibly have chosen, he asked R’ Yechezkel Shraga how one creates a right angle. R’ Yechezkel Shraga was able to explain it very clearly.
“Finally I have found one honest Jew,” the officer exclaimed.
R’ Yechezkel Shraga made a vow then and there that if he survived the war and would be freed, he would commit himself to be involved in the construction of a mikvah, integrating the knowledge that he gained.
We say in the Melave Malka zemiros, “Hashem help me finish the building.” R’ Yechezkel Shraga miraculously survived the war, went to Eretz Yisrael, and built a mikvah in Ramleh, fulfilling his vow to utilize what he learned for the service of Hashem.
I take this opportunity before Pesach to remind our readers and friends of the Jewish Press of the exacerbated hardships and severe financial setbacks of so many in our community who have been adversely affected in the last two years.
I humbly beseech of all our loyal readers of the Jewish Press and friends of Klal Yisrael to feel the pain of our brethren and to take a part in this great mitzvah. Let us give chizuk to families, individuals, and children in need. In the zechus of your contribution, may you merit blessing and success, a year of good health, nachas, happiness and prosperity.
Please send your contribution to Khal Bnei Yitzchok Yom Tov Fund, c/o Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, 1336 E. 21 Street, Brooklyn, NY 11210. If you would like any special tefillos to be offered for a shidduch, shalom bayis, parnassah, or a refuah, please include the person’s name and the mother’s name.