Destructive Criticism

When you arrive in the land of Canaan that I give you as a possession, and I will place a tzaraat affliction upon a house in the land of your possession. (Vayikra 14:34)

In the 40 years that the Children of Israel wandered in the desert, their physical needs were fulfilled miraculously. The food was manna, which came in a daily delivery from Heaven, with a double portion on Erev Shabbat to provide for the day of rest, when no manna fell. The clothing they wore never wore out and miraculously adjusted in size to fit perfectly as their bodies grew and matured. Shoes never needed resoling. It was a utopia in which man was free to study Torah without the concerns and pressures of earning a livelihood.

The only possession everyone lacked was a house in which to dwell. When Hashem promised that they would have a house upon arriving in the Holy Land, but that this house would become afflicted with tzaraat which, in turn meant it might have to be destroyed, the people should have cried out immediately in objection, saying, “We finally get a house only to have it demolished? Is that fair?”

There once was a poor man who was homeless and who wandered from here to there in search of his daily bread. After decades of homelessness, some kind-hearted people put together a fund with which they purchased a home for the poverty-stricken man. Their plan was to provide a stable environment wherein the man could properly raise his family.

When he moved in, the man was overwhelmed with feelings of gratitude and hope for a brighter future. His elation, however, was short-lived. The walls of his house started cracking and falling down. He tried quick emergency repairs, but to no avail. The situation worsened rapidly and he was forced to abandon his humble abode and search for another home.

Rashi (Vayikra 13:34) comments on the seemingly harsh promise and reveals to us that in fact it should be taken as good news. “This is a good tiding to them that afflictions are to come upon them, because the Amorites hid treasures of gold in the walls of their houses all 40 years that Israel were in the desert, and as a result of the affliction, he breaks down the house and finds them.” What seems to be a disaster is actually a blessing!

When Yosef was sold to bondage in Egypt and the bloody shirt was shown to Yaakov, he began to mourn. The Midrash reveals Hashem’s reaction, stating, “You are required to go down to Egypt. I am preparing to bring you down with honor and fanfare and you are mourning?” Again, what seemed to be a negative was Hashem working for Yaakov’s benefit.

The Midrash is teaching a principle for all times and all situations. There are situations where a person may see a big problem upsetting one’s life, and depression and concern overtake the individual’s mood. One must realize that whatever the circumstances, one’s world is not coming to an end. In fact, the opposite is probably true. Hashem is manipulating one’s life for the best. Only good will result, no matter how it looks or feels at the moment.

Shabbat shalom.