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There's a Treasure in Your Wall!

Friday, 8 April, 2011 - 12:38 pm

In the early 1900’s, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a local Rabbi once ran into the Episcopalian Minister who was not very fond of his immigrant neighbors’ ghetto-like lifestyle. "What a coincidence!” remarked the minister: “It was just last night that I dreamt I was in Jewish Heaven."

"Jewish Heaven," mused the Rabbi. "What’s it like in Jewish Heaven?"

"Oh!" replied the minister snidely, "In Jewish Heaven children with dirty faces, un-tucked, un-pressed shirts play in the dirt. In Jewish heaven women haggle with vendors as panhandlers rudely interrupt.

In Jewish heaven laundry hangs from a maze of clotheslines; dripping water on to the muddy surface. And of course,” continued the minister with a wry grin, “There are plenty of Rabbis running to and fro, with large tomes under their arms!”

“How amazing!” retorted the Rabbi pursing his lips: “In my dream last night I found myself, of all places, in Episcopalian heaven.”

"Really?” muttered the minister. "I’ve always wondered what Episcopalian Heaven was like. Please tell me what you saw.”

“I must admit,” said the Rabbi with a wide smile, "It is nothing short of immaculate. The streets glitter as if they had just been washed, homes are lined-up in perfect symmetry, as their fresh paint sparkles in the sunlight, the lawns and gardens are manicured to perfection.”

"Not at all surprising,” said the pleased, almost giddy minister, nodding excessively. “But tell me about the people! I’m curious to know what the people are like.”

“The people,” frowned the Rabbi, as he looked the minister in the eye. “What people? There were no people to be seen!”

I think that the Lower East Side in the early 1900’s is a great metaphor for life – dirty and difficult but with much value and meaning buried within.

Who ever said life is easy? Judaism, unlike other religions, does not promise eternal bliss and tranquility. Life is a constant struggle, a struggle within and a struggle with our circumstances. We have ups and we have downs.

There is a beautiful message in the Torah regarding these challenges. In describing the case of tzara’at* that could come in one’s home, the verse makes it sound as though it should be expected.

The question is asked: tzara’at was an affliction that came as a result of one’s negative behavior, why does the Torah relate it in a manner that implies that it is inevitable? The commentaries explain that the nations living in Canaan at the time hid their treasure in the walls of their houses. The Torah is promising the Jewish people that Hashem will provide circumstances that will reveal the hiding places of these treasures.

So what looked like aggravation and misfortune – tzara’at could even lead to the demolition of one’s home – turned into blessing and wealth.

We do not experience tzara’at anymore but there is an important lesson here. Often we will experience challenges and difficulty in our lives. We can be tempted to get despondent and give up. But every challenge has a hidden shine. There is a benefit within.

May we recognize and appreciate the benefits and not have to suffer through protracted challenges!

*Tzara’at was a spiritual ailment that had a physical manifestation resulting in blemishes appearing on one’s home, clothes or body. For more information on tzara’at, click here.

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