When was the last time your home was diagnosed with advanced leprosy? In Biblical times, not only were people afflicted with Tza’ra’at (usually translated as leprosy, but really a skin disorder that has no known modern counterpart), but also their garments and even their homes!
When a house exhibited signs of discoloration, it was declared Tamei (ritually unclean) by the Kohain and, in the most extreme case, the entire building had to be demolished.
According to Maimonides, these forms of “leprosy” were miraculous. They occurred only in the Biblical era. Furthermore, each of these abnormal changes of color and texture was intended to send a message to the person who developed these symptoms on his/her body, clothing or house. The message was to change ones behavior.
There is a difference, however, between “leprosy” of the body and garments and “leprosy” of the homes. When “leprosy” struck a Jewish home and it was demolished, it was not a punishment or tragedy for the homeowner. On the contrary, it was a cause for celebration.
According to the Midrash, when the Cana’anite tribes heard of Israel’s impending arrival, they hid their treasures in the cavities of their walls. When the Jewish homeowner would subsequently demolish his house he would discover the hidden treasure.
The Zohar, however, provides yet another insight as to why G-d would miraculously cause the discoloration of the home that brought about its destruction. The Can’a’anite tribes were idolators and a residual measure of impurity – generated by idol worship in these homes – remained. Thus, when a Jew discovered the discoloration of his home (“leprosy”) he knew that it was a Divine sign that his house retained the impurity of its former owners. He would then demolish the house and rebuild a home free of all spiritual “contaminants.”
It is remarkable that precisely those homes which retained the impurity and had to be demolished were the very homes which provided its owner with a treasure!
There are times when our behavior is good and routine. There are no major changes in our lives as we progress slowly up the ladder of spiritual perfection. There are no hidden skeletons and there are no major spiritual discoveries and surprises. In short, the person whose house, i.e., spiritual framework, is in order – the tzadik – does not have the potential to find the most sublime treasure.
Only the Ba’al Teshuvah, the one who served masters other than G-d, who then demolishes that idolatrous structure, will discover the hidden treasures. Only the Ba’al Teshuvah who takes radical steps to change, unleashes untapped divine energy from within the very walls that housed his former idolatrous existence.
This is what our sages had in mind when they declared: “The place where the Ba’al Teshuvah stands, even the completely righteous cannot stand.”
And this pre-eminent quality of the Ba’al Teshuvah is what the Messianic Age will provide even for the tzadik. In the words of our mystical sages: “Moshiach will lead even the righteous to Teshuvah.” Then, everyone will be able to uncover the most sublime treasures embedded within all parts of creation.