Weekly Torah Portion: A Pox on your House!
The following is a taste of our Israel Bible Reading Plan. Follow the weekly portion with summaries, insights and lively conversation. To register, click here.
While tzaraat can affect people and garments even in the desert, the Torah tells us when the people arrive in the Promised Land, houses could be afflicted, too. The homeowner who suspects his house is affected must call the priest to examine the dwelling. The priest instructs the owner to remove everything from the house before examining it for tzaraat. Anything left inside a house which is declared contaminated becomes contaminated, as well. A problematic mark appears as a red or green depression in the wall. The priest then quarantines the home for a week, and returns to check if the affliction has spread. If it has, the affected stones must be removed from the house and placed outside the city. The house is then scraped down and replastered. If the affliction reappears, the entire house must be destroyed.
The purification process for the house, if it is not necessary to destroy it, is similar to that of the person: a bird is slaughtered, then a second bird, along with a scarlet thread and sprig of hyssop, is dipped in the blood of the slaughtered bird and fresh water. The blood and water are sprinkled on the house and the living bird is set free.
As the Israel Bible points out, the fact that tzaraat affects homes only while the Jewish people live in the Holy Land shows that the stakes are so much higher in Israel. One’s actions there have greater significance and spiritual impact than anywhere else in the world. Tzaraat of the house only existed from the time the people entered the Promised Land with Joshua until the destruction of the Temple.