“Something like a plague seems to be in the house.”

When you enter the land of Canaan, which I give you as a possession, and I inflict the plague of leprosy on a house in the land you possess, the owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, “Something like a plague seems to be in the house.” (Leviticus14:34-35)

This Torah chapter begins with teaching the priest how to purify a person who has recovered from the disease called tzora’at, or leprosy. When the priest sees the disease is gone, the person must go through an 8-day period of purification in order to be made clean again.

Halfway through the chapter, we read that even a house could be stricken with the disease and needs to be made clean again! But the Talmud (writings of the rabbis to expound on laws and lessons from Torah) teaches, “There never was a house with plague. It never happened and it never will.” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 71B) So what’s going on here?

Hopefully, most of us live in homes that are filled with love. In a sense, one could say that a home is a reflection of the people who live in it and almost has a life of its own. When there is an atmosphere of shalom bayit (peace in the home) and when there are expressions of caring for one another, the spirit and moral climate in the house is nurturing and loving.

But every household experiences, from time to time, jealousy, rivalries, anger, and disappointment. In those times, we could say that the home has tzora-at, disease, and needs cleansing.

I don’t believe it is a coincidence that this chapter is read just a few days before the Passover holidays. We clean our homes in preparation for the holiday. Last week, I encouraged you to search for your personal chametz as a metaphor. This week, look for the chametz in the interpersonal relationships in your home (which extends to your work place, neighbors, friends); what relationships need cleansing, need repairing? Now set to work to do so.

May this season of spring cleaning bring you and those you love interpersonal purification and shalom bayit. May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.

Rabbi Debbie Israel