Metzora means “person with skin disease,” and this portion details various laws of ritual impurity and purity.
“Metzora” is commonly mistranslated as “leper,” but rather refers to one who is inflicted by a spiritual ailment called tzara’at which deems them ritually impure. This disease not only affected one’s skin, but could also affect the walls of one’s home.
Tzara’at on a home would appear as a red or green pigment on the walls. A priest was required to assess the spread of the discolored patches to determine whether the home was pure, or if the contaminated area would need to be removed; in extreme cases, the home would have to be completely demolished. Having a home afflicted with tzara’at entailed a lengthy, expensive, and undoubtedly stressful situation for the homeowner.
Sometimes, tzara’at would afflict a home as punishment to the homeowner. Interestingly enough, however, the homes of innocent people were sometimes afflicted as well. The Midrash in Vayikra Rabbah says that tzara’at on the walls of the home actually came as a reward. What reward is there in an innocent person having to tear down his home?
The Canaanites, who previously occupied the Land, had stashed valuable possessions and wealth inside of the walls of the homes they built. After they fled, and the Israelites came to occupy the Land, many of them lived in those homes. When tzara’at appeared on the walls, the Israelites living there would discover the hidden treasure when they removed the contaminated walls. Had it not been for what seemed like undue punishment from the Almighty, the Israelites would not have uncovered the concealed treasure.