This week’s Parsha, Tazria-Metzora, describes the affliction of Tzaraat that serves as punishment for one who speaks Lashon Hara. The Torah indicates that Tzaraat is purely an external disease that does not in any way damage the inside of one’s body. Similarly, the form of Tzaraat that is found on one’s house is always on the outside walls, but does not infect the inside of the house.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin (44a) says, “A Jew who sins is still a Jew.” Just because someone may not be Frum, and therefore doesn’t keep the Mitzvot, does not mean he loses his Jewish status. Why is this so - the core of Judaism is keeping the Torah and its Mitzvot - so if one is not keeping the Torah, what connection does he have to Judaism at all? Perhaps an answer can be learned from Tzaraat. Just like Tzaraat never affects the inside of a body, so too external sinning doesn’t affect the internal property of being Jewish. A Jew who sins does so because he does not understand the importance of the Torah, not because he enjoys doing Aveirot or has no care for the Mitzvot. Deep down, he really wishes to perform Mitzvot. Unfortunately, his Yeitzer Hara prevents him from doing Mitzvot and influences him to sin (see Rambam’s Hilchot Geirushin 2:20).
Sefirat HaOmer is a time period which is observed as days of Aveilut, mourning, because of the tragic passing of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students. Chazal tell us that Rabbi Akiva’s students died because they did not respect one another. During this time of Aveilut, we must do what the affliction of Tzaraat teaches us to do – self-introspection. May it be Hashem’s will that we reach greater heights through this reflection and that we achieve the ultimate redemption.