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Are you a bad Jew?

Friday, 16 September, 2016 - 1:30 pm

Are you a bad Jew? Too often that’s what people respond when I offer a mitzvah opportunity. “I’m a bad Jew, rabbi. I haven’t done that for years.” Do they think that I’m a priest taking confession or something?

Seriously, there is no such thing as a bad Jew. Some Jews are more observant, others not quite yet, but they’re all good. Yes, really - there is no such thing as a bad Jew. It’s actually impossible. A Jew is defined by their Jewish soul; any person born of a Jewish mother (or converted according to Jewish law) has one and no matter what the body’s choices may be, the soul always remains pure, holy and intimately connected with G-d.

This perspective is at the core of the Chabad philosophy and is what drives us to reach out to every single Jew, no matter their affiliation or lack thereof.

And here is something interesting, we discover this idea in a peculiar place in this week’s Torah portion: the laws of divorce.

Although marriage is a high priority in Judaism, the Torah acknowledges that there may be the need for divorce. In fact, should the situation arise, it’s actually a mitzvah. Without going into the details, the divorce is given from the husband to the wife in front of witnesses. There’s one important detail however, a husband must divorce his wife willingly.

Here’s where it gets interesting. If a husband is not willing to divorce his wife for whatever reason, the court has the authority to force him to. Which raises a question: how could the court force the husband to hand over the divorce if the process needs to be done willingly?

The answer is fascinating - we take into account that his unwillingness to divorce is actually due to his physical body inhibiting his soul’s true desire. In other words, the soul truly desires to do what’s right, in this situation to hand over the divorce. All that’s stopping the soul from accomplishing it’s true desire is this pesky physical body. Well, if we can “convince” the body to give up it’s hesitation - the soul’s true desire to do what’s right can be expressed.

As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah many Jews are plagued with feelings of guilt, “I know I should go to services on Rosh Hashanah, I know I should hear the sounding of the Shofar. But I’m not religious, I haven’t been actively involved in anything Jewish for ages. I’m such a bad Jew, how can I go?”

My message is this: You’re a good Jew, you have a vibrant Jewish soul. You belong and are a member already. We’ve saved you a seat and we look forward to seeing you.

That’s it, there are no prerequisites or requirements, just show up and allow your soul to feel at home once again. 

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