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What makes someone a "good Jew"?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Jewish Identity » Who/What is a Jew? | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Question:

My boyfriend’s fourteen years old sister feels that I am a bad Jew because I am not as religious as she is and because of this she doesn’t have any respect for me. I didn’t have a bat Mitzvah and I only attend services occasionally, when my boyfriend goes. I am a good person though and I always try to help everyone out, as well as his siblings and parents whenever they need anything. I was wondering, what makes a Jewish person a good Jewish person? Also, how can I talk to her about this so she can respect me and my beliefs?

Thank you so much for your time.

Answer:

Judaism is a very personal relationship between you and G-d; it is therefore not really important what others think about your observance.

I am sure you are aware of this. Therefore, the fact that this girl’s remarks are bothering you is probably because these remarks reflect your own deep (perhaps subconscious) feelings.

Being kind, honest, polite, etc. makes one a good person... But what makes one a good Jew?
Being kind, honest, polite, etc. makes one a good person.

But what makes one a good Jew?

The question is answered by defining the word Jew.

What makes someone a good lawyer? Is he a good lawyer if he can pitch a 100 MPH fastball? How about if he can fix any car any time? Or what if he volunteers every Tuesday to serve dinner at the local soup kitchen? Is he then a good lawyer?

Of course not! A good lawyer is someone who has a thorough understanding of the law and has the ability to argue and win cases!

A Jew is a person chosen by G-d for a specific mission: to make this world holy, good, and G-dly. The Jew has very specific divine instructions on how to carry out this mission. Those instructions are found in the Torah and have been explained by the Jewish Sages throughout the ages.

A “good Jew,” thus, is someone who is doing his utmost to follow those instructions in order to fulfill his G-d-given mission.1

The girl has no business judging you. But I don’t know if you have any way of changing her.

Well maybe there is one way: If you are satisfied that you are doing your part to complete this G-dly mission, I don’t think you will care about what she thinks.

And since I can’t imagine someone as kind, concerned and compassionate as yourself feeling satisfied unless you feel like you are doing your utmost towards fulifilling your G-d given mission; upon your satisfaction I am sure she will admire you too!

Footnotes

  • 1. "Utmost" is determined on an individual basis by the individual and G-d; it can't be judged on a universal scale. One person can be giving $1,000,000 annually to charity, and another is giving just $100, yet the former is not doing his utmost whereas the latter is. The same is true for all Mitzvot.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.