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For the week ending 12 October 2002 / 6 Heshvan 5763

Good Jew?

The Color of HeavenArtscroll

O What a Good Jew Am I

D. in Chevy Chase, MD wrote:

Dear Rabbi,
Am I am a bad Jew if I eat bacon, don't go to temple very often, actually only on the major holidays? I do celebrate Passover, and do try to keep it. Religion just isn't a very big part of my American Jewish life. Let me know, thanks!


Dear D.,

I don't know.

I happened to go to a lecture on parenting recently given by Rabbi Noach Orlowek. An insight he gave relates to your question:

He spoke about teenagers. Teenage starts at 13 and ends at 20. The significance of these ages is that 13 is when a boy (or a girl at 12) becomes liable in the Earthly court for transgressing mitzvot (commandments), and 20 is when he becomes liable in the Heavenly court. Why is the Heavenly court more lenient (i.e., judges at a later date)? Because the Heavenly court judges a person as a whole, and until 20 the person has not yet finished developing his personality. Here on earth, on the other hand, we can't judge people, we can only judge actions. As a teenager grows we can judge his actions, but not the person.

So, the question of whether you are "good" or "bad" is for G-d to decide. We can only speak about what you do, not who you are.

I heard a story from Rabbi Nachman Bulman, zatzal, who heard it from a firsthand source. In Poland in the early 20th century, a few Jewish students were allowed to attend the Polish medical schools. The only catch was that they had to supply their own Jewish cadavers to study on. After all, it would not befit a Polish cadaver to help a Jewish student. So, the students approached the foremost Halachic authority of the time, Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzensky. They proposed, that in order to keep the Jewish presence in the medical schools, that they be allowed to use the bodies of deceased Jews of ill repute and other like types, people who had been lured away from Judaism into Poland's criminal street element. The Rabbi, after recovering from the shock of the suggestion, responded, "For me to allow that I would have to know what G-d thinks about those people. And that I can never know."

Your actions leave room for improvement. So go ahead. Start to improve!

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