Letters Aug. 2010
Reader: I was converted to Judaism when I was a child. I was given a choice at my Bar Mitzvah whether I wished to stay Jewish or not. 2 questions: 1) What is the idea behind this practice? 2) Being that I said "yes" is there another point in my life I will be given the same choice?
Rabbi: While still a child, we lack the matured intelligence to fully appreciate what it means to be Jewish and to intelligently choose anything for ourselves. We also lack the self control to fulfill obligations. So this conversion at youth cannot obligate you in Judaism. It was not your choice.
But as an adult at 13, you now matured intellectually and emotionally with the ability to make decisions; with responsibility for your actions. You can now choose for yourself, so you are given a fair option.
One you have selected to be Jewish, you are a Jew 100% like us all, with no future opportunity to neglect, abandon or be relieved of Jewish obligation. n
Reader: Prominent members of our Jewish community, scholars and Rabbis, state that every Jew's soul is elevated from birth by virtue of having been born into a Jewish family. Below is an example of one such comment I came across today:
Every Jew is important; born with a high neshama or soul...we all have the ability to elevate Holiness back to Hashem; and thats what makes each of us Jewish and unique.
While I agree with part of what I think is being said here, mainly that by having been born a Jew we are morally obligated in service to G-d, I do find it disturbing that otherwise intelligent and accomplished Jewish leaders aspouse the philolosophy of Jewish superiority. I am aware of your rational approach to this very issue, specifically your articles proving that a Jew is not chosen due to his/her accident of birth, and that the ones who were truly chosen were our forefathers and foremothers for their choices, not their parents beliefs. Your explanation makes perfect sense to me, however I do wonder if there is any information at all in the Talmud or otherwise suggesting a Jew is born with a high neshama.
I appreciate in advance your response and want to take the opportunity to thank you profoundly for the gift of Mesora.
Rabbi: There cannot be a Torah source for that which is false. But I am sure there are "Jewish writings" that reflect this ignorance and arrogance that forces Jews to claim superiority, which ironically makes them inferior. Pay no attention to these writings, as they contradict God's selection of our forefathers and mothers due to their perfections "while they were gentiles". These gentiles were prophets, far superior to any Jew today. The facts are clear. Reasoning also teaches that a sinful Jew is punished, while a perfected gentile is rewarded. Where then, I ask, is the practical difference these scholars suggest that Jews possess? Free will is equal among all men and women. Jews sin, and gentiles perform mitzvahs. Jews are also free to deny reality and assume they are superior.