Ask the Rabbi

  • Torah and Jewish Thought
  • Principles of Mitzva Observance

Becoming a good jew


Rabbi David Sperling

Iyyar 26, 5779
How to become good jew? Please what shall I start with?
Shalom, Thank you for your question. Before answering your question, allow me to share a story I heard firsthand from a friend. He was not a very religious Jew, but none the less, felt very Jewish. As a wealthy business man he gave charity and was connected with many fine Jewish causes. Once, he was invited to a private audience with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory. The small group that was going to enter the Rebbe's study were told that they may want to think about what blessing they would like to ask the Rebbe to give them. Thinking about this, his turn finally came. As he merited to speak to the Rebbe he asked for his blessing. “Please Rabbi, could you bless me to become the best possible Jew?”. The Rebbe looked at him, and shook his head. “No, I'm afraid I can't give you such a blessing”. On hearing this, my friend was of course troubled and worried – why could he not get such a blessing? Was it because he wasn't religious? "Because”, the Rebbe continued, “you are a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, Sara, Rivka Rachel and Leah. You are already the best possible Jew! You have a Jewish soul – you are the best possible Jew there is”. On hearing this, of course, he was strengthened and thanked the Rebbe, as they went on to talk about other things. Many years past, as once again my friend found himself in line to speak to the Rebbe. As the long line moved forward, the Rebbe spoke briefly with each person as they passed by. When it got to his turn the Rebbe stopped. “Do you recall our last conversation?” asked the Rebbe. My friend, who of course had remembered the special meeting he had merited with the Rebbe, was amazed that the Rebbe himself would remember him. “Yes, of course” he said. “Well, I told you that you are already the best possible Jew … I've been thinking, perhaps you could do a little bit yourself. Perhaps you could take upon yourself to put tefillen on each day?” offered the Rebbe. That's the end of the story (my friend now tries to put on tefillen each weekday). These two messages are very important – firstly, each Jew already has in them a soul that is G-dly, and does not need to “do” anything or aquire anything to become a better Jew. But together with this, every one of us needs to constantly strive to reveal our G-dly souls in our lives. We do this by keeping the mitzvot (commandments) and doing good deeds. So, what to start with? That will very much depend on your situation. The best answer would be for you to become connected to an active religious community. By going to synagogue you will be exposed to Torah and mitzvot. You will find outlets for you soul to express itself – in prayer, charity, Shabbat, the festivals, and much more. Together with this, perhaps the first step is to increase your Jewish learning, by taking upon yourself daily Torah study. May you be blessed with every success.
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