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B’tselem Elokim and Being Yourself

There’s a theme in this sub where people talk about our community rejecting them because they are not Jewish al pi halacha, by Jewish law. Many of these people have Jewish fathers or both parents have Jewish ancestry but not the mother’s maternal line, etc.

At the same time, there are some wonderful posts from people who claim no family connection to us but want to show their love and support. Mekubalim might say these people had Jewish neshamas in another gilgul–that they are reincarnations of great Jews from earlier generations.

A few responses on this topic:

  1. One of the fundamentals of Torah is that we are all connected. If you read the Book of Ruth or about the lives of Yitro, Esther, Onkelos, Rabbi Akiva, Ovadya, etc., you see how fundamental non-Jews are to Judaism. In other words, just because you’re not currently counting toward a minyan at your local orthodox shul doesn’t change your fundamental value to us. There are some amazing interviews with people like Yehuda Pryce, Meir Weiss and others who have so much to contribute from a non-Jewish upbringing.
  2. Genesis 1:27 and the idea of “B’tselem Elokim,” the divine “image,” is essential and every person should understand it. According to Rabbeinu Bahya’s commentary on Sefaria, it describes our intellectual capacity, which is of equal potential among all people. It is the intellect, combined with the intention, that makes a convert Jewish through accepting the mitzvot. While it is true that Jews have a greater responsibility with regard to mitzvot and Torah learning, we also learn that the greater the soul, the greater the yetzer, i.e., the greater the capacity for mistakes and sins. This is one reason why by Jewish law anyone can become a Jew: it’s an extra obligation that has a price.
  3. Today, “Jewish law” is not the same as law, except for those who choose to accept it upon ourselves. When non-Jews do it, they are keeping the mitzvot b’nei Noach, and those are just as fundamental to creating peace on earth as the 613 mitzvot of Jews. By Israel’s law of return, which defines Jews for the purpose of our political sovereignty, halachically being Jewish is not necessary as long as you have a Jewish grandparent. On top of that, in the days with a Sanhedrin, if a Jewish man had a child with a non-Jewish woman (a nochri), the child was not legally his because the beis din exercised sovereignty over the entire community and state. This is not the case today anywhere, not even in Israel. While it does control marriage and conversion, the Rabbinate does not have control over the entire legal system. In the US and other countries outside of Israel, Jewish law has an even more limited jurisdiction.

The Torah is just as much relevant to you as it is to us, and your learning is just as fundamental to Hashem’s plan for world peace as our learning.

submitted by /u/Delicious_Shape3068
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