Opting Out of Judaism?

September 20, 2011 | by Aish.com

I have been told that somewhere in the Talmud it states that once you are Jewish you are always Jewish no matter what. I understand that God needed a special group of people to be His messengers, but why not have individuals choose to opt in or out? This way also only those who wanted the job of being messengers would be messengers, and we wouldn't have this "annoying" national element to the Chosen People question.

The Aish Rabbi Replies

Every Jew is born into a legacy which demands that he, as a member of the Jewish people, must deal responsibly. Giving him a choice to either be a Jew or not is like giving him a choice to either live responsibly or not, as if either one or the other are acceptable.

That's why individuals cannot choose to “opt out." This is true no matter how far one has strayed from Judaism. In the book of Joshua 7:11, God declares that "Israel has sinned" due to a severe transgression done by the nation. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 44a) explains: Even though Israel has sinned, God still calls them by the name 'Israel.' In other words, they are still considered Jews – no matter what.

Even a conversion to another religion is ineffective. According to Jewish law, a person is always Jewish – regardless of whether they reject their heritage, ignore it, or practice another religion.

God cannot exempt man from the ramifications of acting irresponsibly. For to overlook the irresponsibility of man would be act of irresponsibility on the part of God. Just like a doctor cannot decide that he should be accountable for saving peoples lives based on whether or not he is in the mood.

As for opting in, any non-Jew can become a Jew by converting. Once he converts, he then becomes a Jew in every regard and his relationship with God is the same level as that of every other Jew.

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