Why does a person have a right to call himself a Jew if he doesn’t practice Judaism at all?
If a person does not practice yahadus, can he be called a Jew? We’ll approach this question in two different senses. In a certain sense he is worse than a gentile – an atheist is worse than a gentile. The Rambam says that an oved avodah zarah, an idol worshipper, is better than an atheist. So this Jew doesn’t deserve anything. He doesn’t deserve to live even. I’m not talking now about the question of tinok shenishba l’bein ha’akum, when somebody is not to blame, but the truth is that if he’s an atheist, even though he’s nebach an atheist, he’s still an atheist. It makes no difference why he’s an atheist. If a person is a criminal, an adulterer, so even though it’s not his fault, he never learned otherwise, he’s still an adulterer. He’s still a wicked man.
However, Yisroel af al pi shechata Yisroel hu — A Jew who sins is still a Jew. So if this wicked man had a child from a Jewish woman, the child is a Jew – he has a Jewish father. The child can become a tzaddik; he can become a gadol, a rosh yeshivah. It could happen. So therefore technically he’s a Jew but spiritually he’s worse than a goy. You have to understand it in two different senses. Yisroel af al pi shechata Yisroel hu means only in that sense that he technically is a Jew; but if he’s a very big choteh then he loses his right even to exist.
TAPE # 785