Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Now let us consider these sinners. Their sins are egregious because they are matters of public knowledge, which constitutes a chillul Hashem – a profanation of G-d’s Holy Name. Indeed, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 82a) teaches that any time there is an open profanation of G-d’s Holy Name, we do not consider the honor of a sage (i.e., we don’t wait for him to act). (In truth, private sins also constitute a chillul Hashem, but to a lesser degree.)

Yet, not all who sin publicly are considered m’chalelei Shem Shamayim –profaners of the Holy Name. In our generation, to our great misfortune, there are many whom we categorize as “tinok she’nishba bein ha’akum – an infant who was taken captive among gentiles.” The Rambam (Hilchot Shegagot 2:6) defines such people as those who have no knowledge of Torah and the commandments, let alone their very Jewishness.

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Many Jews nowadays, through no fault of their own, were brought up by their parents (who themselves had no knowledge of their rich heritage) amidst a society very foreign from Jewish religious practice. In dealing with such people, we are therefore most lenient as we stretch out our arm to them and beckon them home. Surely, their poor are not to be treated with harshness as not only is theirs a physical and economic impoverishment but one that is accompanied by spiritual bankruptcy.

(To be continued)

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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.