Every so often, when I’m out there meeting and greeting, someone will trot out the old line: “Don’t waste your time, rabbi, I’m not (or he’s not) a good Jew.”

As proof of their irreligiosity and irredeemability, they will quickly point out their non-Jewish girlfriend or hold up their baconA Jew is a Jew is a Jew sandwich, expecting you to recoil in horror and scurry off to find a more promising target.

It’s almost as if they think a rabbi’s job should be restricted to preaching to the converted—ministering only to those who believe already or have demonstrated interest in remaining within the fold. However, I would argue that it is precisely those Jews who have had the least previous exposure to Judaism, or who have fallen the furthest, who most deserve our attention.

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. It’s not where you are that counts, it’s what you’re doing. And we know that every single action by every single Jew is unique and invaluable to G‑d.

We don’t force people to do the right thing. We’ll try to persuade you gently, using humor and affection rather than intolerance and fear. We don’t impose our values at the point of the sword or by judicial fiat. We bother because we care, and the moments when people respond positively to our positive message make all of our efforts worthwhile.

This week we read the extraordinary story of the wicked prophet Balaam, who traveled through the desert to curse the Jews. On three separate occasions, a fiery angel attempts to block his path but is ignored. Balaam’s donkey is then miraculously granted the power of speech to try to caution Balaam to reverse his course and then, failing all else, Hashem shows Balaam the angel and warns him directly.

The Rebbe pointed out the lengths that G‑d went to inHe had no redeeming features an effort to prevent Balaam from sinning—first with gentle hints, and then a steady progression of more and more obvious signs that it was worth turning back from his life path.

Think about it. Balaam was a murdering fiend who preached nothing but immorality, evil and bloodshed. According to the Talmud, he had no redeeming features and deserved punishment in this world and the next. And yet, Hashem granted him chance after chance to be redeemed.

How much more should we be ready to reach out with love to every one of our dearly beloved brothers and sisters. How much more should we be willing to try again and again to show them the way to G‑d and the path of Torah. No Jew is beyond redemption. There is no such thing as a bad Jew. Every Jew is worth an unlimited amount of time and effort because every Jew is worth an entire world.