From: Lorna - 4/28/2000
Please forgive my ignorance, but can you tell me why it appears that the Jewish people do not actively encourage the rest of society to convert to Judaism and thus spread the knowledge and wisdom of God and the Torah to the rest of humanity?
Would not the Jewish aims - to bring peace, harmony, love, understanding and
spiritual perfection to the world - be achieved better and more quickly if the
wisdom of Torah was shared with more of society, rather than being "kept" to
people who happen to be fortunate to be born Jewish?
THE AISH RABBI REPLIES:
It would be discriminatory for Judaism to proselytize and try to convert those not of the religion. That would imply that everybody needs to be Jewish in order to make a relationship with God, participate in the Torah's vision of repairing the world, and "get to heaven." Yet this is not so.
The idea of demanding everyone to convert is probably familiar to you as a Christian ideal. For example, just this week, a Baptist group in Florida is spending over $1 million to distribute a video entitled "Jesus" to every household in Palm Beach County. It's no coincidence that 60 percent of these homes are Jewish.
Be that as it may, the Jewish idea is that the Torah of Moses is a truth for all humanity, whether Jewish or not. The Torah (as explained in the Talmud - Sanhedrin 58b) presents seven mitzvot for non-Jews to observe. These seven laws are the pillars of human civilization, and are named the "Seven Laws of Noah," since all humans are descended from Noah. They are:
1) Do not murder.
2) Do not steal.
3) Do not worship false gods.
4) Do not be sexually immoral.
5) Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed.
6) Do not curse God.
7) Set up courts and bring offenders to justice.
Maimonides explains that any human being who faithfully observes these laws earns a proper place in heaven. So you see, the Torah is for all humanity, no conversion necessary.
As well, when King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he specifically
asked God to heed the prayer of non-Jews who come to the Temple (1-Kings
8:41-43). The Temple was the universal center of spirituality, which the prophet
Isaiah referred to as a "house for all nations."
The service in the Holy Temple during the week of Sukkot featured a total of 70 bull offerings, corresponding to each of the 70 nations of the world. In fact, the Talmud says that if the Romans would have realized how much they were benefiting from the Temple, they never would have destroyed it!
Today, there are many active groups of non-Jews called "B'nai Noach" who faithfully observe the Seven Laws of Noah.
Response: About Jewish proselytizing
by David Mendes
Many people say Jews don't proselytize because they want God only for themselves. Such assumptions are fortified by the rabbi's ideas expressed in Iorna's article.
Nevertheless, God's promise was for Judaism to reach all nations: 'In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Ye are my witnesses. I have set thee for a light to the nations' (Genesis 12:3 Isaiah 42:6; 43:10).
In the beginning, due to bellicose relations, the influence of the Jews was mainly by the example as a nation who didn't worship idols nor rob their neighbors. Many converted to Iahweh, two of which are supposed ancestors of Jesus: Rahab, the whore from Canaan, and Ruth, the Moabite.
In IX century BCE, prophet Jonah, however reluctant, did preach to the Assyrians, by God's order. With the Diaspora Jews came in contact with many peoples and large numbers were converted. It is said that ten percent of the Mediterranean followed Judaism.
There were in Jerusalem devout Jews drawn from every nation under heaven. Philip saw an Ethiopian eunuch, a high official of the Queen, who had been to Jerusalem on pilgrimage Acts 2:5,9-11;8:26-29.
And there was certainly preaching out: 'Alas for you, lawyers and Pharisees, hypocrites! You travel over sea and land to win one convert.' Matthews 23:15.
However, when Christians gained strength, conversions to Judaism were outlawed under penalty of death. From then on Jews have been prevented from preaching, and even today in many Christian countries that pressure is felt. Rabbis remark that from the time of Jewish expelling and until the temple will be rebuilt, no prophet has spoken, and that expresses the difficulties of the nation.
Today's elitist conservative Jews argue that Jewish missionising would antagonize Christians and lead to more anti-semitism. And they can find more reasons for not proselytizing, pointing with pride and superiority that Jews don't push their religion to others. Fear that incoming of converts would lower the standards is just another way of boycotting Judaism. The obstruction of full conversions by the so-called Noahide laws' is shamefully racist, implying that full Judaism is meant only for Jews.
Proselytizing is a matter of self-respect for the Jews and a necessity for the world. The overall problem arises from a crisis in spirituality, and until a 'remnant' takes the courage of preaching out, it is the world that ought to be pushing from behind.
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