Jewish Proselytizing?: Interfaith Relations Response on Ask the Rabbi
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Jewish Proselytizing?

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 of God and wisdom of 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 better achieved if 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 that everyone convert is probably familiar to you as a Christian ideal. For example, a Baptist group in Florida recently spent 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!

Of course, anyone wanting to take on an extra level of responsibility can voluntarily convert to become Jewish. But that is not a prerequisite for having a relationship with God and enjoying eternal reward.

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