How Can Judaism 'Repair the World' Without Proselytizing?
Judaism came into existence 3329 years ago, at the foot of a desolate hill, Mount Sinai, located somewhere in the Sinai desert. There, the entire nation of Israel -- assembled after having left Egypt 50 days before, and after spending that time in soul-searching spiritual preparation for the event -- collectively heard the voice of G-d declare:
Anochi Ha-Shem Elo-hecha asher hotz éthicha mé’ereyz Mitzrayim mibéyth ‘avadim. Lo’ yihye lëcha elohim achérim ‘al panai.
I am Ha-Shem your G-d Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You will not have any other gods before Me. (Exodus XX, 1-2)
After the first two Divine utterances, which had the effect of pulling the souls of the assembled nation out of them, such that they died and had to be Divinely revived, the nation deputized Moshe (Moses) to receive the rest of the Torah on their behalf and teach it to them, as that would be less arduous (ibid., 15-16). They finally declared:
Kol asher dibbér Ha-Shem na‘ase vënishma‘.
Everything which Ha-Shem has said we shall do and we shall hear. (ibid., XXIV, 7)
G-d stated His purpose in creating the nation of Israel and investing it with its constitution, the 613 commandments of the Torah, in His prefatory remarks to Moshe:
Vë‘atta im shamoa‘ tishmë‘u bëqoli ushëmartem eth bërithi vihyithem li sëgulla mikol ha‘ammim ki li kol ha’aretz. Vë’attem tihyu li mamlecheth kohanim vëgoy aadosh.
And now, if you will listen intently to My voice and you will keep My covenant and you will be more precious to Me than all the other peoples, for Mine is the entire world. And you will be My kingdom of priests and holy nation. (ibid., XIX, 5-6).
For this purpose and to this end, Israel are enjoined numerous times in the written Torah to be holy and to sanctify themselves through observance of its various provisions.
But unlike Judaism’s two problematic daughters, Christianity and Islam, which preach the Great Commission and the Dawa or “call,” respectively, to convert the entire world, Judaism does not proselytize. Indeed, though conversion to Judaism is possible, it is not encouraged and is in fact actively discouraged. Yet, the Jewish nation have been set the task of tikkun ‘olam, “repairing the world,” a phrase which recurs repeatedly in the Talmud.
How are we to go about accomplishing that task?
The Torah regards the Jewish people to be in a status analogous to the kohanim, descendants of Moshe’s brother Aharon who officiated in the Temple. Just as their state of sanctity makes them liable to more restrictions than the ordinary Israelite under the Torah, so are all of Israel subject to more commandments than the rest of the world. But the nations of the world have their role to play, too.