From: firstname.lastname@example.org -
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. You can see their web site at: http://www.fastlane.net/~bneinoah/
There is also an excellent book on the topic, called "The Path of the Righteous Gentile" by Chaim Clorfene and Yakov Rogalsky. It can be read for free on the internet at http://chabad.org/gopher/outlook/7laws/index.html.
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From: email@example.com -
A suicide bomber is a human being - born in the image of God, and a descendent of great people like Adam and Abraham. So what makes a person do such a thing? They are still people and I am trying to understand this behavior.
THE AISH RABBI REPLIES:
Excellent question. One thing that makes the security situation so difficult in Israel is that these people are operating outside the normal rules of humanity.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg explains it like this:
Nobody wakes up in the morning and says: "I'm going to do evil today." Everyone considers themselves good, based on their own definition. A suicide bomber believes he is doing the highest holy act.
So a proper definition of "good" is the starting point of everything you do in life. Obviously you can't just invent your own definition of what "good" is. You have to investigate reliable sources, and then analyze which one best describes the human condition and reality.
Be careful! If you don't work out the definition accurately, you'll end up with a warped idea of good.
In Gaza, the definition of "good" may be someone whose willing to strap a bomb to his belly and detonate it in a crowded Israeli market.
In America, the definition of "good" is financial success. People become pulverized by depression because they're not successful. "What's wrong with me, I can't get a job! I must be bad. Get me a therapist!"
Always ask yourself: Am I defining "good" as that which looks good to the prevailing forces of society, or am I defining "good" as that which has real meaning, a deep message, and makes a valuable contribution to society?
In Judaism, the definition of good is found in the Torah. It spells out how a person should act toward his friends, family, and society as a whole.
So keep your definitions straight. And be careful. The wrong definition could bring a lot of death and destruction. "