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    Seeking converts – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Should Judaism seek converts?

    A. The reconstruction of civilization after the flood was based on seven principles entrusted to No’ach and his descendants. Known as the Seven Laws of the Sons of No’ach, they are even more basic than the Decalogue. It is these seven principles which are the Jewish criterion for decent human living. You don’t have to be Jewish, but you do have to live your life according to the Seven Laws.

    But why don’t you have to be Jewish? Why doesn’t Judaism try to win the world over to the total Jewish way of life, not just to the seven but to the 613 commandments and all the beliefs and values that go with them?

    Everyone knows that at some period in Roman times external circumstances made it prudent for Judaism to desist from active proselytising, but now? Do we still need to be so reticent and to wait for people to approach us for conversion rather than dynamically entering the market place of ideas and making Judaism available?

    There are those who say a Jewish mission to the world would help to build up our numbers again. Certainly, increased numbers would be a blessing after the losses in the Holocaust. But encouraging conversion is not so much because we would like more Jews but because we believe the world can do with more Judaism.

    In a confused generation which lacks firm principles, the Jewish ethic has a crucial contribution to make. In a worried generation which needs a sense of the infinite, Jewish spirituality could be an inspiration. In a bored generation with increasing leisure but little idea what to do with it, the Jewish pattern of mitzvot could give shape and purpose to human life.

    The Seven Laws of the sons of No’ach are a good beginning: but should we not open up the rest of the riches of the Jewish heritage to more of the spiritually hungry? How we would work an outreach of Jewish ideas from the practical point of view is not a simple matter, but more of us should think more energetically about it.

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