This article originally published on Ask Noah
At the simplest level, what is the point of a Jew? Of being a Jew? According to what the Jewish Sages taught, it is to make the physical world into the dwelling place for G-d that He desires.
Then – again at the simplest level – what does that mean for the Jewish people as a whole? As a whole, how are Jews to accomplish that? To condense it down and to make it broad enough for every Jew, there’s the well-known phrase from the Tanach (Yeshayahu 49:6): “I [G-d] will make you a light for the nations.”
So, in a nutshell, a Jew’s job is to refine this world and to make it holy, so it will be the kind of world that G-d wants His holiness to dwell in. The job of refining the Jewish people themselves is what their Torah is all about (the Written and Oral Torah, which includes Midrash, Talmud, every bit of authentic Torah commentary, etc.). But consider: this world has Jews and Gentiles, and a LOT more Gentiles than Jews. What about the Gentiles? … A light-bulb should light up! You cannot refine the world if you ignore the majority of the world. How can a Jew be a light for the nations if he ignores the nations? So the Seven Laws of Noach are obviously part of that job now, and a really big part of it. At no other point in modern history, until our time, were Jews able to teach Gentiles. The Rebbe pointed this out many times in his talks.
One needs to realize that when you get close to something holy, it may appear dark. For example, on a day of Rosh Chodesh, the date of the new moon, the moon is all dark when the day starts. Why start the festive first day of a lunar month when the moon is darkest, and not at its brightest, i.e. full? No one can deny that the darkest point in modern Jewish history was the Holocaust. But after that, the Land of Israel was returned to the Jews, and ever since, that amazing nation has been making incredible accomplishments in spite of great obstacles.
If the purpose of the physical world is to make it a dwelling place for G-d, and a Jew does this by spiritually refining the world, then spreading the Seven Laws of Noach to spiritually refine the Gentiles must certainly be at the forefront of that task, and it must be that now is the time. Other than that, what major thing is left to do? No, I am not saying the Jews have perfected their Jewishness. That is endless and will continue to be worked on, even after Moshiach comes. What is important for us now is refining the world enough for that time to come, and it has to include refining the Gentiles too.
This idea is steadily catching on, but many Jews still haven’t yet warmed up to it. A lot of Jews say they want Moshiach. But for many of them, they still want to be passive bystanders in the process. They want to want Moshiach. This is seen in other areas as well. For example, the observance of their daily prayers. A lot of people will say that they want to but can’t, so they don’t. I contend that nothing ever stops a conscious person from praying. If you want to pray, then pray! It isn’t required to assemble a minyan/quorum of ten Jewish men in order to thank or make a request to G-d. It’s the same with doing something to help bring Moshiach. Do you want him? Here, bring him… and here’s how… the Rebbe told us how… It involves doing specific things that are part of the Torah’s instructions which are relevant to us here and now. But how many people want to do those things? The Rebbe gave very good advice about how a person can motivate himself to actually want to bring Moshiach – such as learning about how immeasurably great it will be, compared to what we seem to be stuck with now. But the bottom line is that lack of motivation doesn’t excuse a person from his obligations.
And spreading out the Seven Noahide Commandments – G-d’s Seven Mitzvos for Gentiles – is really at the forefront of that.
Last year, someone who’s involved in this outreach work told me that it’s basically what’s left to do, and I thought, “No, there’s lots more.” Well, I need to apologize the next time I see him… I think he’s right.