Universalism

However, there is a long and significant strain in Judaism that sees itself as mandated to address the concerns and fate of those beyond its own immediate circle. That strain at times fell silent during times of extreme oppression, but this instinct has repeatedly resurfaced when the opportunity arose.

At the heart of Judaism is the sentiment that for the purpose of Creation to be fulfilled the whole world needs to become a more Godly and goodly place. Jews can contribute to this purpose through their own actions and via the indirect example they set to others, but also through direct efforts to spread Jewish values. The Bible itself, especially the prophetic writings, although primarily addressed to the Hebrews, expresses a powerful concern of how the God of Israel and the values it represents are perceived by other.

The biblical writings reveal a universal message. In Psalms 22, 28 and 29 we find: "All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee." Zechariah (14:9) predicts a day when "The Lord will be King over the whole earth; on that day He will be one and His name will be one." Malachi (1:11): "From the rising to the setting of the sun, name is great among the nations." Famously, Isaiah (42:6; 49:6) called upon his listeners to be "light unto the nations" and Jeremiah (1:5) was "a prophet to the nations."

An entire book of the Bible tells the story of Jonah, as Hebrew prophet who was sent to the ancient (gentile) metropolis of Nineveh with a Divine message of repentance. Jonah reluctance to fulfil the mission set the scene for a dramatic tale, in which Jonah finally conveyed his oracle to the King of Nineveh. Eleventh century Rabbi Judah the Pious (Sefer Hassidim, 1124) interpreted the book of Jonah as suggesting that Jews have a moral responsibility for those not of their own faith: "If one sees a gentile committing a transgression, if one can protest then one should, since the Holy One, blessed is He, sent Jonah to Nineveh to cause them to repent."

Jewish law regards the entire human race as bound by seven Noahide Laws, including prohibitions against theft, murder, adultery, and animal cruelty. Jewish law mandates that the poor and needy non-Jews must be assisted along with those who are Jewish, in order to foster good relations. There are multiple statements in the classic Jewish texts (e.g. Kidushin 32b) reporting expressions of respect and assistance that leading rabbinic figures accorded to aged or infirm gentiles. Traditional rabbinic teaching suggests that both Moses and Joshua translated the Torah, or at least parts of it, into multifarious language. On the verse (Deuteronomy 1:5) that while on the Eastern bank of the Jordan river Moses began explaining the Torah, the Talmud (Sotah, 35b) states that the Torah was translated into seventy languages.

Jewish concern with society in general is not only consistent with a broad strain of Jewish thought, it is also supported by enlightened self-interest. The policies and practices of general society impact on the lives everyone in society. Looking inward and ignoring the vicissitudes and challenges of the modern world is, we argue, incredibly short sighted. Jeremiah (29:7) advised the Hebrew exiles in Babylon to "seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." Ethics of the Father (3:2) similarly urges for Jews to pray for the peace of the realm, for its stability will grant them security.