In other words, what precise reasons would motivate a gentile to convert rather than be a Noahide? I have heard that a Jew's olam haba is “better” but in what sense? What exactly is the difference?
I think that the question is likely one that couldn't be understood properly because even if you would ask what is it like to have a Jewish Olam Haba everything would be in parables and not capture the essence.
At the end of the day, Rav Dessler (See חלק א׳ שכר מצוה) points out that there is more joy from the "smell" of Olam Haba then there exists in the world from beginning to end (ie: if it was all "added" together). So nothing can capture or comprehend this.
My basic understanding is that there is a nuanced difference in that of proximity to Hashem. So for example a Jewish person may be closer in connection/proximity to Hashem. My guess is that this all depends on how great you are in your role, demands, and abilities.
For example I find it hard to accept that I have earned a closer place then Noach, Eve or Adam etc... There are likely many non-Jews who earned to be closer than me who are alive today.
I do think that obviously someone who wants to be closer will do more, but at the same time there is a balance between taking on too much and not willing to do those commandments he already has or break new requirements that he took upon himself.
So the motivation is being able to serve Hashem in more Mitzvos, to perfect oneself more, and be closer to Hashem. For example a non-Jew cannot keep the Sabbath. Torah is prohibited to be taught to a non-Jew (seek a Rabbi to know what can be taught to a non-Jew).
I think deciding to join the religion because you will "gain" more, although a normal human thought, should not be the approach. I don't blame the question though because it is a natural factor and thought. In fact in this world, Jewish people are routinely hounded and hated so in this world you might lose quite a bit which begs your question of the next world. Nevertheless, the approach should be to serve Hashem out of a desire to serve him and not a desire for reward.
To answer what the difference is between a Jews and a Gentiles olam haba we must understand the differences between a Gentiles soul vs a Jews soul:
I got this idea from: https://www.etzion.org.il/en/philosophy/issues-jewish-thought/issues-mussar-and-faith/jews-and-gentiles and just took the part needed for the answer:
“The Alter Rebbe in Tanya (Tanya), chapters. 1–2) explains that a Jew has two souls – a G-dly soul, which partakes in some fashion in the actual substance of God Himself, and an animalistic soul, which descends from klipat noga, the evil that contains within it an admixture of divine light. Therefore, he explains, any good character trait found in a Jew reflects the essential goodness found in his soul. The soul of a gentile, however, according to the Tanya, is purely animalistic and not Godly. It descends from the evil forces that have no potential for goodness in them whatsoever. Therefore, any good deeds performed by gentiles are done for ulterior motives and cannot possibly reflect essential goodness. According to this philosophy, a gentile is not merely a lower form of life, but is essentially and irredeemably evil; his substance derives from the sitra achra, the evil forces that threaten all goodness and purity in the world (Zohar, introduction, p. 13a).”
Look here: https://hakirah.org/Vol%2016%20Balk.pdf for more approaches on the difference between a Jewish soul and Gentile soul.
Based off this we can understand that a Jewish soul has its source higher spiritually and as we will see now gets more reward than a Gentile:
- As explained the Jewish soul is more pure and spiritual (as we said above)
- A Jewish soul is commanded 613 mitzvot vs 7. So for following more commandments from G-d Jews get much closer to G-d by developing a relationship in everything physical they do.
- Based on number 2, the idea of גדול המצווה ועושה (brought down in many places in Shas e,g Bava Kamma 87a), that even if Gentiles were to do things they were not commanded (and also not forbidden to keep e.g Shabbat, learning Torah) they would get less reward then Jews who are commanded to do so.
Therefore the one difference in reward in Olam Haba based off the above is the Gemera in Brachot 17a (there could be more I’m not aware of) which says:
מַרְגְּלָא בְּפוּמֵּיהּ דְּרַב: לֹא כָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. הָעוֹלָם הַבָּא אֵין בּוֹ לֹא אֲכִילָה וְלֹא שְׁתִיָּהּ וְלֹא פְּרִיָּה וּרְבִיָּה וְלֹא מַשָּׂא וּמַתָּן וְלֹא קִנְאָה וְלֹא שִׂנְאָה וְלֹא תַּחֲרוּת, אֶלָּא צַדִּיקִים יוֹשְׁבִין וְעַטְרוֹתֵיהֶם בְּרָאשֵׁיהֶם וְנֶהֱנִים מִזִּיו הַשְּׁכִינָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: ״וַיֶּחֱזוּ אֶת הָאֱלֹהִים וַיֹּאכְלוּ וַיִּשְׁתּוּ״.
“Rav was wont to say: The World-to-Come is not like this world. In the World-to-Come there is no eating, no drinking, no procreation, no business negotiations, no jealousy, no hatred, and no competition. Rather, the righteous sit with their crowns upon their heads, enjoying the splendor of the Divine Presence, as it is stated: “And they beheld God, and they ate and drank” (Exodus 24:11), meaning that beholding God’s countenance is tantamount to eating and drinking.
The Ben Ish Chai (in the commentary Ben Yehoyada) explains this Gemera in following way:
….That the עטרות are placed upon those who learn Torah, because from the lights of the mitzvah one is gramented in expensive garments, and from the lights of Divrei Torah one is made crowns, etc.
Based on this Ben Ish Chai we can explain that this cannot be referring to Gentiles since they are chaiv mitah (death penalty) if they learn Torah (Sanhedrin 59a). Hope this helps!
Look at these links for more information:
https://www.etzion.org.il/en/philosophy/issues-jewish-thought/issues-mussar-and-faith/jews-and-gentiles https://www.torahmusings.com/2015/10/do-non-jews-get-reward-for-mitzvot/ https://hakirah.org/Vol%2016%20Balk.pdf
To give another answer opposite Avishai:
Although a non-Jew can only learn Torah that are his necessary areas other areas are prohibited (with the seriousness of death), with that:
See Sanhedrin 59.
Rabbi Meir would say: From where is it derived that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest? It is derived from that which is stated: “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances, which if a man does he shall live by them” (Leviticus 18:5). The phrase: Which if priests, Levites, and Israelites do they shall live by them, is not stated, but rather: “A man,” which indicates mankind in general. You have therefore learned that even a gentile who engages in Torah study is considered like a High Priest.
We can see that the High Priest is an extremely high level and connection with Hashem, in fact he goes into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur where angels are not allowed. This is the connection a non-Jew can have.
However, if this is the connection and value a non-Jew can have with only some of the Torah imagine what facets and connection are being missed with all the additional Torah available. See Avishai's answer showing Torah learning and World to Come are connected.
As per any mitzvah bringing Olam Haba:
Rambam Mishna Macot 3:16 מעיקרי האמונה בתורה, כי כשיקיים אדם מצווה מתרי״ג מצות כראוי וכהוגן ולא ישתף עמה כוונה מכוונת העולם בשום פנים, אלא שיעשה אותה לשמה מאהבה כמו שבארתי לך, הנה זכה בה לחיי העולם הבא.
Rambam, in his commentary to that Mishnah, explains that if one does a mitzvah properly he earns the world to come. I see no reason why the 7 laws would be different.