The Jews are tasked by G-d with Tikun Olam (perfecting/healing the world) and with being Or LaGoyim (a light onto the nations). But throughout history Jews have been powerless, persecuted and outcast how can we teach the world anything?
We were the people who were born in slavery to teach the world the meaning of freedom. We were the people who suffered homelessness to teach humanity the importance of every people of having a home. We were the people who were the quintessential strangers to teach humanity that Thou shall not oppress the stranger. We were the people who walked through the valley of the shadow of death to teach humanity the sanctity of life. We were the people who were always small but yet survived to teach the world a people does not survive by might nor by strength but by My spirit, says G-d. Above all, we were the people that was always different to teach humanity the dignity of difference. Against all expectations it happened, and no other people before or since has had the impact that we have had on the civilization of the world.
But we are also tasked with lots of "ritualistic" mitzvot that set us apart from all the other nations. How does this help with healing the world? Why don’t just drop that (as Reform Judaism did in the beginning and is now slowly taking back)?
[…] the essence of Tikkun Olam is that by being particularlist, by being who we are, we have universal consequences, we help change the world. […]
Our task is to become a particular living example of a set of universal truths, and therefore the conflict between the universal and the particular in Judaism is not a conflict at all because it is only by being Orthodox Jews that we are able to mitaken ha’olam – it is only by being true to ourselves that we can be true to other people. […]
Read the complete article (R. Jonathan Sacks: Tikkun Olam; Orthodoxy’s Responsibility to perfect G-d’s World), it’s worth it!