Shabbat Parashat Noach| 5765
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Conversion - The Process and Its Impact on Family Status - Part III - From Chavot Binyamin, siman 67
[We have seen that geirut (conversion) is the acceptance of a candidate into Bnei Yisrael by Bnei Yisrael. The mitzvot follow naturally from there. Now we can go back and understand when and why the convert’s identity and family status change.]
We asked why Chazal did not identify a source for the halacha that “a convert who converts is like a child who is born.” The answer is that this is explicit in the words of Ruth, from which we learn much about the process of accepting the ger and his acceptance of the mitzvot (see Yevamot 47b).She said: “Your nation is my nation, and your G-d is my G-d,” which, as we explained, indicates that the way to receive the mitzvot of the Torah is only by being accepted by and into Klal Yisrael. Indeed the essence of the conversion is to leave one’s nation and join Klal Yisrael. Since geirut must be more than acceptance of mitzvot, but must engender entering the nation of Israel, it is clear that this must include a severing of family ties from a halachic perspective. After all, one cannot maintain membership in a family that is a link in the chain of another nation and be able to simultaneously become a member of Bnei Yisrael. [Ed. note- Similarly, in the case of intermarriage (Heaven forbid) one follows only the mother’s lineage, and there is no possibility of having a halachic connection to the father, who is part of a different nation.]
We now understand why, when Bnei Yisrael “converted” at Har Sinai, there was no severing of family ties. After all, in that case, there was no need to break away from one nation and join another one. Rather, the nation as a nation accepted the Torah. It is unlike subsequent generations of converts who are born as part of another nation and receive the mitzvot by giving up their national identity and joining the Nation of Israel. At Har Sinai, to the contrary, Bnei Yisrael’s identity was actually strengthened.
With this foundation, we can explain the Maharal’s distinction [which we brought two weeks ago]. The Maharal said that since Bnei Yisrael’s “conversion” was coerced, there was no concept of rebirth and loss of family relationships, and we had not understood the connection between the two concepts. The Maharal in two other places (Tiferet Yisrael 32; Netzach Yisrael 11) explains: “Hashem chose Bnei Yisrael [based on] innate [qualities] and not because of their righteous actions.” Chazal (see Shabbat 88a) describe the coercion of Bnei Yisrael to accept the Torah as Hashem placing Har Sinai over their heads. This came to stress that the connection of Bnei Yisrael to the Torah is natural and fundamental and not based on a free-will decision. This idea is closely related to that which we explained above. Because Bnei Yisrael were naturally fit to accept the Torah, there was no need to have them break from their past in order to do so. On the contrary, the receiving of the Torah was bound to happen based on the national connection that was created with Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov and was continued by the chain of generations. That is why there was no need for a situation and a halacha of having the “converts at Har Sinai” be reborn.
Through all of this we can see that the concept of geirut andthefoundations of Israeli nationhood are linked to the unbreakable connection between Hashem, the Torah and Yisrael. Blessed is He who chose us and gave us His Torah.
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