Sincere Conversion by Zev Feigenbaum



וישמע יתרו כהן מדין חתן משה, “Yitro, the priest of Midyan, the father in law of Moshe, heard” (18:1)

Why does the Torah tell us about the relationship between Yitro and Moshe: we already know that they are related!  Also, why does the Torah tell us of Yitro’s being priest of Midyan?

In the time of Kings David and Shlomo, the Jews did not accept converts or treat them well.  At the height of their glory, the Jews disliked converts.  Most of the nation believed that people converted not because they loved Torah and Mitzvot but rather because they wanted to join the great nation of Bnai Yisrael.  We can ask, then, why king Shlomo accepted the daughter of Paroh (a convert) as his wife?  The answer is that she was different than the rest because as the daughter of the ruler of Egypt she did not lack glory before converting and therefore converted for Torah and Mitzvot (see Tosafot to Yevamot 24b).

When the Jewish People left Egypt and the whole world heard of the splitting of the sea, many wanted to convert and join this great nation.  But their reasons for converting were all wrong: these people could not care less about Hashem and his Torah: all they wanted was glory.  Anyone who wanted to join for glory and not for Torah and Mitzvot was turned away and not allowed to join the Jewish People.

When Yitro decided to convert, he was accepted by the nation.  Because he was the high priest of Midyan, he did not need any glory.  His conversion was sincere, and therefore he was accepted with open arms.  In addition, while many others wished to convert out of fear of the power of Bnai Yisrael, Yitro knew that he was safe, as he was Moshe’s father-in-law.  Bnai Yisrael were therefore convinced that Yitro’s conversion was sincere.

Editor’s Note: The Jewish People have recently been blessed with the arrival of many fine converts.  If he or she was converted by a universally recognized Bait Din it is forbidden to question his or her sincerity.  It is a Biblical commandment to extend special affection to converts.

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