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{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

I finished reading a blog about the Israeli chief rabbinate invalidating numerous conversions, opened the weekly portion, and enjoyed a hearty chuckle when I remembered that the portion of Revelation and the Ten Statements is named for a convert, a failed one,Yitro. Things have changed.


The chuckle exploded into full laughter when I recalled that the Talmud (Yevamot 46b) derives some of the laws of conversion from our preparations for Revelation. We all descend from converts. When we derive lessons in how to develop a relationship with God from our preparations for conversion at Sinai we are becoming converts. Yet some authorities are busy waging war against conversion. Things have changed.

Although often sickened by the way things have changed, I revel in the fact that they do. Sinai is a story about change; not just the drastic change of conversion, but, more meaningfully, that of Teshuvah (Repentance). Rashi (19:2) reminds us that the people were prepared for Revelation because they were in a state of Teshuvah.

Yes, things have changed, because Revelation is a story of change and becoming. It is a story of conversion and Teshuvah, a tale of people who stand back and observe Moses climbing the mountain being told that, eventually they will become people who, “Will ascend the mountain (19:13).” They were not temporarily prohibited from ascending the mountain until they hesitated. God guided them through a process of becoming climbers. Revelation is a story of becoming. The highest relationship with God is not about possessing absolute truth but one of constantly becoming more than what I am.

God is not satisfied when the people respond, “We will do all that God instructs.” People who seek only to follow all the instructions without internalizing their lessons are looking outward, not inward. They measure themselves by absolutes and cease becoming. A man who thinks that to be a good husband he must only follow all the rules of marriage, forfeits the opportunity to use the relationship as a way of becoming a better person. A person who looks to religion only for external observance of its rules misses its power to transform us into becoming greater people. A teacher who measures a student’s success only by outward religious observance deprives his students of Torah’s power to transform us into climbers and becomers. My most painful memory from my years in the rabbinate is of a strong supporter, a prince of a man, telling me, “I don’t need a rabbi. I know what I believe.” One of my favorite experiences was of a group of women in their sixties and seventies demanding of me, a 29-year-old, a weekly prayer class so they could become better Jews.

A friend asked me whether the stories I am learning about my mother a”h helped me understand how I became who I am. I didn’t hesitate for a moment in responding, “Absolutely! She was constantly becoming someone more significant. She was never satisfied with who her children were; she looked only to who they were becoming.”

I open my bible as a potential convert; open to the possibility learning something that will allow me to continue to become more. I begin my prayers in a state of repentance, ready to climb the mountain. I enter Shabbat with the expectation that it will resonate so powerfully within my soul that I will become a different person. I wish such a Shabbat for you.

Shabbat Shalom


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Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg, is founder and President of the leading Torah website, The Foundation Stone. Rav Simcha is an internationally known teacher of Torah and has etablished yeshivot on several continents.