Repentance & Conversion
They arrived at Sinai in a state of repentance. (Rashi, Exodus 19:2) The Sages teach us that the Children of Israel went through a conversion process at Sinai: Acceptance of Mitzvot, Purification, etc. This mass of newly freed slaves had to repent for their constant testing of God, and they had to convert into a “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation.” Why both? Why did they need to do Teshuva before converting?
A convert brings a sin-offering for not having converted earlier! (Yevamot 47b) A convert is responding to a deep spiritual need, one that is deep in his or her soul and heart, a drive that is almost instinctual. (Instincts) An important step in the conversion process is the realization that his conversion is a “natural” step for him. It is not, and cannot be an external. The conversion must be an expression of a powerful self-realization.
The people could not convert at Sinai, in fact, they could not receive the promise of becoming a, “Kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” until they understood that their process had to begin internally. They first had to realize that their failings mattered to God. The Children of Israel, now that they had learned that God loved them and cared for them, sensed something they knew all along deep inside their hearts. They first acknowledged that what they were currently experiencing was part of them, a powerful natural drive. Their Teshuva entailed connecting with themselves as they had always been but did not realize. Only then, were they ready to convert and become “A Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.”
We have to go through the same process as we prepare for Shavuot: We must first reconnect with our deep inner drive to attach to God. We must pay attention to God’s care and love. Once we connect, we will realize that we damaged God’s world, His expression of love and care, when we did not pay attention to that connection, or to His constant messages of care and concern. Only then, will we be prepared to rise and become a “Kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
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