Saturday, February 14, 2009

Was Yitro the first convert?

Was Yitro the first convert? As a convert, this most definitely interests me. After all in this parshah he brings offerings to Hashem. Then again, he went home rather than crossing into the land of Israel. However, he was with the Jewish people when they accepted the Torah. Perhaps he wasn’t a convert because of that fact. After all, he did come in before Sinai and was there at Sinai.

The rest of this parshah involves preparation for and receiving of the Torah. One controversial item surrounding this parshah is that ten statements seem to some to be the whole Torah to some people. However, the whole Torah was given. Reading the parshah it seems to me that this is the part given directly to the people, the rest was given to Moshe and Aharon.

I have some memories surrounding this parshah. The first year of my conversion, I was working as a Shabbos shiksa goy at a shul on Friday night. They had a speaker. So, there was some discussion/question and answers after the speech. I remember the rebbetzin saying that as Jews, we have to push our way in. I don’t remember how it related to the parshah, however, it struck me. While Jews have pushed the way in throughout history, here was I pushing in the opposite direction as someone who was converting. Although, no one there knew that I was converting at that time. I don’t think that really relates so well to the parshah, however, it’s a memory I have from this parshah, so I thought I’d stick it in there.

Last year, when this parshah came around, I was away for Shabbos. I was at the Intermediate Minyan of Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side. It was my first exposure to the fact that people stand for the Ten Declarations. The previous year, I had been in a class at a shul, so I missed that.


  1. The Rabbi at our shul did a very interesting talk about this. The point that I find most interesting is that Yitro is not mentioned again after this. Does this mean his conversion did not stick? Did he return to his old life?

    I relate to this a lot because as someone who is becoming more religious I find it very hard not living in walking distance to a Shul. Maying the same thing happened with Yitro and he returned to idol worship. We don't really seem to know, but I sure hope that not living in walking distance to a Shul doesn't deter me in the long run!

  2. Actually, I don't really think Judaism was solidified enough at the time. So Yisro would not be the first convert. I also, don't think he was a convert before he went home. However, I had been hearing "Yisro, the first convert" and thought that as a gyoress, I would use that angle on my blog for my d'var Torah.