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Thought for the Day: Geirus by Acceptance, Geirus by Revelation

The Marharal has proposed that one reason that Shimon was allowed to marry Dina is that they were both geirim, and "ger k'koton sh'nolad dami" -- a ger (vis a vis halachic relationships) is reborn as a new being and has no relatives.  Therefore, there was no issur for Shimon to marry Dina; or any of the other brothers to marry any of the twin sisters (according to one opinion), for that matter.  It also allows us to understand the Shvitei Kah could marry K'na'ani women (according to the other opinion), since everyone was a ger at that time.  The problem now is that Matan Torah, when we all went from bnei no'ach to klal yisrael, was a mass conversion.  One of the issues that lead to the Cheit haEigel was the newly forbidden relations; so there geirus severely limited the shiduch pool instead of expanding it.

The Maharal says the difference is that at Matan Torah, we had little Har Sinai (probably didn't look so all-fired little) held of our heads like a gigis (barrel) and told, "Accept the Torah, or this is your grave."  Subtle, but effective.  On that kind of conversion it is just not relevant to say "ger k'koton sh'nolad dami", because the person has not uprooted himself from his previous spiritual base and transplanted himself.  The Pachad Yitzchak (footnotes, not b'ki'yus, unfortunately) elaborates that when a person is forced to concede something that depends on will, the concession is simply a revelation of what was already true.  That is why the geirus at Har Sinai did not allow brothers and sisters to marry, while every geirus before and after (in principle, at least) does permit such marriages.

It is interesting how this changes how we usually understand the revelation at Har Sinai.  It was not a revelation of new ideas to a people who then could decide about accepting.  Rather the revelation at Har Sinai was revealing to klal yisrael who and what we really are.

In case you are wondering why we had to be forced to accept the Torah like that, instead of just being shown its beauty and gladly accepting it on our own.  Great question.

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