The Jewish People underwent Geirus at Har Sinai.
There is a rule that גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי , conversion erases all previous familial relationships and renders relatives unrelated and able to marry each other.
It appears that this rule did not apply to the Jews at Har Sinai.
Answer: Because at Sinai, two things happened, but the Geirus only had one step.
One: the actual Geirus- we were granted a quantitative (613) and qualitative (servants of Hashem) increase of mitzvos and kedusha, and
Two: this endowment was declared to be exclusive to members of Klal Yisrael.
At every Geirus after Sinai, two things happen, but they are different, because they are both parts of the Geirus. (Neither of these two elements can exist independently, but they are conceptually and effectively distinct.)
One: the person erases his past and joins Am Yisrael, and
Two: he accepts the kedusha of Avdus to Hashem and Taryag Mitzvos.
It is element One, the negation of his prior identity, that results in the annulment of familial relationships.
Element One was not present at Mattan Torah, nor was there any need for it, nor would it make any sense at all.
Therefore, at Sinai there was no negation of their prior relationships.
However, there is an contrary opinion that holds that the rule of K'katan did apply at Sinai.
I explain the basis of the two opinions.
I discuss problems with this minority opinion.
Now the long form.
Our passuk says וַיִּשְׁמַע מֹשֶׁה אֶת הָעָם בֹּכֶה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָיו אִישׁ לְפֶתַח אָהֳלוֹ. Chazal (Shabbos 130a) explain that the people were upset about the Arayos restrictions they were taught at Mattan Torah. As the Gemara says, כל מצוה שקבלו עליהם בקטטה כגון עריות דכתיב וישמע משה את העם בוכה למשפחותיו על עסקי משפחותיו עדיין עושין אותה בקטטה דליכא כתובה דלא רמו בה תיגרא. Mitzvos they accepted with contentiousness, they are still fussing about. (I don't know if this is a siman or a sibba. Both make perfect sense.) For example, it says they cried about marital relations, and this initial resentment still echoes among us, as we see that wedding negotiations always involve some argument.
What so upset us that we came to tears? Rashi there in Shabbos says שנאסר להם קרובות, that certain relatives that are allowed to a Ben Noach are prohibited to Jews, and they were crying for the loss of those relatives. But there is an important disagreement between the Maharal and Reb Meir Simcha as to exactly what the problem was.
The Maharal (and Rabboseinu Ba'alei Hatosfos on our passuk) understands the Gemara to mean that many married couples realized that they would have to separate, because under the new rules their marriage was illegal.
Reb Meir Simcha (Devarim 5:26) understands that the marriages of the people that received the Torah at Sinai were not affected: with the giving of the Torah, we all became Geirim (Yevamos 46a), and converts are viewed as newly born. גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי. (Yevamos 97b) The familial history of all the people living then, who were all geirim, was erased. All their relatives from their past life were no longer legally related to them. Therefore, there could be no problem with marriages among those people, and so Hashem told them to go home, no matter to whom they were married, שׁוּבוּ לָכֶם לְאָהֳלֵיכֶם, which means to their marital relations (Moed Kattan 7b). The reason they cried here in Be'ha'aloscha was because they were thinking about the future, when the children they would have in the future would not be allowed to marry the childrens' relatives.
The Maharal (Breishis 46:10 and in Yisro) says that the rule of גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי did not apply to that generation, because it was a forced conversion; Hashem had them over a barrel, so to speak. They couldn't refuse the conversion. A forced conversion does not yield the result of גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי. So, many married couples were forced to separate. (Side note- The Shmaitsa in the Hakdama says that it wasn't a literal case of duress. Instead, the fact that the world could not exist without Torah was so obvious to the Jews at that point, that in a manner of speaking, they had no choice.)
Ironically, the Chasam Sofer in his pirush to Avodah Zara 63b says that he never could find a convincing source for Chazal's rule of Geir Shenisgayer K'Katan Shenolad Dami. Reb Meir Simcha says that the passuk in Devarim 5 שׁוּבוּ לָכֶם לְאָהֳלֵיכֶם that allowed them to go home to their spouses is the source for the rule- that they could go back to their spouse even if the spouse was a relative, because any potential problem was solved by the chidush of גר שנתגייר כקטן שנולד דמי. The Maharal looks at the same event and says that on the contrary, the couples that were related to each other were prohibited to go home, and that's why they cried. According to Reb Meir Simcha, it is the source for the rule. According to the Maharal, it is the one and only exception to the rule.
Most Achronim assume the Maharal's pshat, that they were crying for the spouses they lost. However, they offer several alternatives to the Maharal's explanation for this anomalous absence of the general rule that a Ger is no longer related to his erstwhile relatives. As we said, the Maharal's explanation is that Mattan Torah was to some extent a forced conversion, and a forced conversion is not called a rebirth. The explanations offered by other Achronim are as follows:
Many achronim (including Rav Shternbuch in his Moadim Uzmanim on Shvuos #238) say that Geir Shnisgayer is only Ke'Kattan when he is coming from a different nation. But we already were descendants of the Avos, we already were Klal Yisrael. For example, the Ramban at the end of Emor says that after Avraham's Bris Milah, his children acquired the yichus of "Zera Avraham," and the Brisker Rov in Parshas Bo says that the din of Kol ben neichar by Korban Pesach proves that there was already a legal distinction between Zera Avraham and a Ben Neichar in Mitzrayim. So the Geirus at Mattan Torah was simply geirus to add kedusha. Such a Geirus is not ke'katan she'nolad.
Reb Yosef Ber (YU) as brought by Rabbi Shurkin in his Harrerei Kedem brings the Rambam that Geirus requires three things, Milah, Tevilah, and Ritzui of the Dahm of a Korban. From the words the Rambam uses (13 Issurei Bi'ah 1 and 3, and see similar in 1 Teshuva 2), it appears that he sees the Korban at Mattan Torah as essentially distinct from the normal korban of a geir: it was a korban tzibbur. Therefore, he says, the geirus too was a geirus of a tzibbur. We only say Ke'kattan when an individual becomes a geir, because he leaves behind all his relatives. But where a group all becomes geirim together, their relationships survive the geirus. I'm sure Reb YB said it slightly differently, because the way it's written it's very speculative. What I think he said was that there is a difference between the geirus of a yachid and the geirus of a tzibbur. Even if a bunch of geirim are misgayeir at once, they are still not related, because the nature of their geirus was Geirus Yachid. But here, it wasn't geirus of a yachid. It was Geirus of a Tzibbur. A Geirus tzibbur brings along its members' relationships.
I am not a Googelamden, who just digs up a bunch of pshatim and adds nothing. I don't write unless I can offer something new.
What I have to offer is this:
When Rus insisted on becoming a Giyores, she told Na'ami עמך עמי, ואלקיך אלקי. Your nation is my nation, and your G-d is my G-d. Geirus involves two elements, two dinim: joining Klal Yisrael and kabbalas Mitzvos Hashem. What is this Ameich Ami business? Why does the Ger need to join Klal Yisrael? Apparently, it's only shayach to be chayav in Mitzvos when you're a member of Klal Yisrael: that special yachas to the Ribono shel Olam requires being a member of Am Yisrael. Now, these two elements have different characteristics. Establishing the special relationship through the mitzvos is a a matter of acquiring something totally new. Before, you weren't chayav in mitzvos, and now you are. Joining Klal Yisrael is more than a matter of entering, it requires leaving as well. One can be a Amoni, or a Ashuri, or whatever, and that's fine, but in order to become a Yisrael, you have to abandon your earlier national identity. Kedusha- a positive act, be'poeil. Klal Yisrael- both a negative and a positive, shlilis and be'poeil. You have to erase your past in order to enter your future. (Maybe this is a part of the Geirus, maybe it's only a machshir for kabbalas mitzvos. That's a question for another day.) This is the basis of Geir Shenisgayer: not the addition of kedusha, but rather the abandonment of the previous identity that was necessary in order to become a Yisrael.
So nowהסכת ושמע :
What is the source of this dual requirement, of joining Klal Yisrael plus kabalas mitzvos? Why isn't Kabalas Mitzvos alone good enough? Because at Mattan Torah, at the the bris of Chorev, two events occurred:
- One, that we were endowed with and we accepted the Chiyuv mitzvos, the special relationship with the Ribono shel Olam.
- Two, that the Ribono shel Olam was meyacheid this chalos davka to Klal Yisrael.
After Mattan Torah, only after the limitation of chiyuv mitzvos to Klal Yisrael, the process of Geirus itself required two steps. The two steps now are:
- First that the Geir becomes a member of Klal Yisrael and
- Second that he accepts the kedusha of mitzvos and avdus to Hashem.
So the kashe of the Maharal disappears, poof. Geirus is only ke'katan shenolad when the process involves two elements, identity change and kedusha. This is true after the Bris with Klal Yisrael at Sinai, when the Ribono shel Olam was meyacheid His name and kedusha upon us. But at Sinai, no identity change was necessary.
I think this pshat is gold, and makes everything else unnecessary. True, Reb Meir Simcha holds that Geir shenisgayeir is ke'katan because of a Gzeiras Hakasuv and it applied to the Geirus of Sinai. But for all the rishonim and achronim that say not like Reb Meir Simcha, what I'm saying could be, as my father zatza'l used to say, karov l'emes.
I ask, too, that you realize that this goes FAR, FAR, BEYOND the teretz from the achronim that Rav Shternbuch brings. What they say is dry as dust, with no explanation, no lomdus, a take it or leave it teretz. What I'm saying brings a completely different perspective that breathes life into the teretz.
One more thing:
Let's talk for a moment about the basic machlokes whether Geirus Sinai had a din of K'katan she'nolad or not. What's the yesod of the machlokes?
We already explained that the shita that Sinai did not cause כקטן שנולד holds that nolad comes from the change of identity, from Nochri to Yisrael. What does the other shitta, Reb Meir Simcha, hold? Reb Meir Simcha holds that כקטן שנולד comes from the Chalos din of becoming an Eved Hashem. This applied 100% at Har Sinai, so there was a din of כקטן שנולד there too.
In fact, if you want to say this with a little smile, you might say pshat in the machlokes about what causes the din of katan she'nolad - is it the שינוי השם from Nochri to Yisrael or the שינוי רשות from owning himself (or, perhaps, הפקרות,) to being a kinyan of the Ribono shel Olam, an Eved Hashem.
Please note that even if you don't accept the essential difference between Mattan Torah and later Geirus, the idea that Geirus involves two elements still is very useful, as follows:
Would this din apply where they were already members of Klal Yisrael? Of course not. They weren't abandoning their past.
Would this din apply where it was the geirus of a tzibbur? No it would not. Since Hashem allowed the tzibur to convert as a whole, it appears that their din tzibbur was allowed to remain. If not, then they couldn't have a GEIRUS TZIBUR. If they remained a tzibur, then there was not din of katan shenolad.
And finally; would this din apply if the geirus was forced? No, it would not. A chalos can be chall ba'al korcho. But a bittul chalos cannot be chall ba'al korchos. You can be mechayeiv someone in more mitzvos against his will, you can impose kedusha on him, but a person's identity is inherently personal- you can't make a person not be what he is. That can only happen if the person changes himself.
Tal Benschar wrote a comment noting that it is clear in Chazal that the generation of Sinai did inherit from their parents. The Gemara in Bava Kamma 109a says that under certain circumstances, repayment of theft may be made to the heir of the victim. That person is called the Go'eil. The Torah says there may be a victim who has no heir. The Gemara asks, but every Jew is related to every other Jew! The Gemara says that the only person without an heir is a Ger who had no children after the conversion. According to Reb Meir Simcha, the entire generation of Sinai were considered reborn without relatives, so why would every Jew be related to every other Jew? There were 600,000 unrelated individuals created on that day.
I attempted to defend Reb Meir Simcha by saying that the din of Go'eil may survive the Geirus of Sinai, though the din of yerusha did not, just as Amoni or Mitzri does. I supported this with the opinion of Reb Yochanan, that a convert (whose children later convert, according to the Rambam's reading of Reb Yochanan) is considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah of Piryah ve'Rivya. I deflected the fact that rishonim seem to equate Go'eil with Yoresh by arguing that the laws of yerusha might be a siman of who is the go'eil, not the sibah, and would therefore apply even through geirus.
The only defense of Reb Meir Simcha I could think of is that although they were K'katan regarding Arayos, they were not K'katan regarding Yerusha. The problem with this is that Reb Meir Simcha says that the entire source for the rule of K'katan is Sinai, and if it didn't apply to yerusha, on what basis does it apply in cases of later geirus?
One might respond that it is obvious to Chazal that if kurva regarding Arayos is annulled, then kurva regarding yerusha must be annulled as well. If so, one must deal with the contradiction evident between Tzlafchad and Shuvu L'ahaleichem. One can say that the retention of yerusha was a singular exception to the rule which was necessitated by the overriding need to bequeath Israel to the descendants of Avraham, either to fulfill the vow to Avraham, or because we, as individuals, were not worthy of Eretz Yisrael. Our only claim was through Avraham Avinu. This is why Geirus did not annul kurva regarding Geirus Sinai. But for all subsequent Geirus, just as kurva regarding Arayos is annulled, kurva regarding yerusha is annulled too.
In any case, I noted that with or without a defense of Reb Meir Simcha, we can assume that he had a way to resolve the questions, and so his opinion that K'Katan applied to Sinai remains on the roster of Shittos.