The Holiday of Shavuot is essentially the celebration of the anniversary of our conversion to Judaism, as Rambam indicates in his Code of Jewish Law, that just as our ancestors undertook three steps in their entry into the covenant with Hashem, namely: Brit Milah – circumcision (Shemot 12:48), immersion in a mikvah (ibid 19:10), and the offering of a sacrifice (ibid 24:5), so too, one who wishes to convert to Judaism must take these same three steps. (Since today it is impossible to bring a sacrifice, when Mashiach comes, the convert will bring the sacrifice)
As such, every one of us, having stood at Sinai are ourselves converts.
The law is that a convert does not need to know the entire Torah before being accepted as a convert, as Rambam explains, a sincere convert is taught “some of the difficult mitzvot, and some of the easier ones,” at the time of conversion. Obviously, the convert is not expected to stay at the level of only “some of the mitzvot” clearly, conversion involves a commitment to continue learning and growing in one’s observance of Torah and Mitzvot.
The Aseret HaDibrot—the Ten Commandments are then the symbol of this notion. They are a vital first step for a sincere Jew, but only a first step. One is required to follow up with the rest of the Torah, both the oral and written Torah.
On the other hand, we understand that the Torah’s idea of becoming a Jew is not an all or nothing observance. As long as one is sincerely doing his or her best to observe what they know of and are ready for at this time, they are deemed fully embracing Judaism.
We are all converts, we are all on the path of accepting the Torah, each year revisiting that acceptance to see if there is a new mitzvah that we are ready to take on. At the same time, being at the beginning of the process does not take away from us the very meaningful, spiritual experience of Kabbalat HaTorah, receiving the Torah and thereby connecting with Notain HaTorah the Giver of the Torah Himself.
At Shavuot, as we listen to the reading of the Ten Coandments each of us is to see him or herself as though standing at Mount Sinai, willingly accepting the Torah, the parts of it we know of along with the parts we do not know of. The parts we are ready to observe and the parts that for whatever reason we are not ready to observe.
Mushky, the children and I wish you and all those you love, a meaningful and joyful experience of Kabbalat HaTorah, receiving and accepting of the Torah.
Rabbi Y. Mendelson