Here is a question: What do you think counts for more? Converting into Judaism or have been born into Judaism? While talking to two of my friends, one said that if she had not been born Jewish, she would have never found the beauty in it and it would have most likely not have interested her, while the other one said that converts purposely go out of their way to choose this religion, and choose G-d, which she sees a lot of meaning in. There are a few sources in the Torah that explain to us that we should show great respect to converts. One source is Shemot כב:כ (Exodus 22:20). It states, “ וְגֵר לֹא תוֹנֶה וְלֹא תִלְחָצֶנּוּ כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם.” “And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
In this weeks Parsha, Parashat Yitro, we are introduced to Yitro who is Moshe’s father-in-law. Not only do we receive the Ten Commandments, but we also see the first, true, conversion. Yitro was the high priest of Midian and by choice, he decided that he wanted to join the Jewish nation, therefore he circumcised himself which was the conversion. Yitro left everything behind for this new religion. Yitro was also the one that suggested that they set up a judicials system with judges that would be taught all the laws so that people can come to them for answers instead of everyone coming to Moshe with their questions. In their time, everything was straight forward and they knew what they should have been doing but then Yitro came into the picture and gave his own contribution that, infact, helped.
As Jews we have our laws and teachers that tell us what the Torah outlines for us. Sometimes we don’t realize the other elements that can help us understand better and become a stronger nation. Those elements come from outside opinions, from converts who decide they would like the be a part of the Jewish nation and contribute. Whether you were born a Jew or a convert, we can all learn from each other and grow positively.