THE CHALLENGES OF THE BAAL TESHUVAH
Many Jews, usually due to no fault of their own, have found themselves to be distant from the paths of a true Jewish life. The Torah usually refers to these people as Tinokos Shenishbu – “Children held captive”. Much like one would not blame a child in captivity for not knowing how to get on with life after decades of captivity, so too the Jew who finds himself/herself distant from the true path of Torah is not to be held liable for having been brought up in environments not conducive to a proper Torah lifestyle. (Yet this does not excuse them either – from changing their ways to be in line with proper Torah values from this point onwards.)
In addition, such Jews have no better knowledge of what it really means to be Jewish, and may end up spending most of their lives away from Judaism – often believing that (perhaps having been brought up in a “traditional” home) they are already familiar with what being Jewish is all about.
Sadly, such Jews spend most of their lives lost to the “value systems” of the secular world. A world filled with the latest goings-on in Hollywood America (and the “superstars,”) a world filled with the latest crazes – lowest moral values, violence and “fun” – all in the name of a better world – of course!
It often happens, however, that such Jews awaken one day – whether through another person influencing them, or through their own discovery (and blessing from G-d,) to realise how far off the path of Torah they have veered, and just how much Torah and Judaism they are lacking in their lives.
These realisations often come about through feelings of a lack of fulfilment in life – feelings of realising that life is passing by without any real goals being accomplished. Suddenly the G-dly soul contained in the Jew awakens and begins to thirst for true Judaism – true Torah. Much like a person in a desert walks over the sand feeling fine (so long as he has had his fill) but ever so suddenly realises that without real water, his thirst will take his life! The pains experienced then are certainly real – and the thirsting person wants nothing else but a glass of cold refreshing water.
This is the Baal Teshuva of today – the returnee to Judaism. It may come about through a variety of reasons, but when the Jewish soul awakens to realise just what true Yiddishkeit is all about – such an individual wants nothing more than to study Torah all day and all night – to practise Mitzvot, to do acts of goodness and kindness.
THE JOYS OF YIDDISHKEIT
Long gone are the days of partying in clubs, spending nights looking for “highs” and everything else that comes with a life devoid of true Jewish values. Suddenly the highs of life come about through a deep cleaving to G-d. Suddenly the Jew wants nothing more than to be satiated with the waters of Torah.
In a moment, life changes, and from being a captive Jewish soul, this person bursts outwards wanting it all – Kashrut, Shabbat, Family Purity! He/she wants to know about how to give charity, how to treat another as he would want to be treated himself. Such a person wants to dress modestly, speak well of all things and think only those thoughts that are G-dly in themselves.
But because of his upbringing, he finds himself in a difficult situation. While wanting all these things, he may find that he is still living with family and friends who find his value system a foreign one. Now, he is seen as the outsider. He is seen as the odd one out. While once before he would eat anything anywhere, he now demands a high level of Kashrut standard. He simply can no longer socialise – even with his family – as he would once do before.
The challenges of the Baal Teshuva are enough to bring any Baal Teshuva to tears on a daily basis – something that very often happens, although others may not see this. Their challenges are so great, that they may be brought to the highest high on any given day – only to be thrown to the ground on another day (by factors around them, inner thoughts and much more.)
SOMEONE TO TALK TO
Who does one talk to when one finds oneself in such a situation? Are there any rabbis and teachers around who are sympathetic enough to honestly deal with the frustrations that the Baal Teshuva must go through – every single day?!
Unfortunately those who pass through the path of having been secular to becoming frum (religious) often forget quickly the true mindset of the Baal Teshuva. Often, they are too embarrassed to even make mention of this themselves – to think that they are still filled with the same mindset as every other Baal Teshuva.
The truth is that the mindset of the Baal Teshuva never really changes drastically. The same tests and difficulties encountered years ago, may well crop up again and again – even for the most learned rabbi – who had once found himself in a secular background. Unfortunately however, having now reached his level of scholarship, he may regard himself as having already achieved the goal – and promptly forget that there are still those in search of help – who need guidance, to be brought back to Torah with kindness and care.
The Baal Teshuva has few friends who will make the path of growing in Yiddishkeit a successful one. Friends and rabbis may well suggest ways of breaking so far from one’s old family and friends that the Baal Teshuva finds himself in a lonely world. Often, rabbis will not set him up with prospective Shidduchim (for marriage) because he has come from a secular background. Who does he turn to for help?!
Reb Eliyahu has been involved in the Baal Teshuva movement for many years, and is well aware of the frustrations and difficulties facing those searching for truth. Those who find themselves estranged from true Jewish values and the Torah itself.
For this purpose he has set up both this web page as well as a blog with articles connected with the reality of Torah in an authentic and sincere way. All are free to learn from these sites.
In addition to this, Reb Eliyahu is available for online sessions for learning all kinds of areas of Torah. (Group sessions and video conferencing available as well.) He feels an especially close connection with those on their way back to Torah, and reaches out to those looking for their path in Torah. For those wishing to learn more and find out how to integrate and be successful in practising their Yiddishkeit – especially when they find themselves continually up against family and friends who may hold them back. If you find yourself in Israel, please join Rav Eliyahu for a private or group Shiur in person.
Making the adjustment to living a Torah life – and growing – is a huge undertaking, one that can take decades to adjust to.
If you find yourself in this situation and are looking for someone to support you through your growth in Torah – someone who is sensitive to the real situations of a Baal Teshuva, then be in touch with Reb Eliyahu today, whether for an online session in any area of Torah you enjoy – from learning the Aleph Beit to learning a page of Gemara, Chassidut or Zohar (and more!) If you would just like to talk about your own frustrations in dealing with bridging the gaps between these two – so very different lifestyles – the secular and the Torah observant one – and how to somehow make it through life against all the odds surrounded by friends and family not yet observant, do be in touch today.
Wishing you much success in your spiritual growth – in becoming even closer to Torah and to G-d, and fulfilling your own life goals (and those of the Creator!)