Friday, January 12, 2007

Why The Baal Teshuva World Irritates Me

I am not FFB, but I have a number of friends who are. I am not BT and not real likely to go that route. I have watched many friends go down that path and haven't had the most pleasant reaction to what I have seen.

The internal struggle that many of them has gone through has created so many tumultuous situations. Time after time I have witnessed terrible fighting with their relatives and the complete severance of decade long friendships.

I understand and appreciate that they have found a spiritual calling. I can respect that. I don't have any problem with people choosing to find the derech. But I cannot condone the bridge burning that many of their supporters encourage them to do.

When the only way that you can find security in your new place is to rid yourself of all of your old world ties there is a problem. It comes off as being cultlike and I think that it is sad.

Not all of my friends growth resembled Sherman's march through Atlanta. Some of them found a path that allowed them to do what they had to do without badmouthing their friends and relatives. Some of them were secure enough to accept that not everyone was going to be like them.

And some understood that you attract more flies with honey. They recognized that patronizing comments were unwarranted and that building bridges made more sense.

I suppose that part of what bothers me about this stems from their refusal to accept that there are those of us who have chosen to maintain our level of observance. Just as they feel like they have come to a place of spiritual growth so have we.

I recall one friend who grew up in a completely secular home trying to teach me how I could be more observant and become a better Jew. The former three day a year Jew thinking that 18 months of learning meant that he knew more than 25 years of practicing Judaism.

Why? Because the people he was surrounded by taught him that any Judaism that was different from their own wasn't real. Quite shameful and quite sad. A real chillul Hashem.

I don't want to belabor the point. I don't have a problem with BTs in general and applaud their decision. All I expect is that they open their eyes and look around. In spite of what some say, it is a big world and there is no one singular path to Hashem.

Just as they say they'll daven for me, I daven for them.

(Originally posted here)


Chana said...

"When the only way that you can find security in your new place is to rid yourself of all of your old world ties there is a problem. It comes off as being cultlike and I think that it is sad."

I very much like this statement. I think it's quite true. I can't imagine why it should be necessary to burn bridges and erase ties in order to lead a life as an observant Jew. If others choose to cut you off, that's one thing, but why do this to a perfectly innocent person, someone who was part of your former life?

Anonymous said...

First time I am on your site... Looks pretty good and I will frequent it more often. I am currently going through this issue right now. Its not fun either. I have taken the philosophy of doing what I can in terms of religious practice. IF that means donning Tifflin then so be it. IF that means saying a few prayers so be it. But there are certain things in my non Jewish life that I still have to continue. Like working on the Sabbath. I sometimes have no choice. Thats the nature of my busniess. The more I delve into Judaism the more I see the struggle.
How does one pick and choose to be religious or not. That is determined by him or her and Hashem. They must follow their heart.
But I agree with you on your BT statements. I also have seen many friends turn their back on me when they become BT. I dont understand why they dont talk to me. Its not like I am a bad Jew. I have made peace with that as its been a long time since I talked to them altogether. But its just annoying.

Anshel's Wife said...

My husband and I went BT a few years ago. In the beginning, we were very self-righteous and out to "convert" every nonobservant Jew we knew to Judaism. We were unrelenting with our non-religious families. But now, after about 8 years, we have calmed down. We find ways of visiting and spending time with our families. We do our own thing and hope to generate interest in others, but if not, well, maybe next time.

There are definite stages in the BT process. And since you know so many BT's, you should realize that.

It's true that we don't have a lot to do with the friends we had before going BT, but then we don't have a lot in common with them anymore. But we worked hard not to burn bridges. That is for sure a big mistake.

I know you learn a lot. You are probably more knowledgable in many areas of Judaism in which I am not. In fact, I'm sure of it. That is major. Learning. I guess, though, for me, once we started to learn more about Judaism, not the feel good kind I learned as a kid (sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone, but I grew up in a Conservative shul that started off as Orthodox and fought change. I remember, back in the 70's the first time a woman was allowed to carry the Torah. I happened to be the first bas mitzva girl to wear a tallis!!!!), we couldn't help but want to do more with our observance and eventually went all the way.

My kids know that Grandma wears pants and drives on Shabbos and Grandpa doesn't wear a yarmulke and works on Shabbos, but we have never told them anything negative about that. They understand that not all Jews are observant and they shouldn't judge.

I can tell you, though, we were the last people you would ever suspect of becoming frum. Sure, we went to shul on Shabbos, but after that, we'd go to the mall for lunch and a movie or shopping. Pesach consisted of 2 seders, 2 days not eating bread. Chanukah was lighting the menorah, but shopping frantically for gifts. Shavuos was..... what was Shavuos???? I can give you many other examples of our life before, but maybe some other time. But my husband overheard some frum people saying that we would never become frum. We just weren't the type. Not that he felt challenged to become frum, because he didn't want to. I didn't know about that overheard conversation until much, much later. We've learned to adapt. We've learned not to work on Shabbos and holidays. We've learned to save up vacation for holidays. We've learned how to shop for kosher foods. We've learned how to dress differently and to make new friends. So many things we do differently. But after these few years, they seem almost natural and we have to laugh that we ever thought we couldn't do it.

I hear what you are saying about your BT friends. I know it's frustrating. Be patient with them, they'll come around, or they weren't such good friends to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I find that most people who are BT have very extreme personalities. For example, many I know go from being hippies to very religious. They merely need some system to tell them what to do. They still don't find a balance. It's sad.

Anonymous said...

Our happy, healthy, loving daughter became a BT, became mean, selfish, disrespectful,robotic, and has destroyed our family and alienated every friend she had. Although she has a masters degree in psychology she chooses to live on medicaid, food stamps, wic, and every other freebie her and her healthy non working husband can manipulate. After 5 years of kissing her butt, we are done.It takes 2 to have a relationship. We have never asked her to break her "rules" but she has taught us why people hate jews. And very unfortunately, we now spit on orthodox jews for stealing our daughter.