Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

On Joining the Beyond Teshuvah Blog

Posted on | December 6, 2005 | By Steve Brizel | 8 Comments

Here’s an email that I sent to Mark yesterday when he asked me about joining this blog.

This is an execellent start on a very important and very difficult issue facing Torah Judaism today. First of all, I think that many Rishonim beginning with the Sefer Hachinuch and such Gdolei Acharonim such the Chafetz Chaim state that it is assur to remind a BT of his prior background and behavior. That being a given, I think that there are many BTs today who are integrated into the frum community on all of these issues. Many, if not all of my contemporaries in NCSY in the 1960s and 1970s are very much a part of the frum community and are rabbinic and lay leaders. The OU Board of Directors is loaded with many BTs. Their POV is accepted on a wide variety of issues.

In one of his Teshuvah Drashos, RYBS pointed out the difference between Teshuvah mAhavah and Teshuvah MYirah as being the difference between integrating one’s past into one’s new life or totally eradicating the past. I think that many BTs walk a fine line on this very issue.

Parenting, Relationships, Plateauing, Education and Shidduchim are issues that affect all Jews. Integration and handling the relationship with family relatives who are “not yet frum” are issues which IMO are very much related to BTs. I think that Nefesh and specifically R D A Twerski or D B Holzer could be very helpful on these issues,

I think that the above issues are present. I can’t say whether they are magnified in importance as one moves across the hashkafic spectrum, but they do exist everywhere in different degrees. I once heard a joke that in Lakewood a BT is defined as someone learnig there whose parents went to RIETS, YU and Stern!

I do think that the focus has to be on what unifies all sectors of Klal Yisrael and IMO the unifying factors are Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim. All of the various hashkafic approaches ranging from the Rambam’s rationalism to Chasidus, Mussar, TIDE and TuM are both wonderful in the abstract but exceedingly hard to implement . Each of these approaches has experienced intellectual “hardening of the arteries” . I have found that for myslef that all of these approaches have a lot to offer, and that aspects of all enhance my Avodas HaShem. OTOH, when the hashkfa threatens to supplant halachic norms., I can jettison those aspects which don’t enhance my Avodas haShem.

IMO, too many BTs are “sold” a package that Torah and learning Torah is the “answer” to one’s problems and life , as opposed to being presented with the idea that Torah is an “approach” to life that gives you a set of tools in every way to deal with the world, as opposed to a definitive answer. While halacha by its definition involves a psak, hashkafa is a much more flexible affair. IOW, as many Rishonim and Acharonim state, Daas Torah has nothing to do with Hashkafa. That’s why we see such varied schools of Parshanut such as Ramban, Ibn Ezra, etc. “Answers” strike me as overly authoritative when in fact every hashkafa has its pluses and minuses. Based upon my reading of some BTs who posted on the Slifkin affair, this is an issue that is definitely present.

I also think that way too many BTs think that they can “walk the walk, talk the talk and look the part” without acquirring true textual literacy in Chumash, Tanach, Shas and Poskim.IMO, that may be one of the reasons why ArtScroll is so successful, but it also has led to too many Jews who are dependent on a crutch named ArtScroll for the rest of their lives.

These are a few of the issues that I think that I would feel comfortable blogging about.

Steve

Comments

8 Responses to “On Joining the Beyond Teshuvah Blog”

  1. Dovid
    December 6th, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

    You make some very good points. Most particularly, the point “…too many BTs are “sold” a package that Torah and learning Torah is the “answer” to one’s problems and life…” I agree that this is a major issue but I’m not sure if they are being sold that bill of goods or they are making certain assumptions that aren’t being corrected (or perhaps both).

    There are many BTs who simply can’t understand why they have what they view to be difficult lives. The thought process is, I gave up all of “that” and this is how I am rewarded?!

    I also agree wholeheartedly with your point on literacy which is why I mentioned in my “Playing Catch Up” post the difficulty of finding and properly managing the little time we often have to best pursue growth in learning. When I was in yeshiva and thinking about going home to work in preparation for grad school, my Rebbeim urged me to continue learning because I would never have the opportunity to do so later in life. I was too immature to believe that they weren’t just telling me that because they believe everyone should be sitting and learning. Fifteen years later, it’s nearly impossible to find two consecutive hours to sit and learn! If you cannot actually integrate “without acquirring true textual literacy in Chumash, Tanach, Shas and Poskim” the overwhelming majority of “late stage BTs” will simply not integrate, especially those that already have families of their own. I don’t know how Nach snuck in there when, in my experience, the average male FFB’s grasp of Nach is so poor that my 12 y.o. daughter can walk circles around him in that regard, but I digress.

  2. 4jkb4ia
    December 7th, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    The statement that “Torah is an approach to life” is 100% true. But without daas torah, how can a hashkafa be a Jewish hashkafa? It must integrate the Torah approach.

  3. Gershon Seif
    December 7th, 2005 @ 4:37 pm

    Which one did RYBS say is mAhava and which is MYirah? I can offer a pshat both ways?

  4. Gershon Seif
    December 7th, 2005 @ 4:48 pm

    To explain what I just wrote above…

    Pshat A: Myirah= integrating one’s past into one’s new life. (implies he’s still holding onto his “bad” past)
    MAhava= totally eradicating the past. (he’s gotten rid of all his old baggage)

    Pshat B: Myirah= totally eradicating the past (he’s fearful of parts of himself and is “keeping himself in line” because he’s supposed to)
    MAhava= integrating one’s past into one’s new life. (He’s found that Hashem can smile down on him for all the talents he has. Hashem loves him for all that he is about and he doesn’t and shouldn’t deny himself whole chunks of his persona)

    I’m strongly inclined to say Pshat B is the right one.

  5. Beyond BT » Blog Archive » Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik on Teshuva
    December 7th, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

    [...] Gershon Seif asked and suggested how RYBS viewed Teshuvah MeAhavah and Teshuvah MeYirah. IIRC, RYBS suggested the exactly opposite ideas in Al HaTshuvah but refrained from saying which was better or preferable. To all of those who are blogging here, please excuse my posts if they appear overly opinionated. [...]

  6. Eitan
    December 11th, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

    A practical request. In the future could you write out all your acronymns at least once. I’m having trouble following your post because of “RYBS, POV, IMO, IOW.” For those of us who have not spent time in yeshivah ‘yet,’ these are quite puzzling.

  7. Miriam
    December 14th, 2005 @ 7:01 pm

    I’d like RYBS explained too, but, Eitan, the rest are English, as far as I can tell… POV = Point Of View, IMO = In My Opinion, IOW = In Other Words, OTOH = On The Other Hand and so forth. It was confusing to read, though, as I had to stop and think about it for a moment at each one.

  8. Steve Brizel
    December 18th, 2005 @ 6:17 pm

    Someone raised the issue that hashkafa must must pass the muster of Daas Torah. FWIW, the Rambam in a number of places in the Perush HaMishnah rejects that very thesis. If that was the case, one would have expected evidence that Chasidus and Mussar reached such a position solely because Daas Torah deemed them so. In fact, there were pitched battles between Chasidim and Misnagdim and Misnagdim and Baalei Mussar. Ultimately, the common enemies of Haskalah, etc rendered these battles academic in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

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