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.