A baal tshuva – or any other Jew with aspirations – needs two primary spiritual resources: Belief in Hashem, and belief in oneself. Many sources speak about the former, but few discuss the importance of the latter.
Young BT’s are frequently misled by mistaken concepts of “anava”, or modesty. Hashem doesn’t expect you to walk around telling everyone that you’re “gornisht”; those who do so, even if they are sincerely trying to rid their lives of arrogance – end up believing that they really are nothing. That’s wrong. A soldier must know his capabilities in order to effectively utilize the weapons at his disposal. An F-15 pilot must be perfectly aware that the government has entrusted $50 million sophisticated airborne arsenal in his hands, including an array of ultra high-tech weaponry in order to get his job done. He can’t say, “I’m a weak nothing,” or else he’ll be endangering the security of his country, wasting potential, and losing the war.
Yiddishkeit is also a war. The Yetzer has an array of weapons and forces at his disposal, to deter and discourage a person from making Tshuva, or to break the heart of a person who’s trying to effectively become a ben- or bas-Torah. If you believe in yourself, you’ll be able to wipe the floor with the Yetzer.
We are all called sons and daughters of Hashem, not because of our physical attributes, but by virtue of our neshomas – that tiny spark of G-dliness within each one of us. In effect, every Jew is walking around with a spiritual microchip in his or her brain, far more powerful that any nuclear reactor. This spiritual microchip – our divine soul – enables us to transcend nature and to perform superhuman feats. For example, a tzaddik that never speaks Loshon Hora possesses tremendous power that can literally change the course of nature; that’s why people seek the blessings of a tzaddik.
No matter where you come from, you can achieve greatness if you believe in yourself. You must believe that Hashem listens to all your prayers, gets tremendous satisfaction from your Torah learning (no matter whatever level you’re currently holding), and derives untold nachas from your mitzvas. You must believe that you are capable of using all the useful lessons you learned in the outside world (athletics, military, university, etc.) and apply them to Torah. You must believe that you have the tools for unlimited spiritual growth, for influencing others, and for making significant contributions to the Jewish people. You must believe that you are capable of being both a tzaddik and a scholar, and that your service of Hashem can and will move the earth.
I believe in you, cherished friend and fellow BT – I hope that you’ll start believing in yourself. That will hasten the day when we can go up to a rebuilt Jerusalem and greet Moshiach Tzidkenu together.
(Rabbi Brody is an author of three seforim and runs the popular Lazer Beams blog. Rabbi Brody was a member of the IDF elite special-forces units and a decorated combat veteran of two wars and dozens of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel’s borders. After surviving a near-suicidal mission to Beirut during the Israel-Lebanon conflict of 1982, Rabbi Brody could no longer ignore the hand of G-d in his life. He became a baal-tshuva and left his mountaintop farm to study Torah in Jerusalem.
He is currently the Dean of the Breslever rabbinical college in the port town of Ashdod, while simultaneously serving as the understudy of the renowned Melitzer Rebbe, a contemporary giant in rabbinical law and personal counseling.
We are extremely excited about having Rabbi Brody on board as a regular contributor to Beyond Teshvua)