Posted on | February 1, 2006 | By Michael Goodheart | 15 Comments
I am a baal tshuva of 10 years living in Jerusalem. I have spent time in a number of different yeshivas and kollel’im in various different communities in and out of Jerusalem. I have met and know a plethora of baal tshuvas like myself who have married and integrated into the frum communities in which we live. I know many baal tshuvas that doven neitz, learn all day, behave like menchen and who are raising their FFB kids to be good Jews and are sending them to well established schools. But, I am beginning to think that as utopian as all this seems, something is wrong, something is missing.
Lately I have been doing something that for quite a while I have to admit I have managed to avoid doing. I have actually been listening to the Torah that I am learning. As crazy as this may sound, this has been a life shocking experience for me.
One of the questions that I caught myself contemplating the other day was: What does it mean ‘Kol yisroel arevim zeh lezeh’? An orev is a guarantor. That means that if my friend borrows $5000 from a gemach to start a little business and I sign as a guarantor – I better make sure that he doesn’t make a stupid investment otherwise I’m going to be the one who has to pay for his mistake.
If I am an orev for every other Jew, even secular Jews, and they are investing their time – their lives in nourishkeit, does that mean that I and my family are going to have to pay for their mistakes? And in what way will we have to pay? As extreme as it may sound, I can’t deny that the thought hasn’t crossed my mind that there were a lot of frum Jews who were murdered in the holocaust?
I have been thinking about what the Chatam Sofer explains to be the reason why Avraham was chosen as the Father of the Jews and not Shem and Aver even though they were more learned. He explains, Shem and Aver stayed in their tents caring only about the levels that they were reaching and Avraham was willing to forgo his growth to teach the world about G-d.
I see so many baal tshuvas, including myself, trying to pass as FFB’s, leading FFB lives. Have we completely forgotten about and stopped caring about the Jews in the world that we came from? And if we have, is this a mistake?
On a practical level I am finding myself ask: Even if I want to, what can I do anyway? It wasn’t hard for me to find a resevoir of mekorot demanding that if the Jewish people need it, we must involve ourselves with kiruv rechokim. But what can I do? I don’t think that I know or can relate to that world anymore. I don’t know any secular Jews (except my own family and I believe that in my case that doing kiruv with my family is best done through example as opposed to discussing the validity of G-d’s existence).
This is the dilemma that I presently find myself in. Do I just go on doing what I’m doing, or should I be stepping out of my tent? And even if I decide to do that, what does this mean on a practical level?