Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Tachlis-Where Do We Go From Here?

Posted on | February 9, 2006 | By Rabbi Alter Klein | 11 Comments

I have to give my “hats off” to the people who decided to start this website. I wish that the Baalei Tsheuva world would have just melted and mixed with the FFB world to the point where you wouldn’t know the difference between any Yid. However, we all realize that that isn’t true.

I see the number one problem of BTs is that they don’t have a Rav, thereby having no guide through the process of life. Many BTs studied somewhat in Yeshiva or seminary but then once they moved on they never kept in “real” touch with their Rebbaim or Rebbetzins (I am not dealing with who’s to blame, that’s not the purpose of the article). Then there are those who never learned in Yeshiva. What’s a Yid supposed to do? Many times the local shul where you daven doesn’t have a Rav who can handle the issues of the FFBs, let alone the BT whom he doesn’t really understand.

What can we do? This website can only be a beginning and not an end. I realize that the Motzei Shabbos programs are a wonderful 1st step, but it is just that. We all need a way to vent our concerns and issues however what we really need to do is to solve the issue of the “wandering” BT. We need some form of infrastructure that can deal with BTs whereever they live and what ever stage in life they are. Am I looking for a miracle? Perhaps. But if we don’t try, we are guilty of watching some of our brethren drown in this world.

One of the ideas I have thought of is the following: a world wide organization with an 800 number (hotline) that would be an address for the BT to turn to in case of need. Basically similar to the wonderful medical referral organizations that exist. We could have qualified Rabbis in most major cities that we could refer people to. I know it sounds like a dream but if we had a central organization to manage and oversee the process then maybe it would work. The organization could charge a reasonable membership fee as well as raise money. We could have a once a year seminar/shabbaton in a central location where we would have forums dealing with the issues that are most important to us, our own “Aguda” convention. We could even publish a quarterly magazine devoted to these issues.

The only cost would be to administrate it and for counselors. Ideally we could pay the Rabbis that are involved so they could dedicate some serious time to this in their local communities but I realize that requires an enormous amount of funding.

I want to hear from you. What ideas do you have? How can we solve this challenge? We need to realize that since most of the Jewish world isn’t frum yet, this problem is only going to grow as more and more people become frum or worse, prevent people from becoming frum. This needs to be addressed now. Go for it.

For anyone who wishes to respond privately, please email me at aklein@ohravraham.com.

Comments

11 Responses to “Tachlis-Where Do We Go From Here?”

  1. Jewish Blogmeister
    February 9th, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

    I see the number one problem of BTs is that they don’t have a Rav:

    Well like a rebbe of mine said “asia lecha rav”

    If you don’t have one, be one:)

  2. Eddie Dembitzer
    February 9th, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

    Alter,

    As usual you hit the nail on the head in identifying the problem but I fear the solution is not nearly as simple to identify.

    Every mekarev will tell you that BT’s must maintain a strong contact with the people who had major influence over them in the beginning stages of their becoming BT’s [although not every Mekarev will make the time for that - some definitely will however] and continue to cultivate role models in their communities as they move ahead with life. It’s a real pity that not all of them realize the need to do so.

    A national hotline however, sounds great in theory but I’m not certain it’s practical or really a solution.
    One thing you learn in guiding BT’s is that each one is a universe unto his/herself and there are no one-size-fits-all answers. Each question needs to be evaluated within the framework of the unique life situations of that particular questioner. No two situations are alike and the most a competent rav on a hotline could do is refer the questioner to someone local who could seriously get involved.
    For that, I doubt we need a national hotline. If anything we need greater awareness on the part of BT’s and rabbanim.

  3. michael noach
    February 9th, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

    Shalom Rabbi. You said: “I wish that the Baalei Tsheuva world would have just melted and mixed with the FFB world to the point where you wouldn’t know the difference between any Yid”.

    I believe that this should not be our goal.
    Every Jew should be different , we are all meant to be individual groups like the 12 tribes. We want to have mekubalim , Yekes, black hat, yeshivish, chasidish, sefardi, Chabad, Yeshivish, baal Habos, Modern orthodox…
    that’s the beauty of our judaisme, to be different and still be together. The only thing missing is the Love that will recognize the other individual as incredible too.
    Like Rabbi Ezriel Tauber explains, the Jews are a big diamond . The more facettes you have to the diamond, the more beauty and light comes out from it. therefore the more differences we can find the more beauty we will bring. We just have to try become who we really are and use Love as the glue to keep us attached and make us shine more than ever.

    Ken Yehi Ratzon…
    Shalom

  4. One nation Many souls
    February 9th, 2006 @ 11:30 pm

    Boruch Hashem for our differences. I would not want your written desire to have any one blend in with the rest. I excell knowing that I have my own letter in the Torah and that together we make the scroll. I strongly agree with Ken Yehi Ratzon. Let’s celebrate our differences, our facets and use Torah as our guide, as the glue to keep us attached to make us shine more than ever.Perhaps you will consider consulting with your Rav (BT or FFB) who might give you a lesson on Tolerance, Unity and the like.

  5. Sarah Newcomb
    February 10th, 2006 @ 11:09 am

    I honestly doubt Rabbi Klein meant what he wrote the way you have understood it. I’m sure he didn’t mean we should all blend in and not have any differences regarding us as people. Probably just as far as background or history goes. That the whole world does not necessarily have to “spot” a baal teshuva instantly. As people we are all different, baaley teshuva and FFBs. No two children are alike from the same family either. But as far as needing guidance, simply due to lack of knowledge, lack of experience, or lack of yichus, steady guidance is crucial to continued growth for us and our families.
    For example, yesterday I attended a levaya in Boston where I was the ONLY FRUM PERSON there, not even the “Rabbi” who officially led it was. There I was with my family, lots of relatives, if I didn’t have guidance as to how to handle the many issues that arise, what would I have done? Flounder, that’s what. And that is what happens to many people without a “RAV”, they flounder. Hoping everyone finds their “Rav” and wishing continued growth to all and a Good Shabbos Kodesh.

  6. YM
    February 12th, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

    I think the idea of having one Rov who will be your mentor and you will be his disciple is so overstressed and overrated. While it is crazy to make a major life decision without talking to a Rov (or two), each person needs to “Make HIMSELF a Rov”, learn Torah, and take responsibility for his/her own life decisions. The majority of Rabboim I have met, each have their own flaws and I would not give over my life-decisions to them.

    I think this also relates to the point of those who complain that they didn’t get the whole scoop from their “Kiruv Agent.” Take responsibility for your own life – don’t go around blaming the person who kiruv’ed you if life is not as shiney and happy and he or she told you it would be. Come on people.

  7. Mark Frankel
    February 12th, 2006 @ 12:48 pm

    YM – I understand finding a Rov as establishing a personal relationship with someone who is well versed in Torah and who can be objective in helping you in various life decisions.

    The greater a person is in Torah, the more decisions he can make on his own. But there will always be situations where the objective advice of another person will be needed.

    Since many Baalei Teshuva come late to the game in terms of Torah knowledge and with a whole slew of questions due to their unique situation, a Rav with objectivity and Torah knowledge is even more critical.

  8. michael noach
    February 12th, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

    dear YM and Mark F., The Rambam in Hilchos Talmus Torah says that One’s Rav has to look like an Angel. That means that he has to be a holy person.
    A person who is holy is someone who has worked trumendously on his Middos and who lives the Torah . I just think that saying that the Rav just need to have “objectivity and Torah knowledge” is not enough . You have so many people who have lots of knowledge but don’t know how to use it.
    May we all have the Zchus to find a Rav who looks like an Angel.

    to Sarah Newcomb , I agree with you , put I just felt that the statement “I wish that the Baalei Tsheuva world would have just melted and mixed with the FFB world to the point where you wouldn’t know the difference between any Yid” could have been misunderstood, there are so many Baaley Teshuvas loosing their uniqueness by becoming religious that we have to be careful. The Yeshivah system is Great but one has to know how stay Baal Teshuva and not to become one of the Yeshivish stereotype. That’s why we need a Rebbe-Angel to help us develop who we are.

  9. YM
    February 12th, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

    Mark, when I read and hear constantly that every BT (or every Jew) needs a Rov, its within the context of finding someone who you will OBEY. I have seen the downside of this, with fellow-BT’s taking the half-baked advice of someone who should know better as GOSPEL and not thinking critically and acting in a saavy manner as the same person would in any other situation. Of course, a person should take the opportunity of speaking with a Rov whenever contending with a major or minor situation, but just because the Rabbi recommends doing “A” doesn’t mean it is Halacha.

  10. RachelR
    February 12th, 2006 @ 7:29 pm

    The idea for the national hotline is a wonderful idea in theory, but, unfortunately is not so good in practice. The only reason a rabbi is able to help a person is due to the relationship that these two people have. I have been told things by rabbis which I now know are based on a ver lenient opnion I would have never followed had I known halacha, but the rabbi knew that whatever he told me is what I would follow and I could only handle so much at a time.

    Also I have spoken to many qualified rabbis who simply say to me “here is the halacha, and here is how I think it is applied to your situation, but that is a very complex question and I don’t feel comfortable poskining. If you can speak to somebody else please do, but either way this is what I have found.” This is a very important skill; to be able to say you don’t know the answer. And it is in cases like this that it helps to also have another rav to turn to.

    Thus it is not always an objective opinion and that is why a unniversal hotline would not work. Some people are ready and at a point in thier lives to hear the more machmir opinion, and some people simply are not. Coming into Judaism I was shocked to learn that all milk is technically kosher. I had been taught that only chalav yisroel was alright, and thus I gave up on kosher because I knew I would never be able to keep chalav yisroel in my house. It was only after I learned that all milk (in America) is kosher that I realized it was possible. But now I am at a point where I can consider chalav yisroel because I made it past the small steps. And whats right for one person is not right for everybody.

  11. Mark Frankel
    February 12th, 2006 @ 7:53 pm

    YM, I’m with you 100%. There is a big difference between asking for a psak, an eitzeh and a bracha from a Rov. Thanks for this exchange, because it reminded me that we are sitting on a great article by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on how to ask a question, that G-d willing we’ll be publishing tomorrow afternoon.

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