Elul’s Daily Dose of Encouragement

For years I have wondered what the connection was between chapter 27 of Tehillim (L’Dovid Hashem Ohree) and the month of Elul. I could not understand what the underlying message was. I have read numerous explanations, however it was only yesterday when I finally discovered an explanation that satisfied me.

During the month of Elul we take upon ourselves new mitzvos and concrete ways that we will be better in order to properly prepare for Rosh Hashana. Immediately after we take this step forward, obstacles arise and people may notice that we are “changing” and try to impede our personal growth.

Beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul we say chapter 27 of Tehillim after davening. In the last pasuk (27:14) we are given our daily dose of encouragement; Hashem reminds us that He recognizes our latest struggle and tells us not to lose our resolve:

“Hope for Hashem, be strong and He will give your heart courage, and hope for Hashem.”

A Simple Jew

That’s One Giant Step for Children, One Subtle (yet crucial) Increment for Adult-Kind

Transcribed translated and adapted for Beyond BT by Rabbi Dovid Schwartz

Rav Mordechai Gifter Z’L gave this Shmuess to open the 1969 Fall/ Winter Z’man (yeshiva Semester) for the students of the Telshe Yeshiva in Wickliffe, Ohio.

The Kozhnitzer Magid felt that he was stagnating spiritually, that he had simply stopped growing. One night the Ba’al Shem Tov appeared to him in a dream. When he complained of his disappointment over his lack of growth the Ba’al Shem Tov told him: “Your problem is that you are trying to measure the growth of Gadlus (maturity) using the yardsticks of Katnus (immaturity). When a baby is born, each developmental change is pronounced and dramatic. Going from nursing to eating solids to table food to crawling to toddling to walking to toilet training to, most striking of all, talking are all eye-catching, easily discernible stages of growth. Once a child reaches adolescence, the changes are slower and more incremental. The parent loves the child no less during those 4-6 years than during the first 5-6 years of the child’s life. But the progress is so slow that it doesn’t impress the parent or other observers nearly as much. Yet when they stop to think about it they realize that it is precisely these unspectacular changes that, slowly but surely, transform their beloved baby into an independent adult”
Read more That’s One Giant Step for Children, One Subtle (yet crucial) Increment for Adult-Kind

Learning How to Learn

A new friend who is moving to Washington DC, to attend college at George Washington University writes the following:

I’m stuck with the issue that I’ve been trying to solve for about a year and haven’t been too successful even after much effort. And I refuse to believe that I am the only one who is dealing with this problem.

Because I grew up as a reform Jew, I never learned how to learn a daf of Talmud. So essentially, I’ve been trying to “learn how to learn”, and I don’t know where to start.

But from here, Chicago, and Israel, which is where I’ve been living this past year, I didn’t know if I should just walk into a yeshiva and ask a rabbi to sit down with me and teach me how to learn from the Talmud.

Does anybody have suggestions or experience on how a new BT who is currently attending college should “learn how to learn”.

Embarrassed by My Mother’s Photo Album

A few weeks ago a visitor in town stepped up to the omud to lead the mincha davening. He looked like a typical product of the yeshiva world — dark suit, beard, black hat. Nothing about him suggested anything out of the ordinary. Then he started to daven.

It’s hard to explain “nusach” — the flowing chant in which we intone our public prayers — to someone who doesn’t have an ear for it. Just as some people have perfect pitch while others can’t tell Brahms from a buzz saw, some people simply can’t recognize, or reproduce, any semblance of the intonation that characterizes davening. And so, as this fellow began to daven aloud, it took less than five seconds for his astonishing lack of nusach to scream out the only possible explanation: BA’AL TSHUVA!
Read more Embarrassed by My Mother’s Photo Album

Innovation in the Service of Hashem

At the October 2001, “Life After Teshuva” conference in Passaic, Rabbi Yaacov Haber pointed out that throughout history, mainstream Orthodoxy has often needed an influx of talent, creativity and excitement from an outside source for rejuvenation. Today’s growth oriented Baalei Teshuva community has proven this point by helping drive an increased energy and passion around the Jewish world.

A BT friend of ours recently illustrated this creativity and excitement. He wanted to lose some weight and raise money for Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, so he went around to people and asked them if they would be willing to pledge a certain amount. He signed me up for 50 cents per pound that he lost with a deadline of Rosh Chodesh Elul.

The other day at davening, he informed me that he had lost 52 pounds and the redemption of my pledge was $26. I happily gave him the money as he informed me that he had raised over $15,000 for the Yeshiva!!!

Seminar in Outreach Techniques

Have you always wanted to share in the very important mitzvah of kiruv? Don’t feel like you have the tools? Are you involved in kiruv and would like to hone your skills?

Get answers to the most common and the most challenging questions you have about kiruv that will help you share the joys of Yiddishkeit with fellow Jews.

The Orthodox Union and Aish Hatorah International present:

Seminar in Outreach Techniques

7:00-9:00 PM
Monday, August 28, 2006
Long Island NCSY Center
530 Central Avenue, Cedarhurst, NY

To reserve, or for further information,
email prageri@ou.org
or call 212.613.8134

The Monster

As a kid, my family would spend summers in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. It was the best time of the year for a city kid: fresh air, freedom and mosquitoes. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. One summer, I must have been fifteen, I worked as a Counselor In Training for five year-olds at a day camp. I was technically too young to be a CIT but my father was the accountant for the owners and I reaped the benefits.

On Sunday mornings, while my mother slept in, my father would drive my younger brother and me to Monticello to do the weekly shopping. My father was a coupon clipper and he would flip through his plastic red coupon box as we trolled the aisles of Shop Rite. Before heading home, we would make the obligatory stop at Katz’s kosher bakery for delicious gooey cakes and pastries freshly baked and packaged in Katz’s signature pink boxes. (A single bite of one of those chocolate custard donuts could have easily clogged an artery)

One Sunday morning, my brother and I saw a sign-up table for a 10k race the following Sunday (that’s 6.2 miles for the metrically challenged among us). The race was called “The Monster”. My brother and I decided that it would be cool to run the race and since the funds being raised were going to benefit children with Cerebral Palsy we’d get a good deed out of it as well. We signed up for the race and my father ponied up the registration fees. Unfortunately for him, they didn’t take coupons!

Now, a race doesn’t get called “The Monster” for nothing. The Monster was disproportionately uphill which gave rise to its notoriety as one of the most grueling races in the county. That fact made little impression on my brother and me. Heck, we were teenagers, the entire race could have been 90 degrees straight up Mt. Kilimanjaro and we wouldn’t have flinched. We didn’t think to train at all in the little time left before the race (unless you count the hours I spent running after my campers each day). We didn’t even think to buy a decent pair of running shoes. And so, before you know it, Sunday rolled around and we showed up on Main Street in Monticello in high-top New Balance basketball sneakers! We dutifully pinned our numbers on our shirts and headed to the starting line.

The race started out just fine as we proudly kept pace with the veteran runners at the front of the pack. All was still going well about a half mile in as we gratefully grabbed the sweating cups offered at the first water station. About a mile in, things began to change. For a race that was disproportionately uphill, things were going downhill fast. For some unexplained reason, my high-top basketball shoes, which had served me so well on the basketball court, began to fail me. They were becoming increasingly heavier, itchier and wetter. I might just as well have been running the race in snowshoes! For some other inexplicable reason the water stations were becoming spaced out at light year intervals. Hey, this is not so simple, I began to think. At some point, I began walking and shortly thereafter nearly half-crawling. Oh, if only I could wring out my socks for a few precious sips of water.

When it finally appeared that I was nearing the end of the race, there was a steep downhill incline that extended all the way to the finish line. After all of that up-hill climbing it was comforting to know that what goes up still must come down. As I reached the hill, I broke out into a full-fledged sprint laughingly leaving the other, more properly paced runners in my dust. Such is the foolish pride of youth that refuses to watch others actually do something better and smarter than oneself.

That evening, The Monster safely behind us, my brother and I sprawled out on the deck lounge chairs to watch the Perseid meteor shower. The Perseid meteor shower is the most prevalent meteor shower observable from the Northern hemisphere. On a clear, dark night you can see scores of “shooting stars” within an hour! And it was a crystal clear night with a waning moon and no sign of the bright lights we had left behind in the city since Memorial day. Truly awesome. We lay there, in our hooded race sweatshirts, for hours. Partially because we had never seen anything so beautiful in our lives but mostly because we couldn’t move our legs!

For the next two weeks, my muscles were so fatigued that I could barely walk. Each morning presented a new challenge to get out of bed and climb on to the bus for work. Every day I looked forward to arts & crafts when I was given a 45 minute break. I would lie down on the playground ride that the kids affectionately called the “vomit wheel” grateful for the opportunity to be off my feet.

Elul presents us with the opportunity to begin our preparations for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Walking in to these holy days without preparation is not recommended. Squeezing teshuvah in to those few hours spent in shul on these days is simply not enough. You can’t run a 10K race without training and you can’t squeeze a year’s worth of teshuvah into three days. And so, we have been given a mandatory training period called Elul. An entire month set aside to allow us to begin our introspection and prepare and pace ourselves for the big days–Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As with exercise, it’s important to start slow, warming up and steadily increasing both in intensity and duration so that by the time the Yomim Noraim arrive, we will be in proper shape for them.

Remember: Showing up in sneakers on Yom Kippur is a good move but trying to run a 10K race in high top basketball sneakers is bound to lead to failure.

Some Thoughts Before the Opening Day of the Teshuva Season

Tonight begins Rosh Chodesh Elul, opening day of the Teshuva season. Even for BTs who have made amazing changes in the past, real Teshuva is a challenge. A major problem is that after the initial BT phase we fall into unhealthy habits in our observance, and habits take time and effort to break. This is why it makes sense to start our Teshuva program on Rosh Chodesh, because it takes between 30 and 40 days to effect a change in habit. Here are some ideas to help in the areas of Torah, Chesed and Avodah.

In Torah, we often feel comfortable with the amount of Torah we learn each week. Deep down we know that we should be learning more, but we have very good execuses: we have such busy schedules, we have many other responsibilities, Hashem doesn’t expect us to know everything and since we already know less then everything – we’re fulfilling our learning requirements. An idea here is to take on a little more learning by adding a 5-10 minutes seder in a new sefer everyday. Pick something you really want to learn. The key is to make this a regular practice, each and every day.

In chesed (lovingkindness), we often fail to appreciate the divinity and greatness inherent in every human being. This manifests itself in thinking negatively about people, speaking loshon hora and hurting people with words. A way of changing this is to approach each person with two questions, “What can I learn from this person?” and “What can I give to this person?”. It also helps to keep in mind that giving can be easily accomplished through a compliment, a supportive word or a true show of concern.

In Avodah such as prayer and performing mitzvos. the major impediment is lack of kavanna which results in us rushing through our mitzvos and not achieving the full benefits of their performance. A key here is to stop a second before the prayer, brocha or the mitzvah and think about what we’re doing. Three things to have in mind:

1) Hashem has commanded the performance of the mitzvah
2) We are the subject of the command
3) We are performing this mitzvah in fulfillment of the command

It’s a simple formula to keep in mind and it can make a tremendous change in our performance in prayer, brochas and mitzvos.

May we all be successful in our Teshuva efforts, and may our collective efforts help bring the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days.

On Being Yourself

A year ago, I was at the wedding of two of my friends. At the Shabbas Kallah the bride went around and said something nice about everyone in the room. Since it was a year ago, I can’t remember her exact words, but she said something like this: “Rachel, your passion for learning is an inspiration to me.”

Now back then I wasn’t trying to pretend to the world that I had tons of emunah and really was dedicated to Judaism. During my freshman and sophomore years I believed myself that I had all this spirituality, that I was doing what G-d wanted, etc. But at that moment, I realized that I was somewhat of a phony. Everyone thought that I was spiritual, but my faith had already been tested by then, and I started having more and more trouble with serving G-d.

So we’re encouraged to dress frum (whatever that means) even if we don’t feel that way yet, because our actions should lead our intentions in the right direction. And actions are more important anyways.

But what if that frum feeling never comes? And what if others start believing in you, and they think that you’re some wonderful talmid hacham, or eishes chayil, and they’re inspired by you? Should you let them know that really you have all these doubts and that you’re working on your own emunah? Or do you let them use you as a role model, so they have something to strive for?

I think there is something to be said for being yourself. The more that you try to pretend that you’re something you’re not, the more it eats away at you. Slowly but surely it becomes harder to play that role.

Sure, everyone will compliment you, but you start to realize that they’re not really complimenting /you/, they’re complimenting a mistaken idea of you that they have in their heads.

So I’ve started being myself again. It was hard at first, and it took a lot of courage, but people are a lot more accepting than you might think, if they’re truly your friends and want what’s best for you. And I’m so much happier being myself.

So wear the jeans, the wedding band, the kippah srugah, the colors, the flowy skirt, the nose piercing, if that’s who you think you are. If you think you’re a black hatter, wear the back hat and the velvet kippah. Wear the strimel and the bekishe. Wear the sheitl, or the hat, or the tichel. Wear the long socks. But I would strongly argue against doing something just because it’s the norms of your community and you want to fit in. It only harms you in the long run. And I bet that you can find a community who accepts you for who you are. It’s definitely worth searching for.

The Increasingly Small Differences Between MO and UO

Gil Student recently posted some thoughts regarding the current Modern Orthodox shift to the right which he has graciously permitted us to repost. We thought it might be of interest to our readers as his comments highlight our beliefs that at their core, the differences between Modern Orthodoxy and Charedi Orthodoxy are not that great, and we need to unite on our commonalities and not be divided by our differences.

Menachem Butler, in his now defunct AJHistory blog, recently directed readers to an exchange in the 2005 issue of Contemporary Jewry (link). Samuel Heilman wrote an article about Modern Orthodoxy shifting to the right. You know, his regular material. I’m amazed how many articles — and even a book — he can turn that same material into. His article then received responses from David Ellenson and Marc Shapiro. The former doesn’t seem to have much to say. The latter, however, does. His article can be found here (PDF). As someone living in the Modern Orthodox community and keenly observing, he presumably has a good deal of insight into it. Yet I found a lot of things in the article with which I disagreed.

1. Shapiro oddly states that Modern Orthodox students who adopt black hats and yeshivish dress do not do so in Israel but in Yeshiva University. In my experience, that is the exception (myself included) and the opposite is the general rule.

2. In the second paragraph, Shapiro defines Modern Orthodox as “people who go to college and are professionals.” My friends and neighbors from Torah Vodaas and Chaim Berlin fall within that definition of Modern Orthodox, which leads me to suspect that it is overly broad.

3. In the third paragraph, Shapiro suggests that the right-wing Orthodox adopt stringencies in order to distinguish themselves from the Modern Orthodox. Now that the Modern Orthodox are being fairly strict, the right-wing has to become even stricter. I find that suggestion to be farfetched. The right-wing generally does not even realize that the Modern Orthodox community has become more strict, as can be seen in the still prevalent usage of outdated stereotypes about the Modern Orthodox.

4. Shapiro notes that even the Modern Orthodox who have adopted the haredi style of dress are still Modern Orthodox in many of their views. I find this to be a very perceptive and accurate observation. Many of my friends think they are yeshivish but are not. They just don’t realize how deeply they have been influenced and that what they consider “normal” is just Modern Orthodox. (See this post by Joe Schick for just one of many examples.)

5. Shapiro writes: “There are now two types of modern Orthodox Jews: the old-fashioned type and the new type, which is modern in ideology but doesn’t cut corners when it comes to halachah.” I think his dichotomy is correct but that this is not a new phenomenon. In Avodah/Areivim-world, we refer to the MO and the MO-lite. The MO are the ideological Modern Orthodox and the MO-lite are members of the Modern Orthodox community who are lax in their observance. Similarly, there is the UO and the UO-lite referring to those who are Ultra Orthodox and members of that community who are lax in their observance. There have always been MO and MO-lite. It is just that recently the proportion of the MO vs. MO-lite has changed and the MO make up a larger part of the community.

6. Shapiro notes: “[T]here are no modern Orthodox works of practical halachah. This realm has been ceded to the haredim.” This is not entirely accurate (e.g. I, II), but close enough. That could change, if I have my way.

7. Shapiro then proceeds to argue that the OU and other kosher supervision agencies have overly extreme standards. I find his portrayal to be exaggerated and laced with apparent Abadi influence.

8. Shapiro’s example about the use of medicines on Passover is not a good one, because the right-wing Orthodox community is not in agreement on this. It is just that those who are strict advertise (literally) their positions while those who are lenient do not. Although even this is changing (I, II).

9. Shapiro agrees with Heilman’s statement that Haredim are the main teachers in Modern Orthodox schools. I’m not denying this, but I’ll just say that this was not at all the case in my high school.

10. Shapiro writes: “Modern Orthodoxy currently has no gadol, or authority figure. That means that halachic guidance comes from the haredim.” I found that surprising. I grew up in Teaneck and visit for Shabbos on occasion. Not only is Rav Soloveitchik regularly cited as the top halakhic authority, but R. Hershel Schachter and R. Mordechai Willig are also frequently quoted. They are certainly the authorities with whom my rabbinic friends regularly consult.

11. Shapiro states that the various Ba’al Teshuvah movements are all Haredi dominated. I just don’t know what he’s talking about. Maybe he means that a lot of the outreach professionals are Haredi. OK, maybe. But dominated? Certainly not the Ba’alei Teshuvah themselves.

We Appreciate Your Appreciation

We often get letters of appreciation and we like to share them from time to time to show our appreciation for your expressions of appreciation. Thanks!

Your website is fantastic. I have been chozer b’tshuva for 10 yrs. now. Your website creates a brilliant forum that brings us BTs together to give and receive support for our difficult battles. It is nice to know that there are so many people willing to share their wisdom through past experiences. Whether your beyondbt contributors have been frum for 1 month or 30 years, their insights are so important. We need all the help in the world. Thank you.


Pre Shabbos Links

Lenny Solomon (of Shlock Rock) has released a new album which contains a song about Rabbi Lazer Brody. You can read the lyrics and download the song on Rabbi Brody’s blog .

YU has a great video paying tribute to Israel’s Soldieres. (Thanks to Rabbi Mordechai Scher for the link.)

A Simple Jew is looking for some quality Jewish heavy metal music.

Israel still needs our financial support and you help with matching funds of as much as $3 for every $1. You can read about the details here.

The Blessed Present

See I place before you today blessing and curse… (Devarim 11:26)

All the days of the impoverished (of the mind) are bad while the one with a good heart- (mind) is always drinking. (Mishle’ 15:15)

Why is it often so hard to see the blessing? Why do we tend to obsess with -“what’s wrong with this picture?”

One of the three reasons offered by the Chovos HaLevavos- Duties of the Heart is that HASHEM is so consistently good that by the time we are old enough to intelligently appreciate what is happening we are already accustomed to it. However magnificent it may be most goes unnoticed.

He gives an example of a child left on a door step. A couple had mercy and raised this child from infancy to adulthood having cared for him by executing countless acts of goodness. Now that child is a married adult with a job, a house, and family of his own. The couple also took pity on an adult prisoner. They negotiated his release. They rehabbed him and eventually found him a job, a house, and wife. Who will be quicker to express gratitude? For whom was more done? For the prisoner dramatic change was experienced when his adult eyes and ears were plugged in. Similarly, men tend to quietly believe that socks are born in the sock drawer. You put them down the chute and they magically reappear clean and coupled, and so too that orb of light will arise in the east and dance overhead daily and sweet orange globes of will predictably dangle from the ends of woody branches.
Read more The Blessed Present

Honor All Your Failures

In preparing for a move, I was going through an old stack of papers and found inside a pamphlet that I was apparently given during one of my trips to Israel, entitled “How to get deeper into Torah without going off the deep end.” I don’t remember reading this pamphlet previously (because I probably received it quite a number of years ago), but decided to skim through it again now, just to see what kind of advice it offered to the newly religious.

The advice enclosed was sound, things like “Don’t abandon your old identity,” “Go slow” (5 times!), and “Ask questions.” But the one that really struck me was “Honor all your failures.”

“Honor all your failures.” I thought that was quite interesting and not something that I’ve heard so often. It makes sense; I’ve heard the expression more than once that you learn from your mistakes. And honestly, I know that whenever I mess something up, while I do have a tendency to take it hard (obviously, I still have this lesson to learn), I usually try very hard not to repeat such a mistake and as such, grow from it.

The pamphlet goes on to say that getting things right “prevents deep understanding” while “your failures bring depth and grace to your knowledge.” Again, I definitely see the wisdom in such an approach, the more you make mistakes and realize them, the more you recognize and refine the correct way of doing things.

I think this is a really important lesson for many baalei teshuvah, that you don’t have to be perfect, ever. That there is as much growth, if not more, to be made through mistakes and failures, than there is from doing things right. A writer learns that revisions make his writing stronger and clearer. An artist erases many times before producing a masterpiece. And a person should realize that through his mistakes, he internalizes what he is striving for.

Honor your failures, for they are that which you learn from.

Elef L’mateh – Implementing Moshe Rabeinu’s War Strategy

By M. Samsonowitz

When the recent Lebanon War broke out in all its fury, Jews in Israel and around the world were unprepared. While soldiers poured to the front to fight the terrorists attacking Israel, Jews in Israel and around the world watched tensely from the sidelines, opening their hearts in prayer and looking to gain zchuyos.

Rav Simcha Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot, was one of the rabbis who had a front view of the suffering and danger. Visiting soldiers in the north and the wounded in hospitals, he was searching for a way to help those in danger.

He met with the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Horowitz to discuss what they could do. Their attention riveted on that week’s parsha — Matos. They realized that the answer they were seeking was right there in the parsha.

In the battle against the Midianites, Moshe Rabeinu picked 1,000 fighters from each tribe, and set aside another 1,000 to pray for their welfare. The prayers were effective and not one Jewish soldier fell in battle. Why couldn’t this same system be applied today? They asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky his opinion for such a program.
Read more Elef L’mateh – Implementing Moshe Rabeinu’s War Strategy

Maximizing Your Spiritual Potential

By Rabbi Yitzchok Fingerer

The Midrash relates that a king who was a contemporary of Moses heard reports of how the Hebrew leader had faced off with Pharaoh, had won the freedom of his entire people, had worked miracles, and had revealed a lofty legal code. The king was intrigued, and decided to utilize physiognomy (a system that enables one to decipher character traits from facial features) to ascertain whether Moses’ reputation was fact or lore.

The king sent artists to the Sinai Desert to paint Moses’ portrait. After the artists returned from their long journey with the portrait in hand, the experts in physiognomy went to work analyzing Moses’ character. Their results were shocking. According to their proficient analysis, the character in the portrait was a robber, a murderer, and a deceitful person.

The king was enraged. Obviously, he inferred, the artists had painted the face of some vagabond they had encountered rather than making the long journey into the desert to find the great Moses. The artists, however, swore that they had rendered Moses and nobody else; they suggested that the fault lay with the experts in physiognomy. The king finally decided that there was only one way to settle his quandary: He would personally travel to the Sinai Desert and meet Moses.
Read more Maximizing Your Spiritual Potential

Master’s Student Looking to Interview Women BTs in Toronto Area

We recently received the following request:

My name is Natalie Weiser and I am a graduate student at York University in Toronto. I am currently working on my Master’s thesis. My project is about young Jewish women (18-30) who were not raised in religiously observant households, but who as adults choose to become increasingly observant or Orthodox.

I would appreciate any help you could offer in terms of getting the word out about the project to young women in the Toronto area. The project has been approved by York University and all interviews would be completely confidential.

Contact nat_w@yorku.ca for more information.

Family Feud

Fighting is never fun. I remember being in a fight with my younger brother once. It went on for days. One trend I’ve noticed after reading blogs for over a year is the constant in-fighting between the (and I really don’t like labels) “Modern and Charedi” world. The truth is that it’s a feud that exists outside the confines of a computer monitor, as well. We see it with our FFB children who attend day schools. We see in when we meet someone in our own cities and they give us a “look” when we mention which shul we affiliate with.

Often people in the frum world are quick to condemn others who won’t hold by our views, yet at the same time, demand that people accept our minhagim and hashkafah.
My wife always says, “If you want respect, you’ve got to give respect.” The funny thing is, as BTs we should pave the way for Achuds and tolerance within our communities. If anyone knows what it takes to navigate through relationships with family, friends, and co-workers, is it not the Baal Teshuva?

A Baal Teshuva wants others to be tolerant of his lifestyle choices. It is only fair that we should set the example of tolerance within Orthodoxy. We have been described as “pillars of religious conviction” and as “people who are passionate about their Judaism”.

We also have, hopefully, learned how to co-exist with our parents, in-laws, and friends who do not share our views on religion. If I wear a black hat and the guy across the street wears a knitted kipah, then so what? It’s time we look for common ground among our fellow Jews. Tisha B’Av is behind us, but the reasons why we mourn are still present today. Rosh Hashanah is around the corner, and soon we will be judged. How we choose to act towards our fellow “Modern” or “Charedi” brothers and sisters could be one of the greatest contributions of the BT movement to orthodox society. The choice is ours.

The Tenacity of Habit

The other night, my chavrusa told me about a question that Rav Yisrael Salanter once asked. It goes something like this (I’m clearly paraphrasing and modernizing): How many people do you know that became Baalei Teshuvah at the age of 80? The answer is likely: few to none. The next question is: How many people do you know who became Baalei Teshuvah in their 20s? The answer: Plenty. Rav Yisrael says that this seems to go against logic and nature.

A 20 something year-old has many strong taivas (desires). It is a time in life when one is often looking to move away from restrictions and experience the “freedom” that young adulthood brings. Often, the issues of reward and punishment and moral or religious restrictions are the last thing from one’s mind. Yet, many, many of those 20 something year-olds overcome those taivas and do teshuvah.

One would think that even more 80 year-olds would do the same. After all, the taivas of an 80 year-old have certainly waned and at least partially dissipated. Additionally, an 80 year-old will be more likely to think about how things will be in the “hereafter” and about “making peace” with his Maker. Yet, we simply don’t see too many 80 year-olds becoming BTs. Why is that?
Read more The Tenacity of Habit