How Does Teshuva Change for the BT?

When I first became a BT, Teshuva was so easy. Over the course of 2 years, I was keeping Shabbos, Kosher, Davening regularly and performing all the seasonal mitzvos.

After 8 years it has become a lot harder to do Teshuva, even at this time of year. When I look over the last year, the changes are much smaller and were much more difficult to make.

Have other people experienced this change in Teshuva?

Are there a different set of tactics and goals at this later stage?

Is there anything special about the Teshuva of a BT at this point or am I now fighting the same battles that a FFB faces?

“Former Teshuva Master”

6 comments on “How Does Teshuva Change for the BT?

  1. One of the most prominent and significant discussion in the Talmud on teshuvah is a discussion between R Yochanan and Resh Lakish on Teshuvah Me Ahavah ( out of love) and Teshuvah MeYirah ( fear of punishment) and a related discussion on whether Teshuvah requires elimination or elevation of one’s past. The Netziv on Parshas Netzavim ( 30:10) in both the HaEemek Davar and the Harchev Dacar posts that Teshuvah MeAhavah is far preferable because one’s teshuvah is focused on improving others, as opposed to oneself and posits that the mitzvah described in that verse is Limud HaTorah Lishmah, the capabilities of which are implanted in every Jew,despite the difficulty anyone encounters in learning any aspect of Torah, simply because as per the Zohar’s statement t”Yisrael vOraissa Chad Hu”. I am deeply indebted to R Daniel Z Feldman’s essay on Teshuvah in the YU Torah to Go for pointing out the amazing statement of the Netziv.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post, it really got me thinking.

    I think that during the “Ba’al Tshuva process” it is relatively easy to identify areas where you are lacking in Halachic requirements, and improve on those areas.

    This becomes more difficult once you are living a completely halachic lifestyle, however there are always areas that we can improve ourselves, both Bein Adam Lakom and Bein Adam L”chavaro.

    This post helped me focus my own tshuva process for this elul, feel free to see what I wrote here:
    http://betweenjerusalemandtelaviv.blogspot.com/2008/09/elul.html

  3. There are endless ways to do teshuva even after you have “mastered” all of the more obvious biggies, like Shabbos, kashrut, etc.–bein adam l’makom (between man and Hashem)

    We BTs tend to forget about the ultra-important mitzvot bein adam l’chavero (between man and his fellow man)!! The good thing about these mitzvot is that doing them l’chatchila isn’t as finite and clear-cut as keeping kosher for example. There is always room for improvement in how we treat others and these are more qualitative mitzvot than quantitative.

  4. (oops, wrong button!)

    The link to that article, by NYU Socilogy Prof., Dalton Conley, is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/opinion/02conley.html?th&emc=th

    The most pertinent line is this: “The better off you are in absolute terms, the more relatively deprived you may feel. In fact, a poll of New Yorkers found that those who earned more than $200,000 a year were the most likely of any income group to agree that ‘seeing other people with money’ makes them feel poor.”

    This is a major factor in post-Tshuva Tshuva blues. Having achieved what the author calls the experience of “pulling away from the bottom half”, we are suddenly facing how poor we really are; how high is the top. THAT’s scary.

    We need to connect with Tsaddikim. And chaburas. True friends who are not afraid to keep us humble.

    Anything but trying to amass the wealth alone.

    And don’t forget to give lots of tsedaka!

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