By Yakov Spil
Years ago, I had the privilege of meeting a Yid who was among the distinguished group of talmidim, who are becoming more and more rare, known as Alter Mirrers. They learned in the Mir Yeshiva in Poland before the war broke out and then were transported “al kanfei haShechina” to Shanghai, Japan where they stayed through the war for three years. The stories that came from this period are just miraculous and go to show how the Yad Hashem intervenes for His Chosen People.
It was on Pesach, that I met this Rov. I wish I could remember the rest of his shiur on the “Arbah Kayses,” but it certainly was enchanting. But I do remember one resounding message to us.
Us? Yes, he spoke to us as Baalei Teshuva.
He said, “I met a yid and he comes to tell me that he’s a Baal Teshuva for ten years. I don’t understand dis. Ven a Yid decides to come to learn Tayreh, he is no longer a Baal Teshuva. He is a Yid like the rest of us doing all the things choshuveh Yidden do.”
It appears that this Alter Mirrer saw the term Baal Teshuva as something of a moniker, a label that was not really helping the person. It was tying him to his past in an unhealthy way. It could even be dragging him down and he didn’t even realize it!
When I recalled this last night after I heard he passed away, I thought how appropriate the site is called Beyond BT, it is exactly how he thought we should approach our treasured lives being a part of the Am Hanivchar.
His name is Rav Aryeh Leib Baron zl. He was known as Rav Leib Baronivitcher because he grew in Baranovitch and was very close with Rav Boruch Ber zl. When I met him, he was a Rosh Yeshiva in Montreal. He passed away in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh.
May Rav Baron’s memory be a blessing for us and we should be zoche to carry on with our Avodas Hakodesh k’dei lo sishochach m’pi zaro, in order that Torah is never forgotten from our lips and from those of our children!
Find Hashem where He can be found, I think what the Rosh Yeshiva told us is a mission: find yourself as a Yid and go beyond any labels. Be a yid who attaches himself to Mesorah the way the Torah wants us to and not according to any contemporary ideas and we will see the success we are looking for.