Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

Is Choosing Orthodoxy an Abdication of Personal and Intellectual Choice?

During the first couple of years that I was becoming religious, all three of my local reform rabbis back in Dixie made times to meet with me personally to bring me back to the fold, since I had gone/was going “off the derech,” to the dark side of orthodoxy. It was a bemusing experience for […]

Getting Beyond the Proofs

In the introductory program of the baal teshuvah yeshivah in Jerusalem where I was introduced to Torah Judaism, the “Proofs of God and Torah M’Sinai” was the hottest thing going. We fought over them, stayed up until three o’clock in the morning debating them, and spent weeks and months on them. Having a degree in […]

Why Does it Matter How We Dress?

I think I was fifteen that summer. I got all dressed up in the nicest dress I had with me. Actually I think it may have been the only dress I had with me. It was a sleeveless blue one, and I was even careful to wrap a crocheted shawl around my arms. Our counselors […]

The Book of the People – The ArtScroll Siddur at 25

Assuming I must have missed something — something that would be hard to miss, but stranger things have happened — I did a Google search before I wrote this article: ARTSCROLL SIDDUR ANNIVERSARY — nope. Too narrow? ARTSCROLL ANNIVERSARY … Nope. For all practical purposes, at least as far as I can tell, the 25th […]

How [Do] I Know I Made the Right Choice?

As I became frum [20 years ago at age 19 and fully observant by age 20] and for the first couple of years and afterwards, I would always question “How do I know I made the right choice?”. The answer I came up with then was: • Everything physical is temporary. • I believe in […]

Should We Teach People That The Torah is the Best Worldly Tool?

When I was first becoming observant, one book that had a great effect on my thinking was Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism. It was written by a non-frum sociologist who immersed herself in two different communities of Baalei Teshuva to learn why they chose to become observant and in what […]

Minhag BT

A BT goes to his Rabbi and says “Rabbi, I’m a Baal Teshuvah and since my father wasn’t religious, I don’t have any minhagim.” The Rabbi, with a hint of a grin, slowly shakes his head from side to side and says “That’s not true.” The BT doesn’t understand. The Rabbi continues: “Your father didn’t […]

Paths to Torah: Truth or Self-Fulfillment?

There are 70 facets of the Torah, and probably as many paths for an individual to get there as a BT. In my life as a second-time BT, I have taken at least two of them. Very brief background: I’m a Baby Boomer who grew up in a traditional (kosher but not Shomer Shabbat) household. […]

The Path of a Bas Noach Baales Teshuva

By Alice Jonsson Attempting to describe my turn towards Hashem and Torah, while being brief, is a challenge. Here’s my attempt. Imagine a 10-story-tall catapult. But instead of a boulder the size of a VW bug, its cargo is you. Because this catapult has been cranked back slowly, each tooth clicking into place, for thirty-six […]

Being a BT and a Ger

When you meet someone who has become observant, they are usually either a Ba’al Teshuva or a Ger. I am both. I grew up, like much of the current generation, in a relatively assimilated family. It is said that the majority of the Jewish community, outside of orthodoxy, are marrying non-Jews. Some of the non-Jewish […]

Looking for the Jew in Every Crowd

I often wonder what the catalyst was that sparked my return to Judaism. I mean the real catalyst. I can name you the month and the year when I took the first step to where I am right now — mitzvos observant, Shomer Shabbos, a baalas teshuvah just out of the nest. It was June […]

The Choice

People ask me all the time why I became religious. For the longest time I didn’t have an answer. I’d attended public school my whole life. I played varsity sports and was even nominated for Prom Queen. When I told people I had decided to attend Yeshiva University in New York they were flabbergasted. Why […]

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