Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

First you Think in Secular and Translate for Yourself; Eventually you Begin to Think in Frum

I spent the first 25 years of my life big into non-conformity. I prided myself on digging hipper music than my high school friends, choosing a trendy college too cool for grades, eating vegetarian, camping through the USSR before glastnost, living in the East Village, and on and on. Becoming a B.T. was the ultimate […]

The Holiness of “Going like a Sheep”

Vayechi 5774-An installment in the series From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School For series introduction CLICK By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz-Mara D’Asra Cong Sfard of Midwood The Elokim before whom my fathers , Avraham and Yitzchak, walked is the Elokim who has led me like a Shepherd from my […]

A Foolish Consistency is the Hobgoblin of Little Minds

An installment in the series From the Waters of the Shiloah: Plumbing the Depths of the Izhbitzer School For series introduction CLICK By Rabbi Dovid Schwartz Do not erect a sacred Monolith for this is something that HaShem your L-rd hates                                 […]

Inspired and the Art of Denial

Blast from the past. Originally posted 12/29/2005. Rabbi Yitz Greenman Aish HaTorah / Discovery Being involved in the filming of Inspired was truly a zechus for which I’m grateful to Hashem and a most enjoyable process from beginning to end. That being said, there were some sad moments and I would like to share them […]

The Ascent to Haute Boro Park

This post was written in response to a Tablet magazine piece posting a slide show of a women’s change from jeans skirts to jeans. Dear Ms.Umansky, If you can run an entire piece plus a slide show on Dvora Meyer’s evolution (devolution?) from jeanskirt wearing into jeans, than I’d like to propose the opposite side. […]

Orthodox Individualism: Is There a Model?

By Reb Yaacov Yisroel Bar-Chaim There’s much confusion about the role of the individual within Orthodox Judaism. This is especially true among spiritually sensitive newcomers. Well after accepting the theological and emotional rewards involved in performing the “big Mitzvahs” like holidays, kashrus and daily prayers, these often very intelligent, critically thinking neophytes find themselves questioning […]

What’s in a Name – Matisyahu?

One gratifying moment in my Baal Teshuvah life was when I legally changed my “American” first name to my Jewish first name. I have tremendous pleasure every time I have to spell out my name to someone official: “M A T I S Y A H U.” Many BT’s would gladly change their legal first […]

An Orthodox Jew with a Tattoo

When I was 18 years old, before I knew anything about Orthodox Judaism, I got two tattoos. It was the thing to do – I was in college and a bunch of my friends were doing it. As well as the fact that it was an excellent opportunity to upset my parents. I didn’t know […]

One Billion Chinese Can’t be Wrong

My visit to mainland China in 1981 left me saturated with images. Luminescent green meadows transected by bales of razor wire along the border. Meals comprising endless courses that, in my pre-kosher days, could have been anything from dog to silkworm. And bicycles. Thousands and thousands of bicycles. All of them the same make, the […]

Heaven to the Right, Hell to the Left, One Size Hat Fits All

What often happens in the frum world is everybody is forced to pick sides, or so it appears. Can you imagine you just gave up eating shellfish, pork, and watching cartoons on shabbos and you now feel like you are on a holy journey to serve the creator of the universe and boom, you are […]

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

I recently started growing my payis. They have gotten long enough so that when I tuck them behind my ears you can see a little bit of them peeking out from the bottom of my ear. When one of my coworkers, an FFB, noticed that I had started growing my payis he said, “Don’t be […]

Those Five Magic Words

“I never would have known!” What a thrill I feel every time I hear it. But as Rabbi Greenman so movingly describes, how healthy is it to want to “pass”? Like all of you, I’ve explored so many stages of BT-hood; found the truth beyond those early idealized visions of the frum world. The amazement […]

Towards a Subtler Nonconformity

Rabbi Dovid Schwartz Jewish Heritage Center The majority of the posts and comments on the conformity debate deal with standardization in dress and speech. The basic consensus is that swallowing hard and adopting a bleak conformity is just another of the many sacrifices that we make for integration into the Frum community. Unlike relinquishing, say, […]

The Insights Born Out of a BT’s Past

By Michael Salzbank There is an evolutionary process to the BT. As we learn more we become more aware of what is appropriate in different situations. This is true for everyone in society (you don’t wear jeans to a black tie affair). Frum women will dress even more modestly when going to the Kotel or […]

Intellectual and Spiritual Dimensions of Non-Conformity

I would like to comment on the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of conformity and non-conformity. I have always thought that Avraham Avinu was one of the greatest non-conformists. Avraham not only walked out on his parents way of life, he destroyed and renounced idol worship. There are numerous approaches in the Talmud and Midrash as […]

You’re a Conformist!

There is a certain freedom in conforming. Non-conformity takes a lot of effort, creativity, and energy. To go the way everyone else is going is easy, to think for yourself sometimes you must fight the tide. Conforming relieves you of that pressure to stand out. I grew up believing that I would become an actor. […]

Of Eagles and Turkey

You grew up in Philadelphia and you are a passionate Eagles (the local football team) fan. Somehow, you were able to land two tickets to the New Jersey Meadowlands Arena to watch the NY Giants play your beloved Eagles in a crucial playoff game in January (Sorry, Eagles fans, not this year).Here’s the question: What […]

Can One be a Frum Jew with a Nose-Ring?

Growing up, I was always the nerdy kid. I was the one who did not fit in with the crowd, who did not care about being popular, who wore crazy clothing, who wrote poetry instead of paying attention in school, and who went through a rainbow of hair colors. I first became enamored with Judaism […]

Non Conformity

The issue of non-conformity was a rather big one in my high school days, and it was largely seen as a virtue. The teachers valued it, or so it seemed in English classes when we learned about Thoreau, the idealized American hero of non-conformity. Plenty of students, often the smarter ones, wanted to resist conformity, […]

Life Requires Balance

From Chava in the comments to Shayna’s post: I think becoming a Baal Teshuva calls on us to balance ourselves in this area – yes, we need to be non-conformists with tremendous inner strength in order to move from our secular upbringing and towards a life of mitzvos – and we also need to balance […]

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