Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

The Most Important Jewish Hierarchy

There was a lot of push back to last week’s post “Growing At The Bottom Of The Heap”. A friend pointed out that the push back supports the Ramchal’s point that people are uncomfortable being on the bottom. One friend related an experience on how a pharmacy employee treated a wealthy customer and one of […]

Growing at the Bottom of the Heap

Finding Oneself on the Bottom Torah communities are wonderful places to live, but we may feel uncomfortable if we find ourselves near the bottom of one of the hierarchies of the community. Three of the hierarchies which are discussed in Torah sources are those of wealth, Torah wisdom and spiritual performance. Two others that come […]

Jewish Education, Learning Torah and Connecting to Hashem

Mosaic Magazine has an article by two prominent Jewish sociologists, Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen, titled “The Pew Survey Reanalyzed: More Bad News, but a Glimmer of Hope.” (link). One of their conclusions is that the non-Orthodox movements are facing major challenges keeping their constituents involved and their descendants Jewish. On of their recommendations […]

Selling Yourself the Truth About Judaism

Have you ever had this conversation? “Did you hear about Sam and Susan?” “No.” “They’re separating”. “Really? How many kids?” “I think three. And he’s far off the derech. Doesn’t believe in G-d,” “So sad.” And it’s not surprising. Sam was a BT and was told by many FFBs that: – A Torah observant life […]

The Practical Spiritual Growth Project

Introduction The goal of mitzvos is to develop a deeper connection to Hashem. If we perform mitzvos and say brachos with more Kavanna, they will have a bigger impact on our connection to Hashem. Good places to start are with mitzvos and brachos that we perform every day. Here are four daily mitzvos/brachos: 1. Birchos […]

The Season of the Spiritual Growth Mindset

The secular world has recently “discovered” the growth mindset: Mindset is a simple idea discovered by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in decades of research on achievement and success—a simple idea that makes all the difference. In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard […]

Teaching an Older BT New Davening Tricks

It’s amazing what we remember from our youth. I went to Hebrew School at the Clearview Jewish Center in Whitestone, NY, which was recently sold to a Montessori School, with some rights retained to a small chapel. I still remember my second grade class close to 50 years ago. We were learning how to read […]

Leveraging the Spiritual Drip Method

In a recent shiur, Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim discussed how continued spiritual growth is the purpose of a Jew’s life. (You can listen or download the shiur here.) Rabbi Grunblatt brought down the story about Rabbi Akiva, the water and the stone. Here is the relevant passage from the Avot […]

Tisha B’Av, the Holocaust and The Power of Speech

In our Shul, we try to include some programming on the Holocaust on Tisha B’Av. This year in addition to the CCHF videos, we had a survivor tell his story, and we showed a number of videos about the Holocaust. Although the turnout for the CCHF videos and the survivor’s story were very good, the […]

Jewish Fundamentals – The Focus of Life is Continued Growth

Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim gave an important shiur focusing on understanding what life for a Jew is about. The short answer is that life is about growing in our mitzvos and service of G-d on a day to day basis. He discusses the origins of Rav Yisroel Salant’s thirteen attributes […]

Renewing the Four Dimensions of Appreciating Torah

The four reasons people are attracted to Torah Observant Judaism mirror the four dimensions of the human experience: Physical – the lifestyle is enjoyable Emotional – the relationships are meaningful Mental – learning Torah is deep and challenging Spiritual – connecting to G-d is sublime Unfortunately for many BTs, after the initial attraction the following […]

Turning the Tables on the Constant Test of Summertime Immodesty

By Rabbi Yonah Levant The entire zechus of this post should accrue to, and contribute to the immediate freeing of the Yeshiva bochrim kidnapped by terrorists: 1. Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, 2. Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim 3. Eyal ben Iris Teshurah The 1st Mishna is Pirkei Avos, Chapter 2 says: Rabbi [Yehuda haNasi] […]

Wake Up and Smell the Bacon

It was my first visit back to my parents’ house since I became frum. Over a year had passed, a year without the king-size bed in their guest room, without central heating, without 24/7 access to a fully stocked fridge and cupboard. My mother had, most graciously, stocked up on every kind of O-U foodstuff […]

Is Torah Everything … OR is Everything Torah II

Why is the Zodiac sign of the month of Sivan the twins? Why are we often frustrated by failure despite having put forth our very best efforts? Conversely, why does unanticipated success sometimes come our way, relatively effortlessly? … Similarly the Holy One, blessed be He, say to [the Children of] Israel: ‘My children! I […]

Prolonging Your Tan

Rabbi Label Lam often explains that when someone comes back from vacationing in a warm climate, everyone knows that they have been away because they can see their tan. Rabbi Lam continues that when you come back from Eretz Yisrael you have the “inner tan”. When I was a kid, my mother used to have […]

The Never Ending Road of the BT

“I’m a BT.” This statement has an air of finality to it, doesn’t it? Like, “I’m a graduate of Harvard Med School”, or “I’m a doctor”, or “I’m a mother”. “I’m a BT” could be right up there with the other descriptors that apply to me: Jewish, female, wife to Stephen, age 47, professional author, […]

The Irregular Growth Curves of the Baal Teshuva

My, how I have grown. I don’t mean “how much.” I mean, “how,” as in the manner or progress of a thing. One of the cliches we hear, and learn to repeat, as baalei teshuva is the idea that you have to always be moving forward, growing, or else you’re doing something other than staying […]

Connection is the Goal, Mitzvos are the Path

In the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim the Ramchal writes: When you look further into the matter, you will see that only connection with God constitutes true perfection, as King David said (Psalms 73:28), “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good,” and (Psalms 27:4), “I asked one thing from God; that will […]

Stressed Out

Right now (although by the time you read this it would have been Sunday afternoon), I should be mired in preparation for a multi- defendant enterprise corruption trial which is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning. Yet the more I try to delve into transcripts of the hundreds of recorded telephone conversations and thousand of documents, […]

Rabbi Label Lam on Personal Growth Lessons from Tu B’Shevat

On Wednesday night, Tu B’Shevat begins. Rabbi Label Lam gave a wonderful Drasha a few years back where he looked at the Mishna in Pirkei Avos which states “Rabbi Yaakov said, one who is walking along the road and is studying [Torah], and then interrupts his studies and says, ‘How beautiful is this tree! How […]

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