Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ba'al T'shuva Issues Come to the Fore in the Olam HaBlog

Hirhurim has a short post on his blog referring to a new BT blog called Beyond Teshuva. [I hope he'll address my shaila whether pehaps BT's should actually be discouraged from accepting the obligations of Torah, as potential converts are, or whether they should at least have the downsides of becoming a BT disclosed before entering this contract of the highest order.]*

I think the Beyond BT blog is an excellent idea, since a forum of its kind is needed. However, the blog has "rabbinic supervision" according to Gil, which means discourse will be stifled at some point. I don't think it should. Otherwise, the only issues discussed will be "do I go to my in laws' on Thanksgiving," and the like.

BT's first and foremost need to know there are questions and that they shouldn't confuse their ignorance and inability in talmud with being ill-equiped or unqualified to raise serious questions. My blog has a more cynical take on the topic because of how most (99%) of kiruv is conducted. However, that is not set in stone.

If the tobacco companies had to stop hooking kids on smoking, then surely these otherwise nice kiruv rabbis will wake up and take stock of the harm they are doing when they sidestep earnest questions with sophistry and psuedo-science.

Good luck "Beyond BT," and HaShem-speed.



* here are my comments to his blog today:

Gil, thanks for raising the issue in this forum."Yasher Koach on publicizing this vital counter balance to BTA and his ilk!"FKM, what you don't seem to get is that my ilk and I *are* the counterbalance! The diruv Rabbis don't disclose
much of the confusion contained in frumkeit that inevitably comes down the road
for many BT's.Let's analogize making the decision to "become frum" for a potential BT to entering into a very important contract, one that will have far more implications for one's future than say buying a home.Assuming you take it seriously, you will be encouraged to forego a lot of activities you do regularly. You will take on certain responsibilities. There will be costs as well as benefits. Among the costs will be alienating large portions of your family if they are secular.Among the benefits will be the potential to form a far stronger bond with your potential spouse and kids than you could reasonably expect in the secular world.And so on.The point is that the kiruv "professionals" tell you only one side of the story. They firmly believe that they are doing "God's will" by bringing you to "emes."It's not clear that God would consider you not righteous enough to go to olam habo had you never become a BT, although it would seem unfair to require that of a secularly raised person. It's been said before that the typical BT is not really doing "tshuva"
because he/she didn't even know what he was doing was wrong, certainly not in a
halachic sense.

OTD frummies who come back are the only true BT's. Now, a blog like mine is about all there is for someone nowadays who is being fed a steady stream of "Na'ashe V'nishma" and Artscroll and nice fuzzy Rabbis taking them on trips and BBQ's.Some places like Aish try to answer questions, but in my opinion their answers are dishonest, particularly if the answers are in the form of Schroeder proofs and Bible Codes. A lot of BT's get caught up with "kabbala" so Rabbis use that as a hook as well. Well, now we all know there are serious questions about whether being a "Torah Jew," as the kiruv rabbis use that phrase, requires emunah pshutah or not, as the gedolei hador say. In fact, both sides are not being presented to BT's.Now, in my opinion, not confronting the major issues, or at least disclosing them, is nothing short of fraud or at least misrepresentation.These rabbis should disclose the many divorced and unhappy BT's, the ones who bailed after a year or so, and the ones who continue to struggle as I do with wanting to keep the traditions alive and the benefits, while not being convinced of the unerlying theology. It's not like they don't know about us!(Although many pretend to not know what you're talking about when
you raise serious questions about the mesorah).So, that's my 2 shekels, and that's why I started my blog (not for a parnassa or fame). I'm a wealthy man emotionally and otherwise. Ba'al T'shuvas Anonymous Homepage 12.06.05 - 5:21 pm #


Got cut off. I just want to add, that I'm very concerned about the kiruv business out there and they people they are pressuring to go to Israel and yeshiva and to get "hooked."I was openly discouraged by kiruv people and rabbis not to marry my wife, but rather to just go to yeshiva instead! There are people doing a lot of evil in the name of kiruv and you FFB's are lucky not to know the half of it.Ba'al T'shuvas Anonymous Homepage 12.06.05 - 5:32 pm #


"they often forget that, frankly, some BTs ARE really, really, REALLY bizarre." Absolutely. And gerim. No one can tell me they feel convinced that a ger or a BT knows what they're getting into, we all just hope it sits well with the person.Perhaps rabbis should have to discourage potential BT's just as they do gerim, since it would probably be worse to accept the obligations and then "throw off the yolk" rather than to simply live in ignorance of the mitzvahs.Sounds like a halachic question for Rav Gil.
Ba'al T'shuvas Anonymous Homepage 12.06.05 - 5:35 pm #

33 Comments:

Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

BT's first and foremost need to know there are questions and that they shouldn't confuse their ignorance and inability in talmud with being ill-equiped or unqualified to raise serious questions.

Very true. Often enough you run into people that act like your questions are idiotic just because you have not learned the entire Shach. How do you even get through to people like those that your questions are worthwhile? Is it even worth it?

12/06/2005 7:20 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Often enough you run into people that act like your questions are idiotic just because you have not learned"

And think about how perfectly that fits into their plan! Because the next thing out of their mouth after implying you're an ignoramus is that you can fix that by going to a BT yeshiva! bingo.

12/06/2005 7:32 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

And then, they get their commission, or at least get to keep their job.

12/06/2005 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Shmarya said...

More on the new BT blog here:

http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2005/12/new_baal_teshuv.html

Note one blog member appears to be a White Supremist. (I'm serious.)

12/06/2005 9:20 PM  
Anonymous Shmarya said...

Broken link. Try here.

12/06/2005 9:22 PM  
Blogger Needsabetterjob said...

At last, some people who understand the madness that is 'Fire, the Bible'.

They are a marketing company that earns very high 6 and 7 figure incomes for its top executives, and branch managers, and teachers.

This money could be much better put to use shoring up the existing problems that frum people have today w/ the yeshiva tuitions and other financial problems, but the gangsters at the BT places have gotten there early and often.

12/06/2005 10:45 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

And then, they get their commission, or at least get to keep their job.

Actually, I was not really referring to kiruv people, but ordinary co-workers and friends.

12/06/2005 11:15 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I think the "Rabbinic supervision" comment can mean either one of two things: (1) Either that Rabbis are supervising, which could itself be split up - (a) either they really are, and will stifle; (b) really are, and won't; (c) aren't really, but someone was asked if it was a good idea and they say they'll glance over once in a while; (d) or isn't at all, but it sounds nice. Or, (2) it could be that the comment is referring to the Rabbis who are posting the issues as well.

I'd say that 1a is the only bad one of the bunch - but also unlikely. I'd be more willing to wager it's (2) or (1b), both of which are just fine. If they want to censor really terrible comments, I understand that too.

I wonder what they'll think of some of the posts from this blog, particularly the beginning posts (which is about where they're up to).

I'm even more curious what you (BTA) think of their first few posts, which I thought varied from ok to very good. [Same Q to HolyHyrax, R2JB et al]

Now, on a totally seperate note... BTA, you claimed at GH(?) that you've "earned more this year than [CWY?] can hope to in a lifetime". While I have no clue if that's exaggerated or not, I have to be dan l'kaf z'chus... so, do you need an accountant?! ;)

12/07/2005 3:34 AM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

so, do you need an accountant?! ;)

Forget it Ezzie, if hes going to pour his money into anyone, its going to be a good graphic designer. ;)

12/07/2005 5:40 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Ezz- their site's fine. Right now they are dealing with the first order problem of how tough it is to "fit in" with the frum/FFB world.

FFB's have a nice solidity to them that BT's don't. What BT's need to do is embrace their differentness. After all, they have done more mussar in a year or two than most FFB's can ever hope to do. (to allude to my other comment).

Their issues are not my issues. And frankly, it makes me uncomfortable to read. It makes me think of all the awkward BT's!

Then again, I bet a large percentage of just about any shul is BT. I can spot even the frumest BT a mile away.

To respond to your other comment, I like to keep accountants to a minimum! I shouldn't have gotten carried away with classmate's comment that most BT's are destitute nebuchs, but I did. And it shut him up. I hope my comment isn't true for his sake, but of course it depends on his age and life expectancy. And no- don't propose an algorithm! Let's just say I'm financially comfortable, and he's totally wrong.

12/07/2005 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Dovid said...

I can't say I agree with a lot of what you say (and if we all agreed we just wouldn't be here) but I think you hit it head on when you say that BTs need to embrace their differentness. I also think that BTs need to become comfortable with the fact that they are BTs and not try to be someone else.

I also agree with the point of mussar (though not sure I would have made the point in the same way) and sometimes think thats why many FFBs think BTs are strange "They are so into mussar and middos!"

Dovid (from the set of Ushpizin)

12/07/2005 12:03 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

I also agree with the point of mussar (though not sure I would have made the point in the same way) and sometimes think thats why many FFBs think BTs are strange "They are so into mussar and middos!"

And therein lies possibly the biggest problem with the FFB world...

To respond to your other comment, I like to keep accountants to a minimum!

Sorry, I know it's way off topic... but the one thing you should spend money on is a good accountant. Remember - wealth over income! (Read The Millionare Next Door, it's an incredible analysis of the wealthy [including stats] - and it's not who you'd think.)

Then again, if you are truly comfortable, you probably already knew this, and a 22-yr old still in college should probably shut up. :x

12/07/2005 1:56 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

!!!!!!!!!!

BTA - here's some of the latest post from Beyond Teshuva, which you probably will like...

I had mentioned in an email to Gil that this project has Rabbinic backing, which he wrote up as Rabbinic approval which is being speculated about in parts of the blogosphere as Rabbinic supervision.

To start this project, we talked to Rabbi Herschel Welcher, Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz, the Rabbis listed as contributors and others. They all felt that this project is an important one for the Jewish community and encouraged us to pursue it. They are not involved on a day to day basis, nor are they monitoring the posts. When questions come up which we feel require Rabbinic input, we will of course consult them.

12/07/2005 1:58 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/07/2005 4:36 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/07/2005 4:36 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/07/2005 4:37 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

Very true. Often enough you run into people that act like your questions are idiotic just because you have not learned the entire Shach. How do you even get through to people like those that your questions are worthwhile? Is it even worth it?

If a person's manner of answering real questions is to mock your level of knowledge, then its probably not worthwhile to continue the conversation with them because a) they don't have the answer and b) they are not interested in finding it.

The two most important traits that I find in a Rabbi are a) Can they say "I don't know" b) will they take questions seriously enough to help you find the answer in the sources and c) will they only give you answers they will be satisfied with themselves.

12/07/2005 4:38 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

A friend of mine just mentioned Friday what an old rebbe of ours once said:

"The most important thing in a Rebbe is that he be a ba'al mussar."

I think that covers all three of Chardal's 2 traits. ;)

12/07/2005 5:53 PM  
Blogger chardal said...

I went to college and they didn't even teach me how to count. :)

12/07/2005 8:19 PM  
Anonymous OnTD said...

I teach college seniors and half of then can barely read so you're ok chardal but America is in a heap of trouble.

12/07/2005 11:07 PM  
Anonymous David said...

BTA-true we hit the thanksgiving stuff as you predicted but don't you think there's some meat in there (I'm not talking turkey either)

David

12/10/2005 7:58 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Yeah, what's up with that 2 weeks late?!

The blog is very good. I just posted there a bit.

12/11/2005 3:32 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Hey, we're BTs, it takes us longer to get there. Better late than never.

12/11/2005 9:02 AM  
Blogger Frum Singles said...

I have a great Shidduch for you!


This happens to me all the time. Someone will come over to me and "red" me "great" "attractive" girl etc. I think you get the drift. When I ask if (s)he has seen the girl (or a picture of her) the inevitible response is no.

Now frankly, this is arguably chutzpa and at a minimum a total lack of consideration. Basically, what I am being asked is to gamble my emotions, energy, time (and some money) so that this person may be a "winner" and be able to say that (s)he made a shiduch (and then get a brokerage fee a/k/a "shadchanuus") to boot.

If you you don't know how to cook, you don't belong in the kitchen. If you're not a doctor, you shouldn't have a medical office. If you're not a lawyer, you shouldn't hang out a shingle. AND IF YOU ARE NOT A SHADCHAN, DON"T ACT AS ONE !!!!

12/11/2005 9:42 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

:::so quiet:::

12/13/2005 1:45 AM  
Blogger happywithhislot said...

what is the frum single post all about?

12/13/2005 10:51 PM  
Anonymous Holy Hyrax said...

echooooooooooo

12/20/2005 4:21 AM  
Anonymous Suzan said...

""I hope he'll address my shaila whether pehaps BT's should actually be discouraged from accepting the obligations of Torah, as potential converts are, or whether they should at least have the downsides of becoming a BT disclosed before entering this contract of the highest order.""

There's a difference. We Jews are obligated to keep the Torah while Non-Jews are not. And so when we discourage Non-Jews from converting, we're saying are you sure you want to make yourself obligated?
I would say for a Jew who wants to become religious, they should be informed of both the upsides and downsides so they are Not shocked when a hardship presents itself, but are prepared and will(hopefully) get through it and move forward.

12/23/2005 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I just discovered your blog for the first time this night.


I have to say I went to Ohr Somayach Monsey. I wish I read a blog like yours while I was there. You are voicing concerns I had with the BT and FFB yeshiva worldview. Though I most times regret my time in Ohr Somayach (two years full time and then about two more coming in after work in the evenings, four years more or less) I think the one thing I took from there was my new pair of "stones" I grew. I can tell you R. Braun really screwed my life over! If it were up to him I'd be working in a store or something instead of working on getting my PhD in Anthropology and Archaeology like I wanted (though right now I am working on a Masters in Medieval theology and am aiming for a career in academia. When I finally started growing a pair and going against this rav's wishes my life in Monsey started going down the crapper…..

So here I am a 29 trying to get my Master's over with so I can get on with my life and start my career.

I will not leave my blog link for fear of having annoying anonymous attacks on my site.

Take care and G-d Bless,

Mendy S.

12/25/2005 2:57 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Hey there Mendy! You have a lot of BT yeshiva experience under your gartle. Perhaps you'd be willing to share more in detail of how they kept you there so long, how gung ho you were at first, what your thoughts were that prompted you to change course, and how you finally got the will to overcome the inertia of staying and learning, etc.

Also, where are you holding now? Your phd sounds very interesting. We'd love to have what you say in the form of a guest post.

Just email it to me at baaltshuvaanon@aol.com

Thanks.

12/25/2005 2:26 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

BTA - Are you posting any more? Did you perhaps join BeyondBT? And, what's your opinion on BeyondBT so far?

12/25/2005 4:59 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I will post, but I'm not sure of a topic yet. Haven't seen BBT til you asked- too boring for me. It serves a purpose for the pre-disillusioned bt's with their "challenges" of not eating treif chanuka cookies, etc.

If you have a suggested topic, feel free to suggest one. I just find commenting better at the moment.

12/25/2005 10:36 PM  
Blogger Datingmaster, Jerusalem said...

these are important issues for all of us
may you continue to succeed
my site discussed sex within frum marriage: not waht the rabbi promised!

12/26/2005 9:21 AM  

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