Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Ba'al T'shuvas Anonymous

What made you become ba'al tshuvas? What made you want to pack it in? Well, I'm up first, as it is my blog after all.

My name is BTA. I've been a BT for several years now. I've gone from an atheistic background to frum to right back where I started. Can a leopard change its spots?

I was drawn to observance because of my first Shabbos experiences. I liked the family closeness. I liked the absence of electronic stuff ringing and beeping and transfixing me for a whole day.

Then came the kiruv rabbis. They hastened me into observance and used what I later came to realize were old saws e.g. "naaseh vinishma." (This refers to Mount Sinai where the Jews were given the torah and said "we will do and we will hear.") This is a centerpiece in kiruv, because it is twisted to mean "do mitzvahs now, and later you will see how it all fits together perfectly." Of course, the factual distinctions should be enough for any mild sceptic to see. We're sitting in a kollel office or at a shabbaton, not mount sinai, and I'm reading an Artscroll chumash, not listening to God, so why should I say "naaseh vinishma," exactly?!

Well, I did "hear" some good. I had gone from totally secular Jew to a Jew connected with his heritage and people. It helped me toward a healthy family life. But the theology- oy! It seemed to me what Thoreau had in mind when he said: "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes." Orthodoxy puts a premium on new clothes, including new hats. Perhaps that's why kiruv professionals, or as the Godol Hador coined them "kiruv clowns" prefer to focus on young "professionals." You know, they have the clothes already. Just need a black hat and they're set!

Anyway, this is a test balloon of a blog. I want to hear from those of you out there who came to OJ and hear what you think of it so far. I hope that others will acknowledge that going from secular to "frum" requires a drastic life change, one that might in some circles be deemed neurotic. However, I think BT's are simply daring. They aren't afraid of bucking the secular social norms in pursuit of "truth." Unfortunately, there are a whole lot of questionable social norms on this side of the street, too.

Moreover, deciding to switch back, or to stop calling yourself "frum," while it could be viewed as a pathology to some as well, might just be the best way to stay sane for some.

Anyway, no decrees, rulings, or fences here. Just associate away- it's anonymous after all.