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 #