Observations on Administering Beyond Teshuva

As this blog has grown in leaps and bounds over the past three months, I think it’s a good time to step back and get some focus.

A lot of what I have to say here arises, to a great extent, out of the numerous private e-mails we have received and, to a lesser extent, from some of the comments here on the blog.

Administering a blog of this sort is a lot more difficult than it may seem. Mark bears the brunt of that load and for that we are all (especially me) thankful. Administering this blog is kind of like juggling. On a tightrope. In the rain. On one foot. With a piano on your back. Without a net. And that’s on a good day!

What do I mean? (I was hoping you would ask that). There is so much balancing to be done, so much to be weighed and with such risk. We have been taken to task for being, at turns, too heavyhanded, too permissive, too cautious, not cautious enough, kowtowing to the “powers that be” and “rocking the boat”. We have even been called out for linking to a site that linked to another site that had an objectionable post. One of our more prominent commentors summed it up in an email as follows: “Quite a balancing task, this blog. You want to be open to be mechazek yeshivish BTs, MO BTs, perspective BTs, halfway there BTs…”

In the very first post on the blog Mark wrote “We’re here to discuss issues of common interest to Baalei Teshuva and to help Baalei Teshuva from around the world connect and strengthen one another.” In the short span of the blog I believe we have begun to achieve that. We have created a place where BTs can come to for advice, for community, for support and, yes, for constructive criticism. In doing so we have invited contributors with varying backgrounds and outlooks all of whom fall under this rather large umbrella we call Torah Observant Jewry. While the blog’s initial target audience was those who have been BTs for many years, our readers, commentors and contributors have expanded to include new BTs, parents of BTs, FFBs and Jews that don’t affiliate with Torah Observant Jewry.

As the demographic of our readership has expanded, we believe that our collective sensitivities to our fellow readers, commentors and contributors must expand as well. Since we have found this to be impossible, we will be shutting down the blog effective today. Kidding, I’m kidding. In order to foster the growth of the blog and our individual growth as Jews, I am selecting a few points to focus upon when commenting.

BTs, FFBs and other classifications.

Not everybody fits neatly into the common classifications generally bandied about in conversation and on the web. In my opinion, that is a good thing. In practical terms, that means not judging a person by the group to which you think they belong and not judging the group as a whole.

There are many paths to teshuva.

People are coming from different places and are taking different paths to get where they are going. The fact that you approached teshuva from a specific path doesn’t make someone else’s path improper. In that regard, while your advice and input gained from your road to teshuva is important, it is also important to realize that what worked or works for you is not necessarily what will work for others.

The written word is not the spoken word.

There is a world of difference between what is written and what is spoken. That difference goes both ways. On the one hand, the written word is generally given more thought and precision than the spoken word. It can (and perhaps should) be reviewed before pressing the “send” button. On the other hand, the written word often lacks the nuance of the spoken word. Since it lacks inflection and emphasis, the written word is often more easily misconstrued than the spoken word. We even need to add little smiley faces to ensure that others realize we are joking. :) In my opinion, these factors should be kept in mind in order to increase the clarity of the message and avoid unintended offense. A good rule of thumb is the old phrase: Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

These are just a few ideas that I think will allow us to make our little slice of the Jewish blogosphere more constructive and conducive to growth. Any other ideas?

12 comments on “Observations on Administering Beyond Teshuva

  1. David & Mark – at the risk of being redundant – thanks again for dedicating so much of your personal time to this project. I just wish I had time (and a better connection) to spend a lot more time here reading anything and everything – especially Shayna’s posts. Which sums up the whole concept – that there are others out here/there who think and feel as we do.
    Or, to paraphrase from an episode of “Lost” (my one TV indulgence) “we’re not alone”.

  2. steve b. I believe the quote you are referring to above was one attributed to the Kotzker “not every thought should be spoken, not every spoken word should be written down, not everything written should be published and not everything published should be read”
    that should be the SOP for the Jewish blogging world!

    BTW kol hakavod for successfully trying to dance at many chasunas . . . it’s a tough balancing act but I think one of the most important features in its success is the overall high level of derech eretz the posters have – there are many blogs where people need to vent and they end up venting on and spewing each other. Here l’havdil, the discourse is civil, encouraging and uplifting

  3. A friend of ours who is a Talmid chacham and a psychiatrist told me that his father described psychiatry as the pastoral aspect of rabbonus that paid a lot more than rabbonus!

  4. Mark- Please look at the openning page of the Chiddushei R Chaim al HaRambam. The family noted that R Chaim polished and rewrote his Chiddushim many times until he had polished them to the point that he was satisfied that they were as perfect as possible and then and only then was ready to publish them.As a result, they were not ready for publication until after his ptirah in 1918 and then not published until quite sometime thereafter .From what I have read and heard, the contents of that amazing sefer that revolutionized learning in the yeshiva world was a proverbial drop in the bucket. Briskers have an anathema to publishing based upon this perfectionist streak which Rav Soloveitchik ZTL himself called ” a family malady.” That streak is one of the reasons why Rav Soloveitchik ZTL’s writings in Torah and Machshavah and the Chiddushei Torah of the Briskers that have yet to be published take a lot lomger to publish than that of any of other Gdolei Yisrael who were contemporaries. For instance, there has been far more published posthumously re and from R Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach, R Moshe Feinstein, Zicronam Livracha and many other Gdolim than the Briskers precisely for this reason.

    I have heard from an impeccable source that the same standard has been applied to English translations of R Y Hutner ZTL;s works
    ( Pachad Yitzchak) as well.

    I mentioned R Yisrael Salanter as a possible source for that comment. The more that I think of it, I have heard it offered in the name of R Chaim Brisker far more often and consistently, as opposed to R Yisrael Salanter, about whom I heard this quote only quite recently.

  5. Thank you for providing a home for all of us, regardless of our paths and affiliation. It’s so much cheaper than therapy, too!

  6. Steve,

    It really depends on who said it.

    If it was R’ Chaim, it could be because he would say you are m’kiam the mitzvah of spreading Torah with the act of writing, without going though the difficulty of publishing. But if he lived in the age of blogging, where publishing is so easy, he might say you should blog it.

    But if it is R’Yisrael…

  7. I agree with Ezzie and would add the following comment. I think that either R Chaim Brisker or R Yisrael Salanter once said that not everything you think should be said and not everything you say should be published. That advice would seem especially appropriate in the age of the blogosphere.

  8. I just want to thank everybody involved in putting this site together. It has helped me tremendously. Please continue doing what you’re doing.

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