The Unsung Victories of the Baal Teshuva

How would you describe colors to a blind person, or a piece of music to a deaf person? Close your eyes for a moment and ponder how you would convey the images and sounds. At the very least it would be a daunting, perhaps even an impossible task.

Similarly, how difficult is it for a BT to describe the sublime pleasure of discovering Torah’s emes to their non observant loved ones? How does a BT convey their deep satisfaction at having learned how to keep a kosher kitchen, or to put on tefillin? Surely for the BT there are many mitzvoth they needed to put a great deal of effort into in order to master. And yet, how can we share these accomplishments with those closest to us, with those who knew us all of our lives?

Some things in life are so deep they simply cannot be shared except with those who have had the same experiences, with other kindred souls. Being a BT is like belonging to a secret society, an unofficial club of those who have travelled down similar yet varied roads.

BT’s often have accomplishments that cannot be quantified by society’s yardsticks. There are BT’s who worked for years just to be able to learn enough Hebrew to daven properly. Others may have had to make enormous efforts to take on any one of the myriad of quiet mitzvoth which they carry out humbly, without fanfare, often going unnoticed even by their own community members. There are no grand celebrations, or any of the trappings of social status granted to the BT who showed great restraint by giving up things they loved, things that their families and their societies valued highly. In fact, the BT is often misunderstood, or even shunned for being different, not only by their own families, but also sometimes by the FFB community as well.

How terribly lonely could this be for so many of the BT’s who are the unsung heroes of our people. Hashem compensates, for the hidden joys of embracing who we truly are, make all of the tribulations and travails worthwhile.

10 comments on “The Unsung Victories of the Baal Teshuva

  1. Wonderful post!!
    The lack of understanding (and snide/degrading remarks) persists over time, as well, and it doesn’t get any easier. It’s like banging your head against a wall each and every time for 10 years or more. The only answer is that Hashem is the ultimate Judge, and knows we are suffering from the judgment of old friends/relatives for Him. And we know that we have a far greater pleasure in our lives, anyway, so it makes it all worth it.

  2. Thank You for your beautiful and insightful words. Your words lend voice to my daily thoughts and experiences.

  3. I totally identify with what you wrote. I got very used to being praised for my accomplishments by my family and being thought well of for them by my friends. Now basically everyone just thinks my husband and I are nuts, happy but nuts. I don’t feel there is much to be done about changing how anyone else views us. What matters most is how we feel about ourselves. Of course, a pat on the back is nice from time to time, but as an adult, I have to have the self-confidence to be solid in my decision-making and true to who I am. I’ll see how it goes ;).

  4. So true. And yet, I think this is even less painful for us than for men. Our frum and our secular friends are often in similar stages of mommyhood and we can find common ground on which to connnect. For men, it’s so much different when the secular topic is sports and the frum one is so far beyond where many are. We know how to console ourselves but the feelings of inferiority will always remain.

  5. Humanity is blind and deaf and can not see and listen or understand what is happenng around it.
    This means that if God and Messiah want to bring changes, Humanity will not respond and therefor will reuse to see changes.
    So the blind and deaf will never see and listen.Humanity will never like the Light, the Life.Humanity is already dead in its dark grave

  6. I see what you’re saying… I’ve been in very similar situations. I think the closest thing you can do to convey the spirit of your experience, if not the actual experience is by way of analogy. Think of what your loved ones hold as their greatest passions… and try to explain what you feel in their terms. It won’t be the same thing, but at least they’ll get somewhat of an idea.

  7. Chazal teach us that echad b’tzar k’meah she’lo’b’tzar….one mitzvah done with difficulty is equivalent to 100 done without difficulty. Showing restraint is spiritually uplifting [although obviously difficult]. Could it be that Hashem desires BT’s to make our contribution to the klal through humbling ourselves greatly?

    I am a most successful doctor, but since I’ve joined the Torah community I feel as though I am on the level of a 2nd grader.

    I traveled the world, played music professionally, rec’d my Phd…etc. etc. but I still can’t understand fully when the rabbi gives a 10 minute d’var Torah.

    The Gemara teaches us that Rachmana Leeba Boiy…Hashem desires our heart. What greater way to give our hearts to Hashem by lowering ourselves and recognizing that we are not the end all and be all – the height of society. Hard? You bet. Possible? Absolutely. And it no doubt will hasten the ultimate geula, may it come soon.

  8. Great post. Just wondering, have you seen those short films entitled “Inspired” (one was general, the other one was for women only)? In those films, the achievement of BTs was put to light. It was very nice to see.

  9. Your article is another excellent example of why BT’s need to maintain contact with their rav/rebetzin who worked with them from the beginning. Ususally they’re the only ones who can appreciate the incredible effort that wen’t into their development and acknowledge it appropriately.
    Only they have seen all the stages and can now remind the person of all they’ve accomplished even when the going gets rough.

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