What is the Goal of a BT?

Should a BT just try to fit in with the rest of the frum velt? Which branch of the frum velt? What does it take to fit in?

When I was dating, a student in the yeshiva I was in decided that he wanted me to date his sister. I spoke to the boy’s mother about it and she said that she didn’t think a baal teshuva (myself) should date an FFB.
“Well, they’re just different.”
“What makes a baal teshuva different?”
“They’re more sincere.”

I still don’t understand.

In a different yeshiva I was in, an FFB student mentioned that he wouldn’t date a baalas teshuva. “Did you know the shadchan doesn’t have to tell you she’s a baalas teshuva?” I asked him.
Agitated, he asked the Rav walking by, “Would you set me up with a baalas teshuva without telling me?”
To which the Rav quipped, “Only if I thought you were worthy.” And kept walking.

Well, I’m not going to get started on the whole dating scene. But the question still remains, what is the baal teshuva’s goal in life.

One guy I knew was young enough and smart enough to enter an FFB yeshiva without a problem. On a visit back to the baal teshuva yeshiva he said, “Yes, you can make it there, but you can’t compete.” I’m not sure why he wanted to “compete” or why that was important to him.

After attaining the level of learning gemara on my own I spent some time in a top notch FFB yeshiva and sat and learned with a few guys. For me, every word and line of tosafos was a struggle. They could whip through a tosafos like water off a duck’s back. I was envious… Until I realized they hadn’t the foggiest idea what tosafos was really after.

I’m not knocking Klal Yisrael.

Klal Yisrael has kedusha. Klal Yisrael has collective ruach hakodesh, and maybe even nevuah. It’s important to feel and be apart of Klal Yisrael. The inner recognition of being part of the 3300 years of tradition is vital to
the identity of a Jew. And we must feel one with the group of Jews hanging on to Torah observance and values for dear life.

A BT should want to feel comfortable with, and have appreciation for, the good things in any branch of frum Jews he/she meets. A BT should have ahavas yisrael for a Satmar chassid, a Mir yeshiva student, a pajama-yalmulke-guitar playing- funky frum vegetarian, and a frum Manhattan woman lawyer with a $4000 sheitel. With a Sefardi, a Litvach, and a Hungarian. Whoever they are and wherever they’re from.

A BT should also think long and hard about the circumstances of his/her upbringing and ponder why HaShem caused him/her to have those experiences and live that lifestyle for those years.

Nothing is an accident.

We are in 5767, in this important time in history before the coming of moshiach for a reason and a purpose. Is it just to fit in? Are we merely reincarnated neshamas whose only task is to make it back to the fold?

Or are we uniquely designed to play an important role, precisely as a BT at this stage of Jewish history?

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15 comments on “What is the Goal of a BT?

  1. I think FFB’s have to realize that there are BT’s who know more about Yiddishkeit, and BT’s who know not so much, at different stages of their growth. If an FFB gets married to a BT, the BT can learn from the FFB. We are ALL Hashem’s children, and we can all learn from each other, without getting stuck on labels. As long as the BT is willing to learn and grow, I don’t see a problem.

  2. What’s Harry Potter? Is that some secular reference? Where’s the moderator here to quelch such irregularities? You must be some kind of BT that hasn’t worked out all his issues from the past to quote a secular source to support yourself. :) Just kidding.

  3. Well, as usual Jaded’s effervescent gleanings shed more than a little light on the subject. Apropos Bob and David — why just this Sunday I myself posted the following quotation for discussion on the Dean’s World blog which, though she will resist the suggestion, I submit may well apply to Jaded as it does the more luxuriously credentialed. (Warning: It is not from Artscroll.)

    “But do you think you’re right?” said Harry.

    “Naturally I do, but as I have already proven to you, I make mistakes like the next man. In fact, being — forgive me — rather cleverer than most men, my mistakes tend to be correspondingly huger.”

    — Albus Dumbledore, rosh yeshiva of Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

  4. David and Bob , appreciate the marketing for the soul strategy. Just one question have you ever tried selling “what color is your parachute”2005 version to the world famous Strands used book store. Forget about selling short or a lower than usual used book selling markup, you would be looking at a 90% loss or à -10.2 markup. Using our new reframing function though aside from your lifes luggage being a book lighter think of all the good strands book store does for downtown Nyc society. You can get so many different kinds of books for mere dollars.And you have room on your wood veneer bookcase for more in depth mussar study books like Alei Shure.

    Jacob Haller , you should definitely aspire to be a certified spiritual preacher;-) never under estimate the power of a bartender though ,the spiritual and liquid material ones.

  5. “consistently find yourself in your favorite pub celebrating wrong career choices just a little too often with friends of the same ilk”

    The need to vent with trusted acquaintances has its place and purpose – but perhpas so does taking active and proactive measures to correct the situation besides making bartenders and bar owners wealthy.

    Was that preachy enough JT?

  6. I’ve actualy incorporated the well known slogan “maybe your purpose in life, is to serve as a warning to others” not sure who the author of that brilliant thought process is but I thank him or her everyday for giving new meaning to the screw up concept. The slogan works nicely especially when you continuously embrace wrong decisions and consistently find yourself in your favorite pub celebrating wrong career choices just a little too often with friends of the same ilk. Its comforting to know that its not for naught and one day petulant petunia and her friends zany zinnia and daffy the daffodil will know just how to grow and which weeds to avoid embracing. Which gardens to find community and connection in and which crabgrass and weedy outlooks to ignore and do without. All çuz of the hyperactive wildflowers in their little floral history books promoting flora and foliage for the continuation and future of flirty floral society .

  7. Gershon,

    I was trying to contrast

    (1) using one’s lessons from the past to advantage

    with (2) fixation on wondering why the past was the way it was.

    The “aha” moments really do come, which is great. But they come without a whole lot of deliberation.

  8. I think that Bob and Gershon are correct. No BT who really thinks a lot about his or her background and current level of observance ever totally discards one’s past baggage, in a psychological or religious sense. In that sense, I think that many BTS are far more attuned and sensitive to what they perceive as going thru the motions and countless examples where the FFB world simply does not meet up to to the expected standards. Yet, if one spends all of one’s energy on the subject, it can become daunting to the point of making one wonder whether one will ever fit in without one doing some exploring on a hashkafic basis of one’s own.

  9. Bob, You do have a point. If we spent all our energy trying to figure out how our past can become of use to help the world we might get distracted from the daily work of Avodas Hashem. However, I think that to not be well aware of our past as we live in the present is a crime. Just as we study national history to learn our national identity and important lessons for the future, (as RSRH understands it, history is how God talks to us) we must also do so with our individual lives.

    For example, I have a very interesting background. For whatever reason Hashem deemed it so, in my early years I was exposed to modern orthodoxy, chassidus, conservative Solomon Schecter high school, Bnei Akiva, Carlebach, rock bands, jazz band, theater company orchestra and much more. Personal family experiences were most unique as well. I can honestly say that with the hindsight now available at age 46, much of what seemed very random and confusing back then, was precisely the opposite. On an almost daily basis I draw from my past experiences to help others. Often I get an “aha” moment when I meet someone who asks for advice and I flashback to a corresponding moment in my own history and think to myself “so THAT’S why I needed to experience that…”

  10. My primary goal is to do sincere teshuva, and to grow close to Hashem. I see big picture contributions–my unique role as a BT, etc., as secondary.

  11. For me the goals are being myself and using torah to help bring out the best in me and in others. If there are certain people who look at BT’s differnetly or don’t accept them, well then that just says they need to work on themselves more. I personally like to date FFB’s and usually find its not a problem for the most part. Although, it is true that I may have more in common superficially with a BT, such as certain cultural indicators, those things are really not important in the big picture. Anyway I discuss all of these points on my blog, Yeshiva or Bust. Check it out and let me know what you think.


  12. If we spend time reviewing our past, this should be used to understand the lessons learned.

    But how helpful is it to dwell on the lifestyle left behind? Of course, there were reasons for it, but

    1. How can we really know these reasons?
    2. Don’t we have better things to think about and do?

    If we’re BT’s or reincarnated or not reincarnated…, we still have the same duty all Jews have: to use our specific talents, lessons learned from life, etc., to do HaShem’s will.

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