I’m Interested in Becoming a Baal Teshuva.

Dear Beyond BT

I have a friend who has become religious and I’m interested in possibly following that path. I wanted to know what are the first steps that are commonly taken by someone interested in moving in this direction.


14 comments on “I’m Interested in Becoming a Baal Teshuva.

  1. Ben, if you’re not too tied down at this stage of your life you must grab the opportunity for full time study in a yeshiva, even at meaningful sacrifice of career opportunities or advancement and certainly money.

    Those chances will come again, and may be illusory anyway. The chance to learn in a structured setting may never do so, and is one investment that is guaranteed to pay you back for the rest of your life.

  2. Ben,

    There are many suggestions above to consider. Please allow me to add my thoughts.

    We affirm our connection to Hashem when we wake up, when we eat, when we go to bed, and during the three daily prayer services — morning, afternoon, and evening. At the outset, I suggest that you identify some Torah thoughts, or “prayer segments” that are significant to you at these times, and briefly reflect on them. You can gradually increase your ritual observance, to include the prayers, blessings and actions associated with each time.

    I also suggest that besides Shabbat services, you try to attend one morning, one afternoon and one evening service on the weekdays. Many synagogues have the afternoon and evening services in close succession, sometimes with a brief study period in between. If you don’t want to partake in that particular area of study, there are many “lesson a day” books available in pocket size that you can peruse then or at any time.)

  3. The basic first steps to start working on are:

    1. Keeping Kosher
    2. Keeping Shabbos
    3. Start going to Torah classes

  4. May I recommend that you strive to have many different families to visit for Shabbat.

    This allows to find the families that you are most compatible with, and provides a backup plan in case one family decides to spend Shabbat in a another city.

    May I also recommend all of the many books written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (except for Meditation and Kabbalah, which should only be read by very advanced Torah scholars).

  5. May I suggest, Chana Leah, that instead of trying to tackle Chumash on one’s own at this stage, instead get a copy of either the “Midrash Says” or even better, “The Little Midrash Says”. Both provide a good understanding of the Parsha with interesting comments, and are highly readable.

  6. Read the Artscroll Chumash, including commentaries. Find lectures appropriate for newly observant to attend.

  7. I strongly agree with Charnie’s post and would suggest that you spend Shabbos with as many Torah observant families as possible.

  8. Check things out from various angles. The above suggestions direct you well.I think it’s also worthwhile to look at your personal reasons for wanting to go that way. You might or might not want to share that on this thread, but speaking for myself, and perhaps some others, I’d initially experienced some remarkably heady feelings and felt I’d found the path that would take me to eternal deep happiness and most of my problems would be solved (I guess I was sleeping when they said that would be in the times of Moshiach!). The problem was I’d over-invested in the human beings who practiced Orthodox Judaism and crashed for awhile when I’d learned they were exactly that: human beings.

    I guess what I’m saying is there is truth and much beauty here. Remember that Hashem and His Torah are our guides, and the rest of us are just doing our best on any given day. Hatzlochah on this incredible journey!

  9. I would add that understanding the reasons (when possible) as to why we do what we do in Torah observance is key. There’s, maybe, too much on the web, so speak to people you trust about what they suggest you read.

  10. Go to people for Shabbos and just soak in the atmosphere. Ask your hosts lots of questions. You don’t say whether or not you’re in a community with a large religious community, but there’s likely a Chabad House wherever you are (including college campus). There are lots of resources online for finding shuls, which you can then call and ask if the Rabbi or a congregant can host you for a meal.

    If there’s a synagogue with a beginner’s service, that’s a great opportunity. For example, if you can get to the Upper west Side of Manhattan, check out Rabbi Buchwald’s minyan, in Queens, visit Jewish heritage Center. And either one of them will most likely invite you for lunch as well.

  11. This advise might draw some dissent, but I would say Don’t try to do too much too soon. Not many who dive right in stay there forever. Gradually add mitzvot to your routine.

  12. Ben, I think at the beginning stages, reading and listening about Torah Judaism is extremely valuable, and is something you can partake at whatever pace you desire.

    There’s a lot of information on the Internet of varying quality and focus so I would recommend starting with a site named Simple to Remember (http://www.simpletoremember.com).

  13. Ben, since you have so many alternative life paths within the various streams of Torah Judaism, take some time to clarify in your own mind what you value the most in a community and how you’d like to relate to HaShem.

  14. The biggest advice I can give to you, Ben is to read, and to tag along with your friend when he goes to a family for Shabbos, even if you can only eat a friday night meal (most families won’t make you stay the whole Shabbos) it is worth it to go, and experience the beauty that is Shabbos. It worked for me. :)

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