7 Habits of Highly Successful BT’s

Originally Posted on Dec 11, 2006

(OK, I’m not a know-it-all, these are just some things I THINK are extremely helpful, certainly not the last word.)

1. Don’t become irreligious. Not even for a short while. Not even to get back with your old boyfriend/girlfriend for one last fling.

2. Cut yourself some slack. You can’t keep the exact same standards in all places at all times. While in Israel and in Yeshiva life is easy, keeping kosher, doing all the mitzvos is easy. Once you leave, the real test begins. You need some wiggle room.

3. Your relationships with your family members are more important than whether or not they join your brand of observance. Don’t sever ties with your family. Don’t flaunt your stringencies to “teach” them. The people who have you over for shabbos won’t travel across the world if you’re in the hospital, your family will.

4. Learn enough halacha to know when you can be lenient. Difficult situations often can be alleviated with knowledge. Learn the difference between a Torah prohibition and a rabbinic one. Learn the difference between a minhag, a chumrah, and ikkur hadin.

5. Find a Rav who is sensitive to BT situations. The Rabbis with the most halachic knowledge and clout aren’t necessarily the best judge of how to deal with irreligious family and friends. Your local Orthodox Rabbi might be a better source than the gadol hador for certain questions.

6. When you ask a Shailph that may end up with a major family rift, make sure you inform the Rav (you ask) of the consequences of your following his psak. Don’t just ask, “Is it permissible to go to an intermarriage?” Explain how not going may mean your entire family will disown you and never speak to you again. Ask “Is there any type of compromise I can make for them?”

7. Remember that nothing is a coincidence. Always question why Hashem put you in this position. Why did he pick you of all people out of the millions of uneducated Jews to come close to His holy Torah? There must be something special about you and what you offer to the already observant and the not yet observant. Fulfill your mission.

47 comments on “7 Habits of Highly Successful BT’s

  1. “In an article in The Jewish Observer entitled Pesach in Autumn, Rabbi Yisroel Greenwald describes his experience while learning in kollel in Australia. While originally he had gravitated towards those who were particularly successful in their fields of endeavor, his world view became changed and he was drawn to the heroes who were baalei teshuvah.

    One particular individual was particularly successful in his career in acting, with many female followers. When he decided to become a baal teshuvah, he struggled to master Gemara, and was having a particularly difficult time with parnassah and shidduchim, but was unwavering his commitment. Rabbi Greenwald took him to Rav Don Segal shlita for a brachah, and explained that his friend had given up a successful career, and left a life of prestige and fame to adopt a life of Torah.

    Rav Don lowered his head, and told him:
    I envy your share in the World to Come!

    The Rav was not one to offer unfounded compliments, yet he shared with this young [Jew] how precious his decision was in the Eyes of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.”

    SOURCE: Al HaTzaddikim 5 Types of Yidden by Rebbetzin Esti Reisman, Flatbush Jewish Journal, 2013 November 7, page 34

  2. People tend to see anyone more religious than themselves as a “fanatic” and anyone less religious as “frei.” In other words, people tend to define “normal” as “exactly my own level of religious observance.” Sort of like job interviews where the interviewer is unconsciously biased toward hiring someone exactly like her/himself.

    Certainly we should seek the ability to combine our adherence to halacha with the ability to live in the modern world. It definitely helps to have a local Orthodox Jewish rabbi whom one can rely on for sound practical advice as well as deep Talmudic knowledge.

  3. MG raises a very good point. There is a real dearth of available material that lays out a ‘mainstream’ approach to religious life. We mistakenly think that just translating texts that exhort one to aspire to holy heights is going to be appropriate for the average person. Providing high aspirations is indeed important; but it often doesn’t help much someone who is first in need of learning how to manage as an average, committed, ‘daily life’ Jew.

    Two related notions come to my mind from Rav Yehuda Amital z”l, whose yahrtzeit recently passed. He simultaneously encouraged students in the Gush to deep, constant learning; while maintaining what he referred to as ‘normalcy’ (normaliut in his language). The complementary notion is the approach to stringencies in halacha. He related that when he was a young man, before the Nazi onslaught, and he read the Mishnah Brurah advising what a ‘God fearing’ person should do – he understood that to be someone else. I always found that a profoundly important statement coming from such an important talmid hacham. Just because the special standard is out there, doesn’t mean we ought to all be doing so. Similar to our sages’ use of the idea that ‘not everyone who wishes to establish a name/reputation for himself (as pious) should do so. לא כל הרוצה ליטול את השם, יטול.’

    In short what is really missing is that we don’t teach a hozer bet’shuvah to be a discriminating consumer. Not every approach, and not every rabbi, will be a suitable path and guide. We should be seeking out guides whom we respect, and can trust, and who seem to direct us in a manner that suits and is beneficial to us individually. I think in many settings that is the key element that is lacking.

  4. Max, you’re right, there are exceptions. I live among many of them, and many of them are very accomplished in many respects and worthy of emulation.

    But it’s a harder slog when your kids know more than you do in second grade. Me, they didn’t catch up with until like fourth.

  5. Regarding ‘habit’ number four:

    One thing I’ve found particularly difficult about being BT is distinguishing between halacha, minhag, and chumra. As was mentioned before, just spending time in someone’s home can give the impression that every chumra or minhag is halacha. How is one to know without years of study?

    Book recommendations are welcome. Each text seems to have its own slant or deficiency. Some texts do spell out what the halachas are and what some common community minhagim are, but even these take a long time to work through. (For instance, Oz v’Hadar Levusha, Halichos Bas Yisroel, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.)

    Are there BT-oriented (or BT-appropriate) anthologies of daily/common mitzvos, minhagim, and chumros?

  6. Charnie–I didn’t mean “Mr. Right” in the sense of “someone you’ll meet and then you’ll just know (magically!) that you were meant to be together.” I mean it more in the sense of bashert, where couples are brought together by destiny (ex, a whole bunch of factors had to be just right in order for my husband and I to meet and start dating).

    Jaded–Personally, I decided what’s most important by doing what’s known here as a “nisayon alafim.” Basically, asking people who seem to have what you want how they got it. I spent some time with various families, noticed which marriages looked healthy and fun and which looked less so, and then asked the happily married what they thought was important to look for in a spouse, what to do to keep a marriage healthy, etc. It’s also worthwhile to talk to marriage/relationship counselors if you know any, since they see hundreds of unhappy couples and can tell you what to avoid. Of course it’s all very individual and what’s important to your friend might not be important to you, but there are some general rules.

  7. Ron,

    Regarding the whole learning Torah thing, isn’t that just one of the 613 mitzvot? I wouldn’t put it as a habit because its an obligation like not eating pork, not speaking lashon hara, praying when obligated etc.

    But of course you are correct, an extended period of time in an intense learning environment is definitely a must, if one is able.
    On the other hand, I’ve seen people who didn’t do that, and were successful at growth and staying enthusiastic about being observant. And some others who burnt out in yeshiva and left yiddishkeit. Rachmana litzlan.


  8. JT, I think you misunderstood, or I misconveyed my objections to the concept of a Mr. (or Ms.) Right. Definitely, this is outside of just the “is he/she frum or not” sphere. It’s a universal issue. And definitely don’t marry the next male being that comes along just to get married – remember, good stuff is worth waiting for. As can only be stated by a true veteran (whose anniversary BTW is Veterans Day) of the singles scene, both non-religious and then religious, since I became frum during that period of my life. Although we’re always teasing my husband that he should have married me 10 years earlier, the reality is that we wouldn’t have given each other a second glance back then. Which is all to say that I truly believe that finding him or her is in our hands and guided by Hashem. A Rebbe told me that its very easy to have 2 besherit pass one another like “ships in the night”, which might explain why we have divorce.
    Sounds like you’re presently in a relationship with one who you genuinely feel is Mr. Right despite others disagreeing with you?

  9. Charnie, I’m just an independent designer specializing in diamond studded metaphors,emerald and tourmaline oriented slogans and logo’s and the occasional sapphire studded simile.I’m not the pink diamond in my metaphor, I’m actually not a diamond hence the name jaded topaz .
    Your alluding to “Kressel and her beautiful post about her sister” and connecting your glowing reviews of her post to your skepticism regarding the actual existence of Mr Right or getting tatooed by lightening and concluding with an over the counter remedy for the shidduch crisis , that conclusion almost sounds like a call for : Marry the Next Guy that Comes Along With Religious Persistence/Red Rose and Ring,cuz he is the new Mr Right. and dont forget about Chrissy the shidduch crisis coordinator ,who is conveniently right around the corner crying about all those unborn babies.

    Ora – whether “becoming irreligious” is still an issue of concern is still debatable, but that shouldnt be the focal point of which concerns are focused on and decisions based off of.
    Regarding Mr Right versus Mr Obstacle , I guess if one marries enough Mr Obstacles,they should eventually bump into Mr Right. Provided he’s still around and not tangled up with other Mrs Obstacles.Yeah, it is a gamble, but so is everything in life including marrying Mr black hat and sacrificing stuff for the sake of whatever.I dont know how one is supposed to decide what is more imporant or what right way is the better right way. There are so many right highways and right midpoint destinations leading to the correct destination…………

  10. Ora & JT, the concept of a “Mr. Right” or lightening striking is strictly out of Hollywood, not real relationships. It’s a part of what’s commonly known as the shidduch crisis. That’s why Kressel, in her beautiful post about her sister’s wedding, mentioned how we should all be helping one another (or our children, perhaps) with finding shidduchum. I guess I’m off-topic for a change.

  11. JT–
    it sounds like we actually agree on a lot then. I never said that a religious/secular marriage can’t ever work, just that shared goals are necessary and that two people shouldn’t have to give up themselves to be together. If a religious and not religious person share a goal of helping random drunks/homeless people/etc and neither is going to force the other to take on/abandon mitzvot, then yeah, that could work. (Again, all that the original post said was “don’t become irreligious for the ex” not “never ever date them”)

    Still, I don’t get this whole “mr. right” thing. Sure, if you have divine inspiration to know who’s right for you, then you could argue for sticking to the relationship no matter what the difficulties. But since most of us these days are just going on our own brainpower, how are we supposed to know if the guy is Mr Right (so however hard it is to make this work, it’s worth it) or Mr Obstacle (who will only delay our meeting with the true Mr Right).

  12. JT, you’re right about only Hashem knowing what’s ultimately right for us. However, in an effort to fit with the aforementioned diamond in the rough, we could presume that they’re not of the spiritual bent inorder to get the relationship to fit.

    As I mentioned before (and I’ll go into greater detail offsite if you want to get my email from the admin), my personal experience with a “Mr. Perfect” ended up being far from (or far frum) perfect. However, it wasn’t a total loss, because I actually learned a lot during the period. Details offline, strictly girl talk.

    Being open minded shouldn’t mean only “excluding” the winter/fur, but also accepting winter/fur as a possibility, not because he is or isn’t frum, but because he’s the one.

  13. Ora- your expounding on my usage of “common denominater” and what I should or shouldnt use as the definition for your original recipe for marriage , is further proof that if one finds Mr Perfect all dress in irreligious summer outlooks as opposed to religious fur feathered winter cold looks ,saying good day including “no flings”.. cuz of religious differences is not the smartest thing to say good bye to .Especially if there is a chance those differences could be dealt with later on.

    Regarding my runaway diamond metaphor, irreligious rough blue diamond could marry religious sparkle pink diamond.Just cuz they have different levels of religious faceting they could still get stoned/ marry each other changing shades or hue but without changing core colors.Sparkle pink could come down a few notches on her spiritual trip and still stay sparkle pink and rough blue diamond could smooth out some of his edges with the excess spiritual sparkle dust and still consider himself rough.Perfect mix of contrast/compromise without focusing on the specific flaws each diamond brought to the marriage.And together they can go about creating colorful diamond chips.And attracting all sorts of rough diamonds and sparkly diamonds for the perfect multifaceted diamond community.

    Ora and Charnie- one facet of my multifaceted point is that if goals are g-d and belief/altruistic oriented sometimes you dont really know which path youre supposed to really be taking to attain those goals.Maybe the irreligious rough blue diamond and the religious pink sparkle diamond marriage will help way more diamonds in the rough see the light than say some mediocre marriage of religious black and white diamonds.

    Basically “shared goals are necessary” for a marriage , but local religion laws dont have to always have to mess with them.One can create lofty belief oriented goals with anyone. Maybe one’s purpose is to marry a handsome athiest bar owner and inspire all those alcoholics down on their luck /glued drunk as a skunk to their favorite barstool all night.And then maybe incorporate Alei Shure readings in the morning.Or maybe one’s purpose is to marry an irreligious psychiatrist/lawyer/real estate owner……. and together go about adopting random homeless people from Port Authority bus terminal /Union Square Park and everywhere in between and together opening up their own assisted living facility.Maybe thats what g-d wanted instead of worrying about local laws and if they believe in the same dress and modesty laws or whatever.

  14. Jaded–
    My four common denominators are not “common” in the sense of “found in every member of the opposite sex on your religious level.” Even if a person is only looking for these four things, they might be present in a mere handful of fellow humans and take years to find.

    I no longer understand your diamond metaphors. If the pink and blue diamonds are to remain pink and blue respectively, that would imply that they are not changing or abandoning previous values and lifestyles for each other. Which does not contradict my original argument: one should not neglect a significant part of one’s life or personality, in this case Torah observance, for a partner.

    If you disagree with that statement, then I would like to know how you reached your conclusions. What makes you think that shared life goals are unnecessary for a succesful marriage/long term relationship? Or that one partner can significantly change themselves for the other without harming the relationship?

  15. Sometimes when we go through a BT experience, we later find out we underestimated the value of all sorts of relationships which we thought didn’t matter once we became religious. I think Jaded’s point both includes, but goes beyond a fling, or beyond even romance at all, and was touched upon by Rabbi Weiman in other points.

  16. JT, you’re full of fascinating analogies this week, diamonds, photoshop, flings, rings.

    Perhaps the issue of the non-religious serious other (to differentiate from fling-other) can best be answered by what are your goals. If it’s just someone to go out with, see a concert, have a romantic dinner (are we allowed to say that on this site), then it probably wouldn’t matter that much if your Other is religious or not, assuming you could find a mutually agreeable kosher restaurant – not too hard in places like NYC, harder OOT.

    OTOH, if you’re talking about a more permanent situation, your diamond won’t remain one. I do know of couples where one spouse was clearly “more frum” then the other, and how they worked out issues like Taharas Mishpacha, I certainly wouldn’t want to know. But they were all people who’d met before either party was frum, and the less-religious didn’t inhibit their spouse’s growth. This includes my own MIL A”H.

  17. Chava- usage of the world “fling” does not prove that the original relationship was not serious or even lacking a Mr Perfect in its equation. The core issue of concern with the pious bad habit shakers for the sensational spiritual frolicking sensation among the religious clouds players in habit number one, is why the need for fling.Maybe that old relationship had more potential than just existing or being listed on a do not even fling with me list.

    Its when things are just reclassified as simple and Pink or Blue or Do Not Fling with that, that kind of stuff is just hard to really understand.Right and Wrong is obviously more complicated than its presented as.Its easier to preach in simple mode.Or live in hyperstructured religious enviroments but thats not always possible . Sometimes Simple Mode is not a format thats understood by all especially those who automatically reconfigure presentations in the most complicated formats by default, through no fault of their own.

    Basically its like using a simple photo editing program or using photoshop. Some love the simple photo editing program ,some insist on photoshop but then get sidetracked by all the extra features and options.But they still wont use the simple photo editing program cuz their are so many ideas and options they need to work on.They are too bright for the simple photo editing programs but not focused enough or maybe serious enough to accomplish stuff consistently with the more complicated photoshop program.

  18. Thats true, although my brief fling with irreligiousness would probably involve a White Castle restaurant :)

  19. AJ, you’re right. If you can’t, you can’t. Already having a family actually mitigates in favor of having fewer problems with no. 1 on R’ Max’s list, anyway.

    But if you can, you must!

  20. This is a really great post. Very simply informative and encouraging at the same time.

    Mr. Coleman, while I agree that learning full time for a couple of years would be fanastic and extremely helpful, it is not realistic for those who become BT a bit later in life when kids have to eat and rent and tuition must be paid. Alternatives must be considered.

  21. JT – discussions about a ‘soulmate’ and ‘perfect diamonds’ aside, I think it inherent in the word ‘fling’ is that this is not a serious pursuit. How and whether a religious/non-religious combo can make it work is a very different discussion.

  22. The English version of that second paragraph should be:

    People who spend a couple of years learning, as opposed to a few weeks or months “taking courses” followed up with nighttime learning or Partners in Torah, will be much less likely to have to worry about many of the other seven, especially number one.

  23. Ma-a-a-a-a-a-ax!

    R’ Max, I think you left one out. (Someone had to say it, didn’t they?) Highly successful BT’s — not all BT’s, not all successful ones, but those “superstars” — find a way to make the commitment to learn full time (this is for men and women) for at least a year, and preferably a lot more. It’s just fundamental to that success that they do so.

    The percentage of people who spend a couple of years learning, as opposed to a few weeks or months “taking courses” followed up with nighttime learning or Partners in Torah, will be much less likely to have to worry about many of the other seven, especially number one.

    Though number one is a tricky one for anybody. Every time we fail to do the ratzon Hashem, we are being irreligious, right? That means every minute of bitul Torah… every minute a “ruach shtus” enters into us, which, for must of us, is quite a few minutes a day. I think we need to refine what we mean by this. I think the harder part, in fact, is to avoid saying, Well, I blew it on this one — I didn’t learn today, I missed zman krias shema, whatever — so now I’m on the other side of the line and… hmm, what was her number…?

  24. Ora, the belief needed to be able to say good day to Mr Perfect cuz any gemstone trippin your way with the common denominaters you mentioned could really just be polished up perfectly and embraced for marriage, this belief is mostly reserved for those of the Pollyana Persuasion

    Regarding your pink diamond acquaintances involved in contrast design ideas that failed to create perfect pieces of fusion/ funk and blissful connections, firstly the jewelry designs I was picturing were not Michal Negrin’s wannabe’s with all that painted enamel goin and victorian romantic notions. I was thinking more in terms of Levian Jewelers and Robert Wanders -Crystal Candy collection.
    So no pink diamonds painting themselves (or their metal casings and surroundings)a hazy shade of enamel blue in the face for color coordinating concerns.

    And there wont be any small blue or pink diamond chips off the old rock until the rocks are certain they are perfect for creating and continuing a colorful diamond studded legacy.Otherwise the diamond chips may not function properly in any jewelry setting and will probally rebel and join semi precious gemstone society or maybe even find comfort among the cubic zirconias of life.

    There would also be some sort of solid mixed metal foundation maybe tungsten or platinum and rose gold to facilitate with the fusion process of irreligious brilliantly blue diamond in the rough and religiously inclined sparkly pink diamond.Technically creating the perfect material medium so brilliantly blue diamond in the rough can get some spirituality thru some sort of osmosis and diffusion for diamonds. And pink sparkle diamond can get her sunlight of spirituality brightness adjusted a shade or six more realistically .

    Only then would they decide what sort of diamond chips they plan on raising in terms of mindsets/light refractions/faceting/overall shape and settings.And maybe even color treating/enhancing existing color of their little small diamond chip offsprings.So they can embrace the harsh realities of life,happy go lucky , sparkling and glittering brightly in their favorite shade and color mostly.(Instead of switching colors abruptly during midlife crisis)…. Thanks in part to that lovely concept everyone proudly refers to as “free will”.

    Yeah, Its that simple.

  25. Jaded–
    You think that the idea that shared interests, including a shared interest in having children, are necessary for a marriage is Pollyannish? I think that expecting a marriage to flourish or even survive without such shared interests is extremely naive. Interesting that you chose “populating/breeding” as your example, as I’ve recently heard from women who are having marriage trouble and are in extreme emotional pain because they want more children and their husbands don’t. Things like that are very hard to live without or compromise on.

    Of course true love can’t be based on shared interests alone, which is why I included compatible personalities and mutual attraction in my list of must-haves, but neither can a “click” or unusually intense feeling of connection make up in the long run for incompatible goals.

    The complex relationship between destiny and free choice is beyond the understanding of even the cleverest of diamonds (or BeyondBT posters). Still, it seems to me that we need to live our lives as if we have full free choice, and let Hashem worry about destiny. Should I justify my bad behavior by saying “well, I was destined to hurt that friend/ cheat that customer/ etc, and who am I to stand in the way of fate”? No, because anyone could excuse any kind of bad behavior in that way. Similarly, it’s not such a good idea to justify bad relationship choices with “but it’s destiny!” No human knows what their destiny is.

    “If it was a pre-destined connection then the religious facets will get fixed eventually”–no. Just no. I’m not just talking philisophically here–I know people who were in this situation, usually women who went down a few religious levels in order to be with their boyfriends, who didn’t rise to meet them. Here’s how the situation played out: instead of happily-ever-after and “perfect pieces of funky jewelry,” ms pink diamond either: 1)realized that mr blue had no desire for marriage and cute rough/sparkly little diamonds or 2) painted herself blue, which kept everyone happy for a while, until the paint started to chip and either a) she realized she could never be blue and left, breaking mr rough blue’s heart and her own or b) mr blue left her for someone genuinely blue, and she ended up alone, and no longer sparkly, with small blue diamonds to take care of.

    Now, if ms pink only looked pink because she was reflecting the pink glow from her family and friends, and if mr blue wasn’t too committed to blue, and was happy to live as a dark shade of purple, then they could make a happy life together as a purple family. That I’ve seen happen.

  26. Ora- I was defining the figuretively literal “flexible”.
    Mr perfect/attraction/free will/choice/destiny are quite the complicated kind of concepts.
    Using the diamond metaphor way too literal for a sec, a natural pink diamond destined to exist rigidly in a wedding ring, if she is way happier existing as a color treated purple diamond will this ruin her chances of accomplishing her purpose for creation?Is she held accountable for the subsequent attraction towards belly/tongue/eyebrow rings begging for her attention to exist among their funky pieces of jewelry.She can always blame the mud she was created under .Is it wrong color choice or just not myopic run of the mill oriented. If she is happier in perfectly purple color treated undertones and subtexts,residing in funky eye brow/tongue/belly rings , is she still fulfilling her specific diamond destiny.Is destiny sooo specific that go live as a wedding ring center stone… cannot be redefined in artsy /creative nose/belly/tongue ring residing and connecting.

    Then there is the question of attraction and related energies/efforts and focus and effects on free will/destiny.Generally Rough rock/color treated/natural color…attract like minded diamonds.If natural pink fully faceted sparkling diamond is attracted to rough blue diamond rock the chances that soul mate oriented energies are inovolved are pretty high considering the differences involved and lack of surfacey outlooks in perfect love equation.

    Why would perfectly pink natural color diamond give up her connection with true love rough rock blue diamond just cuz he doesnt want to shine refined and religious exactly the way she sparkles and understand the light. And then be expected to just employ the belief usually associated with those of the Pollyana persuasion.Up to and including the notion that a shared interest in populating/breeding /similar interests involving spreading the bible and the same dietary laws are the ingredients for a perfectly spiced (spiceless) marriage.

    I would think that perfectly pink natural diamond should continue her connection with Mr not religiously faceted but perfect blue rough diamond.And maybe even marry and create perfect pieces of funky jewelry involving the awesome contrast of rough diamonds and sparkling diamonds.If it was a pre-destined connection then the religion facets will get fixed eventually.

  27. Regarding Ora’s post #15, everyone should learn the halachas of how to use one oven for cooking meat and dairy items:ie- at separate times, etc.. There are details to this and shouldn’t look at her statement as wow, time to pop in the burger and pizza together-that is a big non no.

  28. Jaded–same to you.

    First of all, “taking flexible way too literally” would be expecting Mr Perfect to do the splits :).

    Personally, I don’t believe in Mr or Ms Perfect. I also don’t believe that there’s one and only one soulmate for everyone, and that if you don’t get with your soulmate regardless of external reality, you will be alone. I think that any two people who have good middot, similar goals, general compatibility, and of course mutual attraction can build a wonderful life together if they choose. After getting married it’s nice to think that this is the person you were destined for, but if before marriage you stay in a relationship with all kinds of problems and incompatibilities because you somehow magically know he’s the one (how does anyone know who their soulmate is, anyway? Maybe the non-religious “Mr Perfect” is getting in the way, and the real soulmate will only come after the break-up?), that can be destructive.

    As for figurative flexibility, a secular boyfriend won’t start living a religious life, but if he expects his newly-religious girlfriend to drop everything and go to clubs/movies with him on shabbat, eat at his favorite trief restaurant, etc, then he’s not being considerate to her or honoring her beliefs. In the long run, people who give up everything for the sake of a relationship end up unhappy, in no small part because a good partner wouldn’t have asked for that in the first place. If he’s not willing to give some things up for her, he’s not worth sacrificing for in turn.

    Finally, it all comes down to faith in Hashem. I don’t believe that Hashem will force people into a choice between living according to
    His Torah and their only chance at love. It could be that secular Mr Perfect isn’t so great after all, it could be that there’s a religious Mr Perfect waiting out there… who knows. The point is, living by mitzvot is always good for Jews, because Hashem gave them out of love. You never risk harming yourself by keeping Torah.

  29. JT, how do you know this is really Mr. Perfect? I could tell you stories about who Ithought was a Mr. Perfect that in hindsight I’m not sure if they want to make me laugh and/or cry. Perhaps a little of both, because even though he turned out to be far from perfect in many ways, most of them having nothing to do with being Jewish, everything does happen for a purpose. Ultimately, if becoming frum becomes more important to a person, it will likely create a divide because there’s a point where neither party can compromise enough to accommodate the other.

  30. Regarding #4, in my experience the tendency for BTs is to assume that everything they’ve learned/seen in someone’s house is halacha, and this can lead to problems. Especially in kashrut, where a lot of solutions can often be found allowing BTs to eat with their family with minimum hassle. I occasionally meet BTs who are surprised that you can cook meat and milk in the same oven–the families they saw in America had two, and they assumed that was the halacha. Things like that. When your family/friends aren’t religious, it’s nice to know where you can be flexible for the sake of the relationship.

  31. Ora- good to argue with you again ;-) Hope all has been well since the “Wake up and Smell the Bacon (reverse peristalsis)and Looking Good (NYC still rocks) ” posts arguing.
    I’m not quite sure what your perceived differences are between ” dont be in a relationship with someone non-religious” and “dont become irreligious in order to be with them”.Generally when in a real relationship with someone not religious there usually are not religious activities goin on.
    In the higher scheme of things what is more imporant finding your soul mate or maintaining soul religious fever.

    Which brings me to my second point, say for instance an individual gets bitten by the teshuva bug and is purely religious.Then our individual happens to get bitten by the love bug after comin across Mr Perfect all dressed in non-religious outlooks.(No a secular boyfriend does not have to go along with a BT’s commitments, that would be taking flexible way too literally).Are you implying that it is of greater concern to insist on maintaining all religious commitments and outlooks instead of embracing/acknowledging and loving Mr Perfect just cuz he happens to be dressed in non-religious outlooks and activities?
    I’m not so sure that even kiruv orgs with their answers for everything would be offering bonus Mr Perfects to all those that sign up under their early bird special promotion.Why would it be considered a bright decision to give up Mr Perfect in the name of religion and avoiding irreligious activities and related happenstancings.

  32. David S. is right. Both demotion and promotion to the wrong level can be based on:

    1. Rationalization of what you already plan to do.

    2. Conformity

    3. One-upmanship

    4. Lack of information

  33. Bob,

    Your statment is correct in the sense that there is an ever-present human tendency to demote each regulation to a lower stringency category through rationalization. However, there is also an ever-present human tendency to raise minute differences in style to the level of heresy. There are so many examples of holier than thou judgements (especially on blogs) of what is categorically Right and Wrong that it makes little sense to argue with the common sense evident in the article itself. The point is clear, check with a Rabbi that you respect and explain all of the facts to them so they can properly advise.

    given by that group of people for whom critiquing others is the only way of feeling important themselves.

  34. Habit 8 (referencing your Habit 7)

    Never, ever, refer to past aquaintances and/or not-yet-frum family members as “uneducated”.
    “Less knowledgable” is as effective, and doesn’t sound nearly as smug.

  35. Bob,

    Thanks for your comments.
    “Wiggle room” depends on the place and situation. Its a bit tricky to put in a short article. But one of the best pieces of advice I got when I was having conflicts with my family was to take off my kipah. They saw my strict adherence to Jewish Law and custom as foreign and cultish. If I was willing to take off my kipah in the house sometimes, that indicated to them that I wasn’t such a fanatic. Some people become more strict around their family and it can cause more problems. I agree with you, that point needs a bit more clarification. “Wiggle room” doesn’t mean hanging out in church.

  36. OK, let me try this again (and please remove post 7). It’s a great, practical post, but personally, I’d move item #5 – finding a Rav – right up to the top. So many of these other issues can be dealt with so much more successfully with the guidance of a Rav – not just the adjustment period, but throughout life.

    And in that same vein, it’s worth mentioning here that in no way should one consider a website a substitute for a Rav of one’s own. Although there are hundreds of valuable websites out there, from Aish to (is there a “Z” site?), the advice an LOR can give is invaluable, because he is someone who knows you personally. There are very few “one size absolutely fits all” posuk halacha. Also, care must be taken with websites listing kosher establishments. If you can’t verify when the listing was last updated, and there’s no info on who provides supervision, you can’t rely on it, since many sites will list non Shomer Shabbos delis, for instance, ie, “kosher style”. Again, you’ve got to ask your LOR when you come across someplace whose supervision you’re not familiar with. And the same holds true of invites to simchas in non-Orthodox shuls. A personal phone call to the caterer (you don’t have to say who you are, or whose affair you’re calling about) can be very informative, since most of the time our friends are family assure us “it’s kosher”. In one such case, we were advised by a Rav to stick to the soda, and in another, in a Reform synagogue, it turned out the caterer was under the supervision of an Orthodox Rav from our own community, and we were able to enjoy the meal.

  37. Great post. I heard R Zev Leff speak last night about integration of BTs. His points were that a BT must find a rav, continue to grow in learning and maintain a balance between his enthsusiasm as a BT and blending into the frum world.

  38. Regarding “4. Learn enough halacha to know when you can be lenient. Difficult situations often can be alleviated with knowledge. Learn the difference between a Torah prohibition and a rabbinic one. Learn the difference between a minhag, a chumrah, and ikkur hadin” :

    There is an ever-present human tendency to demote each regulation to a lower stringency category through rationalization. People call the laws they wish to violate “customs”, and so on. A modicum of knowledge will not turn our “rationalization switch” off. This is what makes clear advice from rabbonim (as in #5) essential.

    By the way, in these times, a sympathetic, local Orthodox rabbi may not know enough to answer our question, but may venture an off-the-cuff, wrong or incomplete, answer anyway. Caveat emptor!

  39. Jaded–he didn’t say “don’t be in a relationship with someone non-religious” (although that is often quite difficult for someone trying to keep mitzvot), rather, don’t become irreligious in order to be with them.

    I’ve never seen a religious-secular relationship work out on a “deep real long term level” if one person had to give up everything to make the other happy–if a BT has to give up something very important to them (Torah and mitzvot) in order to stay with the boyfriend/girlfriend, it’s a bad relationship from the start. A secular soulmate would be flexible and not pressure the BT out of their new commitments.

    (The above paragraph was my own take on secular-religious relationships, I’m not trying to read that into what Rav Weiman was saying.)

    I think that Rule #1 is very important because it has to do with commitment and self-trust. A BT (and those around them) has to trust that s/he will keep her word and follow through on commitments. Every time that she allows herself to go back to the old non-religious lifestyle, it will be harder to fully recommit to Torah afterwords.

  40. What all is this “wiggle room” in Habit #2?

    They don’t issue us some new, improved Torah when we move from place to place.

  41. Habit number one is a little confusing and seems more like the bad habit of unhappy habit keepers. So your saying religion is more important than a non religious boyfriend. What if mr non religious boyfriend also happens to be a soul mate as opposed to a bad habit.Arguing for mikva wigs and other fun facts for religious fever is not more important than a boy friend that’s not religious. Umm connecting on a deep real long term level , with a boyfriend is not as easy as typing up seven habits for highly successful boyfriend finders and keepers.I’m not quite sure on why you would be thinking on one last fling terms.if its a serious relationship and boyfriend is not religious one last fling before flung with boyfriend is not a happy habit. No flings necessary , I think the relationship is more of an important factor in the overall inner equilibrium and happiness thing than being religious. You can worry about religion later, there is no need to break up with a boyfriend çuz he’s not religious.

  42. Great post! I’ve seen the topic in the suggested topics for many weeks now, and I’m glad someone had the guts to tackle it.

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