After a discussion with my FFB in-laws about “Inspired” and some griping here, David suggested I write about that perennial BT question: Should we or shouldn’t we share details about our old lives?
For those who missed that post, my in-law objected to “Inspired” because in her words, “Al pi halacha, you are not supposed to mention your past aveiros.”
I checked that “halacha” out with my Rov and learned that although there is a prohibition against asking BTs about the past, BTs are permitted to share as much or as little they like. Just like anything else which involves information about a person which could possibly damage them, what you share depends on your purpose. A film like “Inspired” seems to be the highest purpose I can think of for mentioning the past; the further removed the people were from Yiddishkeit, the more remarkable their teshuva seemed.
Reb Shlomo Carlebach z”l used to speak about “the Torah of mistakes” which is based on the principle stated in Gemara (Shabbos 88a?) that if a person does teshuva, all his former sins become merits. This principle warms my heart, and I’m sure every BT feels that way. The end point of teshuva gives the person’s aveiros a higher context, and so, they’re not aveiros anymore.
To me, this seems like the simple pshat, but when I told it to my (FFB)husband, he behaved as though it was a chiddush. Does it take a BT to understand these things?
And still, having said all that, there’s plenty about my own past that I don’t share. Perhaps that’s because there’s no Kiddush Hashem involved. Perhaps it’s because I still think of them as aveiros and I am ashamed. Perhaps it’s because I’m ashamed that I can’t make a Kiddush Hashem of them. But I can say this much: the BTs in “Inspired” were wonderful and I think they’ve done a tremendous thing for klal Yisroel.
Originally published February 2006