Are We Living B’dieved Lives?

In halacha there is a concept of doing a mitzvah l’chatchila, intially the proper way and b’dieved, fulfilling the requirement after the fact in a suboptimal way. On some posts here contributors will highlight their view of the l’chatchila way to live in a particular area such as listening to certain types of music, women’s roles or dealing with the materialistic aspects of our lives, etc..

So here’s my question: Is facing up to the fact that our lives don’t measure up in all areas to the highest ideals of Torah Judaism mean that we are living our lives in a less than an optimal way, i.e. B’Dieved? And what are the implications of that thought pattern?

I think everybody reading this has to ask themselves this question, because the greatest Jews among us do not use the Internet.

So how do you come to terms with this question?

Who Put the Baal in Baal Teshuva?

A commentor recently asked how do we define a Baal Teshuva? In the Talmud it means someone who was observant, but went off of the path and returned. Today it usually means someone whose parents where not observant, but the child became observant. But why Baal? Is anybody truly a master of Teshuva?

This year before Rosh Hoshana I asked some people why they thought the term Baal (master) was used. The most satisfying answer I receive was that we are Baalei Teshuva because we are the masters of our own return to G-d. It was not the path we were on, but at some point we took control of our lives and our Teshuva and made the conscious decisions and efforts to get closer to Hashem.

It makes sense to retain that mastery. To keep on improving and realizing that our Teshuva is always in our hands regardless of the challenges we might face. We also need to widen the circle of Baalei Teshuva to include all those who are choosing to get closer to Hashem on the path set forth in the Torah and by our sages. Although each of us individually are own masters of Teshuva, working on this collectively makes our travels easier and sweeter.

Rav Eliyahu Lopian on Equilibrium

From “After the Return” – P. 112
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher with Rabbi Moshe Newman

Rav Eliyahu Lopian is quoted as saying ‘Every person looks at himself as though he is on a tightrope; half the world is on the ground to his right and the other half on the ground to his left.” He continues, ‘Why a tightrope? Because there is only room for one.” Rav Lopian was describing a common human condition. People consider anyone ‘more religious” than themselves to be a fanatic, and anyone ‘less religious” tha themselves a heretic. Every individual believes that only he walks the tightrope of normalcy, while everyone else has fallen to one side or the other.
Read more Rav Eliyahu Lopian on Equilibrium

Fast Days, Slow Down

Today is Asarah B’Teves, a fast day marking the date upon which Nebudchadnezer commenced his siege on Yerushalayim.

The Rambam points out that the reason for fasting is to awaken our hearts to teshuvah. Shouldn’t our hearts always be awakened to teshuvah? Why do we need a fast day to encourage this awakening?

Perhaps fast days serve to shake us from our slumbering routine practices, from the squeezing of our yiddishkeit in to our hectic schedules, from our plateaus.

Maybe we are being told “Slow down! Give yourself some time to think, to introspect, to grow.”
Read more Fast Days, Slow Down