Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unsung Victories of the Baalei Teshuva, by Shoshanna Silcove

How would you describe colors to a blind person, or a piece of music to a deaf person? Close your eyes for a moment and ponder how you would convey the images and sounds. At the very least it would be a daunting, perhaps even an impossible task.

Similarly, how difficult is it for a BT (baal teshuva, or returnee to Judaism) to describe the sublime pleasure of discovering Torah’s emes to their non observant loved ones? How does a BT convey their deep satisfaction at having learned how to keep a kosher kitchen, or to put on tefillin? Surely for the BT there are many mitzvoth they needed to put a great deal of effort into in order to master. And yet, how can we share these accomplishments with those closest to us, with those who knew us all of our lives?

Some things in life are so deep they simply cannot be shared except with those who have had the same experiences, with other kindred souls. Being a BT is like belonging to a secret society, an unofficial club of those who have travelled down similar yet varied roads.

BT’s often have accomplishments that cannot be quantified by society’s yardsticks. There are BT’s who worked for years just to be able to learn enough Hebrew to daven properly. Others may have had to make enormous efforts to take on any one of the myriad of quiet mitzvoth which they carry out humbly, without fanfare, often going unnoticed even by their own community members. There are no grand celebrations, or any of the trappings of social status granted to the BT who showed great restraint by giving up things they loved, things that their families and their societies valued highly. In fact, the BT is often misunderstood, or even shunned for being different, not only by their own families, but also sometimes by the FFB (frum from birth, or those who were born in Torah observant families) community as well.

How terribly lonely could this be for so many of the BT’s who are the unsung heroes of our people. Hashem compensates, for the hidden joys of embracing who we truly are, make all of the tribulations and travails worthwhile

1 comment:

Mr. Cohen said...

Rambam, Hilchot Teshuvah [Laws of Repentance], chapter 7, paragraph 4:
A man should not think that a Baal Teshuvah is far from the greatness the righteous [ממעלת הצדיקים] because of the sins and mistakes he made, this is not so.
Instead he is loved and desired before G_d [literally, the Creator] as if he had not sinned. And not only that, but his reward is abundant [שכרו הרבה], because behold, he has tasted the taste of sin and separated from it, and conquered his [evil] inclination…

CHRONOLOGY: born in 1134 CE in Córdoba, Spain and died in 1204 CE in Egypt
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