Thoughts on Judaism

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The BT Expericnce - Part I

Are Baalai Teshuva justified when they complain about being "misled" in kiruv? Or, is it just them? Let's take a closer look.

The student or prospective candiddate wants or yearns or aches to know more about Judaism. Throughout this study, we will use "he" for convenience, where either "he" or "she" is applicable. (Note from Rebeltzin: Why can't we use "she", it is just as convenient or are you too lazy too type an extra letter?)

From there, the candidate is romanced, courted with attention, enticed with Shabbos meals and shown the delights, the intellectual stimulation of yeshiva learning, the fascinating "proofs", and the life structure that frum life affords. In other words, as mentalblog has it, love bombing is the weapon of choice. And none of what is presented is untrue. Even the "proofs" work on a certain level. We've hooked him. Let's get him to a BT discovery or yeshiva program quickly.

The old addage goes that rich men and beautiful women never hear the truth. So let's assume that those are not factors in our case. The kiruv pro (KP, henceforth) pats himself on the back, job well done, NEXT! The BT gets the works, he is introduced to Torah learning, he is taught how to keep mitzvos, and he is taught simplistic defenses against the vast questions of hashkafa that we all know and love. In short, he is "brainwashed" with mystical approach and flimsy apologetics. By mystical approach here, I mean that our hashkafa affects our reality directly. If a Rav paskens that something is kosher, then that very psak will allow the animal to live 12 months. The Rebbes and gedolim become mythical supermen, secretly performing miracles and wonders at the blink of eye, and directing every aspect of our lives ex-cathedra. Their words become Torah and are therefore infallible. Flimsy apologetics refers to ... OK, you know what that refers to. He is fearful of life's difficulties, but the KP assures him that "G-d will help", perhaps bolstering it with some formula variety Chasidic stories.

Then, the BT is ready for shiduchim. Generally, mixed marraiges, BT and FFB families are not encouraged, though this is changing nowadays, in the U.S. And then comes life. And here is where "misled" enters the picture.

1) The BT will find himself at odds or with strained relations with his family. This is unavoidable. The BT has rejected the way that he was raised, and often has taken on a completely alien way of life. "Why so many kids?" "Why can't you go to cousin Jeffrey's wedding to Christina?" "Isn't she heroic having served the Peace Corp in her native town in Korea?" "Why won't you kiss your female relatives?" And even if they understand this, they certainly do not have the same priorities as he does. He will spend family celebrations in the little corner reserved for the Kosher relatives. He will leave uneasily as the female rabbi sings whatever new age song is in vogue. They will be uncomfortable and out of place at his simchas.

2) Then comes little Mendy. Little Mendy is struggling in Jewish studies and needs more one on one help than the Rebbi can provide. Hopefully, the BT has enough yeshiva to help him. Otherwise, little Mendy will probably have to go to tutoring besides, or go without, once the money runs out.

3) The BT is overpowered by expenses. They trusted in G-d, and after kid number 6, BT has achieved a high income. However, he is broke, because astronomical yeshiva costs, large enough house, large enough car, kosher food, tznius clothing, hat, sheitel, household help just to keep the dirt level down below the sights of DCS, support for children drive him to the brink and into the credit cards every single month. And that is just basics. Relatives wag heads and say "we told you so". It is hard to know whether the financial strain is the hard part or the lack of emotional chizuk from a family who supports what the BT is doing.

4) Marraige suffers under constant financial and daily stress level.

5) Along comes Sarale in the baby carraige. Mommy is in the hospital for two days and gets an infection. She will need bed rest. No relatives are coming to help. The house goes utterly hefker as the remaining healthy parent runs from job to day care, to school, to hospital, to home, to pharmacy. Hopefully, the community will pitch in.

6) Relatives come to visit. Mendy and Sarale wonder why Zeidi and Bubby drive on Shabbos and Tom Tov. Aren't they Jewish?

While the FFB will experience some of these conditions sometimes, the BT will almost invariably experience them all the time. This is the BT experience. Many FFBs will resent my saying this because they were not really part of the KP structure. These BTs are just competition to them, just more people coming to drain resources of the community and bitch about it the whole way. The BT wonders where the luster of life, the stories of Jewish achdus through thick and thin, the KP style expressions of heroism in their recounting of their lifestyle choice has brought him.

So where did this tale go wrong and how can it be righted? More to come. Plenty more.


  • Fascinating post. please continue!

    By Blogger Hayim, at 5:09 AM  

  • He will leave uneasily as the female rabbi sings whatever new age song is in vogue.

    On the other hand, he might be pretty darn happy to have an excuse not to listen!

    By Blogger Yitzchak Goodman, at 7:13 PM  

  • A disturbingly accurate description of predictable crises of BT life.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:31 AM  

  • Kiruv often works like a business deal. All kinds of promises till you sign on the dotted line. Then 'we got ya!'

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:44 PM  

  • I think you are doing very important work. My experience as a BT is a million times worse than your story. I think it is important to get the message out. I tried saying something for twenty years after the frum rabbis stole everything from me. But I was silenced by methods they know best.

    By Blogger me, at 4:32 AM  

  • There is No codified Halacha that a married woman must cover her hair totally and constantly whenever she steps out of her house.

    The Halachah has been MISinterpreted. When the Halachah refers to "Covering hair," it does not mean "Cover your hair with hair!" and "constantly for life." The Halachah is that:

    A married woman is required to cover her hair when:

    (1) she lights the candles to welcome in Shabbat and Yom Tov – lechavod Shabbat ve Yom Tov, and

    (2) when she goes to the Synagogue, because that is the place of Kedusha.

    The Halacha does not require anything more from married women. This is the true interpretation of the Halacha.

    The misinterpretation of the Torah is completely Assur, and a twisting of the Torah.The Torah must remain straight.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:13 PM  

  • In ancient times, a woman would only cover her hair upon entering the Beit Hamikdash.Similarly for the Sotah-otherwise she would not be required to cover her hair ordinarily, day to day.

    It is very important for people to know and realise that when a married woman covers her hair with 'Real Hair' the woman is covering herself with 100% Tumah. This is totally against the Torah.

    Nothing could be more nonsensical than for a Jewish woman to cover her hair with someone else's hair -who was not Jewish as well!She can never fully be sure that this 'hair' has not come from meitim-despite any guarantee by the seller.This 'real hair' is doubly and in some circumstances, triply Tumah.

    1.It will contain the leftover dead hair cells from another person - however much it has been treated, the tumah is still there.

    2.This other person (likely to be a non-Jew who most likely was involved in some kind of Avodah Zarah) may have eaten bacon, ham, lobster etc, all of which are totally forbidden as unclean and non-kosher foods in Halacha.

    3.If the woman happens to be the wife of a COHEN, then she is bringing her husband into close contact and proximity with meitim and Tumah Every day, and throughout their married life. This is clearly strictly against the Torah.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:13 PM  

  • There is nothing more degrading and demeaning to a woman than to make her cover her hair FOR LIFE upon marriage.It is an abhorrent practice.

    Any man who makes such a ridiculous demand on his wife, or wife-to-be, should similarly also be required by his wife to wear: long white stockings, even in the summer; a fur streimel; grow a long beard; wear a black hat and coat constantly, and cover his face when he speaks to his wife.Wigs -"la perruque"- were merely a fashion item in the time of Louis XIV-they are not for the Jewish woman!

    Rabbi Menachem Schneeersohn tz”l, gave the directive that a married woman must cover her head with a “sheitel.” This needs to be corrected. Rabbi Schneersohn a"h, was a Tzaddik, – but on this – he was, unfortunately not correct.

    It is extremely unhealthy and unhygienic for a woman to cover her hair constantly.The hair needs oxygen to breathe.A woman's hair will lose its natural beauty and shine, she may have scalp problems, some of her hair may fall out, she may get headaches, and she may end up cutting it short like a man, when she always wore it long, in order not to have too much discomfort from her hair covering.

    Do you think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu commanded this of women? I can assure you that He did not.The commmandments are not meant to cause so much repression and oppression in women.Was Chava created with a wig? Of course not! Did she start wearing a wig? Of course not!

    Please Wake Up.

    Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

    And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:14 PM  

  • 1. To all the women who are wondering about the sources:

    We have all been created, "Betselem Elokim" - "in the image of Elokim."
    This means that we have been given something called "intelligence." The source is the very first Parsha, Bereishit - 1:27. It is time that people use the spark of intelligence and Kedusha with which Hashem has blessed them.

    If your rabbi will tell you to go and jump into the depths of a glacier, presumably you would do that too – and give me a source for it?

    “According to the Zohar”, I should also be covering my hair with a wig when I have a bath. “According to the Zohar and the Gemara” and all the sources that have misinterpreted the Halachah, and MIStranslated the Zohar, I should also have been born with a WIG on my head.

    These sources and translations are incorrect, as they have deviated very far from the true and correct interpretation, of the Halachah.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:14 PM  

  • 2.Remember that the Jewish women are very, very holy. They are much more holy than the men. Look at the exemplary behaviour of the women at Har Sinai.

    The women never sinned at the Eigel, and so are greatly elevated. Many of the men, unfortunately, ran after a calf made out of a lump of gold – after they had just been given the Torah, and seen the greatest of all Revelations. The women refused to give their gold for the avodah zarah of the men.

    The women were greatly elevated after such a wonderful display of Emunah, and they are regarded very highly in Shamayim.

    That is why women are not even required to pray. They can pray at home on their own. Nor do women have to make up a minyan. That is how holy the Jewish women are. Men have to pray 3 times a day to remind them of their Creator.

    The men are telling the women to put the hair of a non-Jewish woman who may have eaten things like snakes and sharks and alligators, and has worshipped in churches, Buddist temples or Hindu temples : on their own Heads. They had better wake up.

    If the men don’t want to wake up to the truth, and the true interpretation of the Halacha, the women will wake them up – whether they like it or not.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:15 PM  

  • 3. Many righteous women influenced their husbands for the good at the Chet Haeigel and at the time of Korach.

    It was these righteous women who succeeded in bringing their husbands back to their senses.

    And because of these great women, the lives of their husbands were saved. Those men therefore turned away from the madness of avodah zarah, and the rebellion of Korach against Hashem's choice of Aharon, as Cohen HaGadol.
    4. Look at the Jewish women in history, and remember how holy they are.

    (a) Yaakov, who was the greatest of the Avot, came to marry the 2 daughters of Lavan, Rachel and Leah. Lavan was not exactly a tzaddik. Yaakov went to Lavan, of all people, to marry his 2 daughters – not 1 daughter, but his 2 daughters. Nothing could be greater than that.

    (b) Rut, who came from Moav, became the ancestor of David Hamelech.

    (c ) Batya, the daughter of Paroh, was given eternal life because she rescued Moshe from the river. No one could have been more evil than Paroh.

    (d) Devorah, was a Neviah, and also a Judge.

    Women who came from such adverse backgrounds, were able to become builders of Am Yisrael. That is how holy the women are, and how much more elevated they are than the men.

    This was never the case with men. It never happened the other way round.

    Don't tell me it is holy for me to wear a WIG! Hair over my own hair? This is ridiculous!

    Similarly, don’t tell me it is holy for me to plonk a permanent head covering on my head for the rest of my life. This is equally vile.

    Please Wake Up.

    Use the spark of intelligence that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave to you and blessed you with.

    And give your wig back to your husband if you wear one.

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:16 PM  

  • 5. Remember: Not a single “dayan” or “rabbi” has the slightest bit of interest in correcting the situation for the women. Therefore, the women will have to correct the situation................for ..................themselves.

    Whether you wish to accept the correction – which is true – is up to you. Are you going to live by the truth? Are you going to use the spark of intelligence that Hashem gave to you and all women? Or are you going to follow rabbis and dayanim who tell you to wear a wig in a Heat Wave – and you thank them for it as well?

    By Anonymous Deborah Shaya, at 4:16 PM  

  • The next things the "rabbis" will come up with is to tell the woman to wear a CARPET on her head. Not a sheitel AND a hat, but a Carpet. Or you could go for 5 shaitels on your heads and a rug.

    And do you know what the Jewish woman will say to her husband?
    "Yes, husband! I am now wearing a carpet on my head!"

    You women must either be extremely thick, or petrified.

    By Anonymous William Dwek, at 1:11 PM  

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