Sunday, June 10, 2012

Baal Teshuva

Once I spoke with alte Yid - an old Jew, who remembered the world that once was and he told me”
“You know? In my time of youth, over there in the alte Heim – old country, there was no such thing like a Baal Tshuva, there were only more and more of Baaley Aveira – the apostates.”
This old Yid was marveling when seeing and heard about thousand upon thousands of Jewish returnees, people who were born to the families that are Jews by nationality and according to Jewish law, but not Jewish by their deeds and performance.
Many times these children of Yakov, were raised by parents who didn’t know much about Judaism, often no more than their gentile friends and neighbors.
They were Jews but they were not Jewish.
We are privileged to live in the period of time when those lost generations are coming back to the fold. What makes them do so?
It is not an entirely new phenomenon. It happened in the time of Yashiyahu and again under king Cheskiyahu. The mass teshuva that happened in the times of those righteous kings was partially administrated but the description of these events in the scriptures leave no doubts, the children of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov returned to their G-d with their hearts and deeds.
It happened again within the time of the Golus Bavel – Babylonian exile. It happened after the uprising of Matisyahu the Chashmonai when he and his sons defeated the Greek army when they were fighting to defend the ways of their holy predecessors.
History witnessed similar events many times in Eretz Yisroel – the Land of Yisroel and throughout the long exile.  The entire Jewish history is like a 3,500  year long spiritual sinusoid. Up and down, up and down, up and down …
Those periods of warm relation with the Creator and spiritually elevated life regulated by law revealed to the elders, began many times when Jewish prophets and sages had nothing but words of criticism for their beloved brothers. The true leaders of Klal Yisroel had warned and spoke harshly to their people because they loved them.
We are witnessing and sometimes we have shared in this incredible movement of people who leave their current lifestyle and now focus on the values and practices that are perhaps hard and difficult to live by. It is even much harder for a new comer than for those who were raised according to these standards of life as some call them FFB’s (Frum From Birth) where many act in a semiautomatic manner.  That’s one of the reasons, I guess, why the Talmud teaches that at the place of Baal Tshuva not even a perfectly righteous person may stand. For a baal teshuva nothing comes automatically, nothing is a matter of external training. His life lived according to Torah standards is the  result of self control from the beginning to the end. Nothing automatic about it!
But let us go back to the question asked above: Why do they do that? What is the motivating factor behind their “return”?  Is it only the commonality with the rest of their nation, those who are more devoted to the ancient path? Is it the antiquity of this religion itself, what attracts them?
We see people of other nations who are assimilating to the surrounding culture language or religion in at most two or three generations. Of course there are many Jews who do the same but did you here or see such a thing like an Irish, Greek or Italian, who after few generations of being acculturated in a new country or environment, all of a sudden begins to learn strange alphabets, language and customs of his great grand fathers? Did you ever witness a sacrifice comparable to that which those Jewish returnees are undertaking? It has no precedence it simply doesn’t happen.
With the grace of G-d I was privileged to observe with my own eyes this difficult process, especially in a country where a Jew was considered as a kind of subhuman than a member of a nation chosen by G-d.

I saw this almost natural… no, actually natural drive, of some of my most beloved friends who were driven closer and closer to something which at the beginning of their trial was completely strange and unknown to them.

Some of you may say that a gentile, for example someone like me can be also attracted to this spiritually elevated reality. Yes it is partially true, but we gerim – the converts are still missing this secret element which make them to come back to their heritage. We are attracted to Torah in a somewhat different way.

Matys Weiser

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