Monday, September 8, 2014


     I remember learning in school, probably for the benefit of those who did not come from frum homes that where a ba'al t'shuvah stood it is a holier place that someone who always was frum . When I thought about it at the time I was thinking in terms of someone who did not grow up religious and then became religious.
     After awhile though I wondered what the meaning of  ba'al t'shuvah really is. I think when we say someone who did not grow up shomer shabbat and then becomes shomer shabbat, by t'shuvah we just mean that they are returning to being frum, but not so much that they are doing t'shuvah for transgressing. If one did not really know what sins one was transgressing  being an unobservant Jew is actually t'shuvah  really necessary?
     I thought some more. There are others who grew up religious , went away from it and then became frum again. I think that this type of person is more under the category of a ba'al t'shuvah. They knew about halachah , went away from it and then they returned to observance. This is a high level, because when one returns one has truly elected observance .
      Those who grew up irreligious and then became observant Jews really lie under the category of being 'born again' Jews. I have heard this term for ba'alei t'shuvah before , not always with such positive connotations, but it is an appropriate title. When people are 'born again' they have a lot of fervor for what they believe as do people who finally find frumkeit after years of being 3 day a year Jews.
        Alas , years later  I was taught that really it is more difficult to stay religious than to have been a chozer b'tshuvah because one always stuck to it even without having tried whatever else was out there. Kind of like na'aseh v'nishmah. We will do and we will listen. It is quite admirable to remain religious with true kavanah without going out to sow one's wild oats.
       Then again no matter how one comes to or stays with observant Judaism it is holy in its own right so why do we need to label one person as holier than the other? Maybe that's the point. Its all how you look at it. Everyone is holier than everyone else depending on how you look at it.


Steve said...

Very interesting post, that you were taught holiness is a sense of place rather than person. I suppose it is implied that a holier person makes a place they frequent more holy than the other person would.

אד"ם גולדברג said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Rav Kook,ztk"l, defines teshuva not as repentance from sins so much as return to a state of greater perfection. By repenting we improve ourselves towards the image God wants of us.
That means that anyone, even a died-in-wool FFB can be a chozer b'teshuvah.