Baal Teshuvah Problems

Home Forums Decaffeinated Coffee Baal Teshuvah Problems

Viewing 37 posts - 1 through 37 (of 37 total)
  • Author
  • #589820

    I became a baal teshuvah about 5 years ago, with Chabad in Prague (I studied there for a year then; I’m actually from Holland). I’m 23 years old, I live in Jerusalem ih’k, I’m married (as yet without children), currently unemployed after my department at IDT was closed (worked at IDT for 3,5 years).

    I learn in chavrusos and am currently hashkafically unstable, having begun in Yiddishkeit as a Chabadnik, then becoming a Litvak, going to the chuppah with a shtreimel, not being able to conform to certain things such as “no internet” and “no secular studies”, and currently walking around in chassidishe levush trying to find a rov who lives in Jerusalem and really fits me. If you know one, let me know. Oh, right, forgot to mention that there was also a time when I thought Moshe Hirsch was a real godol and everyone else was a tzioini.

    Oh, right, let’s throw in being absolutely convinced that actually all of the fundaments that the Edah haChareidis stands for are absolutely correct, though I simply don’t fit some of them (such as “not using the internet” and “no secular studies”).

    Where do I end up? Why is it that right now, I don’t feel comfortable with anything? I absolutely don’t want to call myself ‘dati leumi’ or anything like that (no insult intended for those who are that) – I am chareidi, I believe in upholding all minhogim regarding limud haTorah, tefilah, levush, having the right hashkofoh – but there are simply some things where I get stuck. Sometimes I think: why isn’t there anything left of the old Yekkishe world, where it wasn’t weird for a person to be truly shomer mitzvos yet also have a high-level secular education?

    I guess the problems I am facing are more or less unique to baalei teshuva (and gerim) and are rarely shared by frum-from-birth people, who grow up with a certain hashkofoh and family background and (usually) stick with that.

    Sometimes I just feel the need to emphasize being a ‘chutznik’ – I justify using the internet, working for a living (instead of having my wife work and me scraping a few cents from a kollel), and aspiring to continue my higher education shortly by me being a European Jew, and in Europe, really, such things have always been more easily accepted than in E”Y.

    Rav Raphael Evers, the rov of the organization of Dutch Jewish communities, is a dayan and posek with smicha and haskamos from Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rav Meir Brandsdorfer zt’l, Rav Moshe Halberstam, Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner, Rav Yaakov Bloi, Rav Zalman Nechamia Goldberg, Rav Yehoshua Neuwirth, Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg… and yet, he also holds Masters degrees and a PhD in psychology and fiscal law from the University of Amsterdam! Why is such a thing normal in Europe, yet completely out of the question in E”Y?

    Please post your thoughts. Criticism is welcomed. I’m not made out of sugar.


    Daniel Breslauer-

    You have some tough questions that I can’t answer, and would probably be better answered by a rov than by the CR crowd.

    As with all baalei teshuva, you deserve respect – you’ve made a major change in your life and have sacrificed things that frum-from-births never miss because they never had.

    Even within the ffb community, many people live with some contradictions between their hashkofos and their actions, as we are almost all deficient in some way.

    I wish you all the best in achieving nachas ruach (peace of mind) in your place within the frum community.


    Daniel Breslauer: wow indeed you don’t have an issue with holding anything back about yourself! 😉 very interesting things ya said!


    I echo ICOT’s sentiments. I am married to a baal teshuvah of thirty-eight years, and the best advice I can give you, is never go from one extreme to another. Start at the comfort level that you find best suits your life, and build on it. Sometimes it takes baby steps. You will find that the things that you accept more slowly and thoroughly, are the things that you will make a lasting part of you. DFlipping in, may also mean flipping back out. Forget for the moment about this rov or that rov in your neighborhood. What are YOU looking to take into yuor heart from Yiddishkeit? Not everybody else’s hashkafa is the right thing for you. find a rov whom you can regard as a real role model and begin to adapt the hashkafos that you learn from him, to your own life. Again, moderation is the key. Some people become too frum too fast, and then they despair of ever measuring up to the frumkeit which they have adopted, and slowly fall away. So what if you use the internet. Use it wisely for your business purposes. Don’t use it for things that will distance you from Torah. The internet is a wonderful tool, so do not feel guilty for benefitting from it. telephones can be used for nefarious purposes too, but who would argue against having a phone? (well I guess there could be some who might, but…)

    My husband has had almost 4 decades to reach the particular level of frumkeit that gives him great meaning in life. He took on mitzvos little by little until he had built up a solid foundation for himself, with the help of very close friends who were never ever judgmental of any frum level of observance at which he was at any given time. I know another guy who went from no observance to telling everyone else what was wrong with their observance of Yiddishkeit. A few years later he became frei again and is no longer observant of anything.

    I wish you much hatzlacha in finding your own personal niche. Yeyasher Kochacha in making such an awesome and inspirational change in your life. You made the right choice to follow your neshama, and G-d willing you should bring children into the world in the near future, who will be a tremendous credit to klal Yisroel.


    Thank you for your reactions.

    The problem is that I cannot seem to find, or decide on, an appropriate rav. It’s difficult to find someone who matches *all* of my own opinions, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a rav who does not agree with all of the things I do. It’s a problem I will never be able to solve, I think. I’ll have to find a rav who agrees with ‘most’ of my opinions – with the mutual understanding that my opinion will not change on the things on which we do not agree. (Which, I feel, negates the whole thing of having a rav!) I don’t really want to have a rav with whom I can agree on only 50% of all questions, because that, everyone says, isn’t what Yiddishkeit is supposed to be. You’re supposed to have a rav, and follow the rav no matter what, rely on Daas Torah, because after all, Daas Torah is what kept us together throuhgout the centuries, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. Those who abandon Daas Torah, who abandon the Gedolim, start weird initiatives – such as the Har Nof ‘Sanhedrin’ (the Steinsaltz club), the Na-Nach-Nachmans, the Kahane pople, the extreme Neturei Karta wings…

    The whole issue is that, I think, one should have a rav who agrees with *all* of one’s opinions. Not half of them, or most of them.



    You are approaching it from the wrong direction. Who says you’re views are the correct approach to Yiddishkeit? If your Rav disagrees with you, follow him. Don’t go Rabbi-shopping to find a rabbi to support your approach.


    Dear chaverim,

    I believe it is you that has it backwards. He is not Rabbi-shopping for a specific psak, which would be wrong. He is looking for a Rav whose hashkafa, and view of Yiddishkeit is one that he would be able to identify with and take comfort from and grow with. Would you stay with a physician who only believes in surgery if you believe in homeopathic treatment or would you go shopping for a doctor who supports your approach?


    maybe you should open your mind to the Rov that you agree with 75%- he’s probably got the other 25% correct too


    You will probably never find someone who meets ALL your criteria, but as was said, if you find someone with whom you feel 75% comfortable, the rest should also fall into place. You don’t “shop around” for a p’sak, but you can keep searching until you feel a connection with the person whom you will accept as your rov.

    David S.

    I am Dati Leumi and don’t hold offense Daniel Bresaluer: I believe in the principles but am more strict on Halochos than some.

    Kol HaKavod for becoming a Ba’al Teshuva! I hope you find the Rov who suits you!

    Thanks, David

    Pashuteh Yid

    Daniel, I am glad you explained who you are, because in the past you posted extreme kannaish views, but then recently told a mayseh about a bus which seemed the exact opposite, and I was wondering what was going on.

    In my opinion, the fact that you have attached yourself to some extreme people like Moshe Hirsch and have looked down on others, seems to tell me that you have a preconception that G-d is an angry being and the way to serve him is to get angry at others. Avodas Hashem is based not on what we accomplish, but on how far down we can put others. This is unfortunately not uncommon in the yeshivah world, but even more so in the Baal Tshuvah world, where people have no prior experience to go by. The gemara says kol mitzvah shecheziku bah kusim harbeh medakdekin bo yoser mayisroel. Any miyzvah which the Kusi group adopted they keep with much more exactitude than the Jews. My friend Rabbi Dovid Fendel asks how is that possible, and isn’t that a bad commentary on the frum Jews? He answers that for the Kusim mitzvah observance was unnatural. It was so foreign to them that they went crazy over things. For a Jew is is natural. He doesn’t get all crazy over putting on his tefilin, he just goes to shul and very relaxed he puts them on and starts davening cheerfully and with feeling. The Kusi gets all worked up into a frenzy because it is unnatural to him.

    Reb Moshe Feinstein says the key is to be normal. One can tell jokes and have a nice job and dress normally and be a true oveid hashem. One amora was told by Eliyahu Hanavi that these two comedians in the marketplace were bnei olam haba, because their jokes cheered the depressed. Yiddishkeit is not about anger and serving an angry G-d. It is about having a beautiful and happy life. Do you really think G-d gets personally insulted and a bruised ego when we don’t keep mitzvos? He gave them as a gift to us, not to himself. They enhance life.

    I don’t know why you started right away with levush, but that is irrelevant. You need to first find out who you really are inside. Then you need to find a normal, easygoing, kind, warm Rav who is a first-rate talmid chochom. Unfortunately, this is not so easy to find. I am so thankful that all my life I have had these type of Rebbeim. I would have no clue as to proper avodas hashem if not for living role-models of kindness and first-rate learning.

    You see, there are many gemaros which may seem to indicate that G-d is really angry, and this seems to mislead many people including many rabbonim. In truth, these are only there to make us aware of how important mitzvos are to our happiness and having a good life, so we don’t abandon them. It is, however, all about us, not about some angry G-d.

    There is much more to say, but you need to know that the ikar of the ikkarim is that the Jewish religion is darchei noam, ways of pleasantness and sweetness.

    People who think it is about anger at other Jews or people, are themselves angry people, and would be just as angry and just as big social misfits if they weren’t religious at all.

    If you are in the Har Nof area, you might look up Rabbi Meyer Fendel (the father of Rabbi Dovid Fendel) for a kind warm role model who has been mekarev many and was a talmid of Rav Scheinberg.


    Daniel: Based on the comments of PashutYid here and other parts of this site, please be aware that he considers anyone to the right of Avi Weiss as “extreme kannaish and having an angry g-d”. He knocks the Yeshiva velt and all their Rabbonim at any opportunity. And any Gemora he doesn’t like he blames on an angry g-d.

    Like Rav Moshe M. Weiss says, Forewarned is Forearmed.


    Daniel Breslauer: You really have to be honest with yourself first. Do you really want a Rav? Are you prepared to accept your Rav’s guidance unconditionally, even if your not comfortable with his decisions and actions. Otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

    By the way, once you’ve acquired a Rav, decisions in life becomes so much easier and “not agreeing with him” does not exist.

    It may also be that your Rav does not live in Israel.


    cherrybim: There’s no reason an Eretz Yisroeldik yid would need to seek a Rav outside eretz hakodesh, when the greatest Rabbonim reside right there, and are easily accessible.

    Btw I take great exception to pashute yid’s gross mischaracterization of chareidi jews and rabbonim.

    Pashuteh Yid

    Cherrybim, I strongly recommend getting a Rav who knows one personally like a friend, not someone in another country.



    What you are describing ( ” Are you prepared to accept your Rav’s guidance unconditionally, “) sounds more like born again evangelicans than Yiddishkeit.



    “Btw I take great exception”

    Most of us simply ignore the content you reference. You’d do best to learn to do the same.


    Daniel- The one you should speak to is Hashem. Ask him in your own language to help you by sending the right Rav for you. Say lots of Tehilim, and go to the Kotel when you can.


    There is no one Rav for everyone, just as there is no one Shul for everyone.

    The reason I mentioned that the Rav may not be in Eretz Yisroel is that I have many friends who have made Aliya over the years and one thing they complain about is that it’s hard to find a Rav in Israel like you have in America. In Israel, they say, you have a Rav who answers “Shailos”, but not the personal type of Rav who is part of your family’s life in every way. If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know.

    So actually, while I’m not advising anyone to leave Eretz Yisroel, but if someone’s Yiddishkeit can be more fulfilled outside, in galus, because that is where his Rav is located; then that’s where he should be.

    Aseh Lecha Rav mandates that you have the confidence in your Rav, in Das Torah, to follow him unconditionally.

    Pashuteh Yid

    Chaverim and Bemused, you have every right to disagree with anything I say. But you might kindly state what it was that you disagree with, and bring a proof that backs up your point. Otherwise, you are simply turning yiddishkeit into whatever feels good to you at the moment.


    Daniel – I think that areivimzehlazeh is right. I am pretty much in the same boat as you – chareidi BT (but over 20 years now); use internet (with filters) and don’t think that secular studies is a big satan. Here in Israel it’s tougher than the States because everything is so black and white. In the end we chose a Rav who is FFB, Swiss, but who knows us, and can think out of the box. I don’t agree with everything he says – like when I told him how disgusted I was with the lack of empathy over Gush Katif, and he basically said there was nothing that we could do anyway! But, in general – he’s kind, thoughtful, understands our mentality etc – oh and he has a sense of humor which is important. If you have free time right now, why don’t you consider getting yourself over to the Aish HaTorah Beis Medrash – yes it’s not just for “beginners” and there, you will find many Rabbanim and serious avreichim just like you. Good luck!


    I understand your struggle very much it is very real and you are far from being alone. Since you have taken the chasidisha route, I would suggest you get in touch with the Biala community (the rebbe from Switzerland). There are many bt’s and ffb’s although I am not a Bialaer chasid, I have many friends who seem similar to you in hashkafa to whom the Rebbe has guided and helped. Hatzlacha Rabba and remember Hashem gets a lot of nachas from your quest for emes.


    PY: Huh?


    “Why is such a thing normal in Europe, yet completely out of the question in E”Y?”

    Who said it is out of the question? Perhaps it is not common or even necessary, but why assume “out of the question”? For all you know such Rabbonim DO exist, you just dont know how or where to find them.

    Then we have this:

    “Oh, right, let’s throw in being absolutely convinced that actually all of the fundaments that the Edah haChareidis stands for are absolutely correct, though I simply don’t fit some of them (such as “not using the internet” and “no secular studies”).”

    You readily admit that you agree 100% that the principles of a certain group are correct, yet you have a hard time with some of them (I suppose “simply dont fit some of them is open to interpretation – I understand it to mean you cant fit it into your lifestyle). Does this mean that you WANT to belong to this group but want them to bend their principles for you? Ignore the fact that you flaunt certain principles and accept you for who you are anyway? Perhaps it means you want to convince them that they are only 95% correct and they are wrong on these 2? What exactly are you looking to get from the Rav or community that you seek?


    “I believe in upholding all minhogim regarding limud haTorah, tefilah, levush, having the right hashkofoh”

    I am a modern Orthodox supporter of religious Zionism, and I believe in all those things, too. And I hold a PhD and am being promoted to full Professor at a medical school.

    ” why isn’t there anything left of the old Yekkishe world, where it wasn’t weird for a person to be truly shomer mitzvos yet also have a high-level secular education?”

    You can find that in the many communities in America inspired by the rabbis of Yeshiva University. I don’t know how much of that has moved to Israel, but one who did is Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein who studied with Rav Hutner and holds a PhD in English from Harvard. He frequently uses examples from literature and history to make Torah points; it is worth getting a good liberal arts education just to understand his Torah! Don’t rule him out just because he is a Zionist!!!

    “he also holds Masters degrees and a PhD in psychology and fiscal law from the University of Amsterdam! Why is such a thing normal in Europe, yet completely out of the question in E”Y?”

    That is a very good question! It is a not well known fact that from the 15th century to the 18th, hundreds of frum Jews including many rabbis attended university in Europe. I’ve seen no rabbinic objection prior to the 19th century.


    The reality in Israel is a bit different from reality in the USA and most of Europe. Here in the USA it is quite normal to find Charedi Jews with decent Parnassah. Many of us have university degrees. And obviously, many of us are on the internet, otherwise we would not be able to comment here. Also, the lines in America are not as cleanly cut as lines in Israel. Many men may were Chassidic Levush on Shabbos but far less than that on weekdays. Notice where the Agudah’s minyan map has minyanim. We can find plenty of very nice and frum men (and women) at every major bank and brokerage (what’s left of them) in New York City.

    Daniel and his wife may want to consider their options, including returning to the Golus. He very likely might find what he wants somewhere outside of Israel.


    Daniel said he is from Holland, and in a different post said he never set foot in an English speaking country. I don’t think there is any benefit to leaving Eretz Hakodesh.

    charliehall: YU supports Israel, so I doubt Daniel would benefit from them considering what he said above.

    And I don’t think you’re historically accurate about your last paragraph, but even if you were there must be very good reason for the gedolim, even of the last 150 years or whatever, to oppose university. You think the university of today is as benign as the university of the 15th century in terms of what they teach?

    Pashuteh Yid

    Bemused, what I am saying is that anything that doesn’t have a rayah to back it up is simply fluff that reflects one’s own opinion rather than the Torah’s viewpoint.


    PY, I have no idea what you are talking about. I made no statement regarding a Torah matter that required a “rayah”. I made a general statement of advice regarding your post content. It seems you are attempting to continue a conversation with me that was never actually initiated.

    Glad to speak with you, anyways.


    where’s Daniel?!


    Jax – May be he is taking AryehM seriously and packing his bags! Daniel – keep at it; in time the “flaming Baal Tshuvah” bit wears off; the despondency wears off, and you become “somayach b’chelko”



    Perhaps make contact with the Admou”r of Hornisteipol-Milwaukee, Reb Michel Twerski shlit”a. Also, while neither Biala Rebbe has obtained secular education, I agree that they know how to reach out to those who have (the one in Lugano whom I know does have a presence in E”Y and the one in Boro Park, that is – there may be a third in E”Y and if so I know nothing about him at all).

    And what about the Bostoner in Har Nof?


    Pashuteh Yid

    On the topic of Baalei Tshuvah, we ought to look at ourselves as far as how we treat BT’s. We are all head over heels for supporting the kiruv organizations and trying to make everyone frum that we meet. But what happens when we do make someone frum? They must often separate from all of their former family and friends. They now have nobody. Do we invite them to our homes. Not just once in a while for Shabbos, but what if they just don’t want to be alone in their basement apartment on a weekday night and want the company of a family to be around, or a comfortable living room to sit in for a change and read a book? Are our houses truly open 24/7?

    And what about shidduchim. Let’s be honest, most chareidim will not touch anybody no matter how great their recommendations and qualities if their parents are not also chareidim. For a ger it is even worse. We totally shun them. The best we would do for a BT is usually to try to find them another BT, but they are never good enough for us.

    Pashuteh Yid

    Bemused, you know exactly what I mean. You attacked my post, but did not even bring up a single specific point which bothered you, and a single proof that that point was wrong.

    Chaverim, I did not attack or slander chareidim. I was referring to a small sector of the chareidi world who are kannaim. It is also a bit odd that one who is a recent BT would find it necessary to adopt the levush. People who try to go too far too fast usually fall off the wagon and leave the fold. It makes me suspect that this person has gotten involved with extremist groups (and in addition he has basically expressed such views in past posts on other topics). I was trying to let him know that there are other forms of yiddishkeit which are more mellow, including many chareidim I know who disdain all politics and are eidel, sweet people who are totally focused on their learning and chesed.

    All my posts on YW are targeted to those who are driven by arrogance and sinas chinam. (Unfortunately, the nature of blogs is that these types of characters are disproportionately represented, while many of the sincere types are busy in the beis medrash.)


    PY: Its true that we should be more inviting to BT’s (as we should for all Jews’s — BT’s or not), but insofar as shidduchim are concerned I don’t believe you are correct that being a BT (or ger) should be a non-consideration.

    As far as your posts go, I do notice you very often take an extreme left-wing anti-chareidi position that goes so far to denounce Torah practicing Chareidi Jews and Rabbis. I too have read Daniel’s various posts on yw, and NOTHING he said indicates any extremism or such groups. Your various comments on yw view any full fledged chareidi as being extreme.



    You have an interesting definition of attack. You’re certainly very excited about this. I’m not sure how to direct you, except perhaps for a visit to the Anger Management thread.


    Chaverim, I did not attack or slander chareidim.

    You do just that in a good portion of your posts on yw.

    I was referring to a small sector of the chareidi world who are kannaim.

    You consider anyone on the right as a kannai.

    It is also a bit odd that one who is a recent BT would find it necessary to adopt the levush.

    Nothing wrong with adapting the levush. Indeed a kiddush hashem for someone able to do so.

    It makes me suspect that this person has gotten involved with extremist groups (and in addition he has basically expressed such views in past posts on other topics).

    Nothing Daniel said was extreme in views or association. You seem to associate chareidim in general as extremists.

Viewing 37 posts - 1 through 37 (of 37 total)
  • The topic ‘Baal Teshuvah Problems’ is closed to new replies.