Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Ba'alei T'shuva Must Take Special Precautions To Remain Standing Higher

It is said that R' Berel Wein says that while not all of his stories happened, they are all true.  Whether or not he actually said, that I agree with the sentiment.  And so...

A ba'al tshuva who lived in Bnei Brak (transplanted from America somewhere) was once interviewed by a reporter for the non-religious Israeli press.  She pointed to a group of children who had never been outside of their religious neighborhood and asked him, "Who is more tempted to leave the confines of this sheltered neighborhood; you or them?"  He surprised her by answering, "They have a much bigger nisayon than I do!  They think there is something interesting out there, but I've been there and know that there is nothing of value there at all."

This story pleases us because it validates our surface understanding of Chazal's statement that in place that ba'alei t'shuva stand, not even the wholly righteous can stand.  (And don't forget the added benefit of a nice shtuch to the non-religious press!)  However, there is one wee little problem... the Rabeinu Yona on Avos.  Rabeinu Yona there explains that a tzadikim g'murim do not need to stand with the tight discipline required of a ba'al t'shuva.  A ba'al t'shuva needs those extra restrictions because he has a revealed weakness and must therefore take extra precautions in those areas where he has already suffered a misstep.

I have heard that Rabeinu Yona explained as arguing on the usual understanding.  I always felt, though, that it was not so much of an argument as another dimension.  I have now found support for that feeling in the Rambam, Hilchos T'shuva, Chapter 4.  The Rambam in Halacha 5 there discusses things that hinder t'shuva and ends by noting that all Jews must be on the vigil and constantly conduct themselves according to the dictates of Hilchos Dei'os -- and all the more so ba'alei t'shuva! (Emphasis mine, of course.)  With all that, the Rambam in Chapter 7, Halacha 3 extols the exalted level of the ba'al t'shuva, as noted by Chazal, that in a place where ba'alei t'shuva stand, not even the wholly righteous can stand.  Anyone who has davened at Brisk as long as I have knows that the Rambam does not contradict himself.  So what's p'shat?

To be a ba'al t'shuva requires two prerequisites.  One, obviously, is to to t'shuva.  The other, equally obvious actually, is that he must have sinned; otherwise he would have nothing for which to do t'shuva.  The work to do t'shuva has brought him to a higher level.  The fact that he has sinned reveals a weakness.  True, it is that weakness which allowed him to ascend to the level of a ba'al t'shuva, but equally true is that he has a weakness.

The ba'al tshuva stands higher and more disciplined than that tzadik gamur.  Higher by virtue of his victory in triumphing over the evil within.  More disciplined to guard that vulnerable area of his spiritual sheath.


Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…