Sunday, March 7, 2010

Guest Posting: A Gair Tzedek or Baal Teshuva who takes the Chassidish Route


The following GUEST POSTING author wishes to remain anonymous:

A Gair Tzedek or Baal Teshuva who takes the Chassidish Route

The Charedi world in Eretz Yisruel is certainly different to that of Chutz L'Eretz as there seems to be a much bigger gap between Chassidim and Litvaks in Eretz Yisroel. One who becomes religious either through conversion or as a baal teshuva in Eretz Yisruel and wants to take a Litvish path has many roads open to him. For someone who has a draw to a Chassidish derech it is quite different.

I see one obvious problem with taking a Chassidish derech and that is people generally do not know what it fully entails. Due to Breslov and Lubavitch being so open and taking anyone and everyone, teaching Chassidus on their yeshiva timetable, leaves one open to take the easy route. One thing I would say is that if you one sees Chassidus as a route they want to take, do not take the easy road of these groups unless it is davka these groups you want to be part of. Once you become one of these groups you have a label attached immediately.

The first thing a guy or girl needs to do before taking a specific road is to learn Torah - get into a yeshiva or a sem straight away. The Aibishter rules the world and leaving a job or any other situation to learn is not int he hands of logic. A long black coat and peyes without the internal Torah, the ability to pour over Gemora, Rashi, Chumish, in the original language means nothing at all.

I speak from personal experience when I say that there is definitely a sense or urgency for someone who has chosen to take a Chassidic derech - urgency for levush, to fit in, to speak the language. My advice for anyone taking such a route would be to go to a regular yeshiva to get learning skills - if you don't like their hashkufa then fine - don't listen to it. But get the basic language and gemora skills down - without doing this, how can we say the brucha he who commanded us to toil in Torah, everyday with true conviction in our heart.

Being in a BT Litivish yeshiva isn't easy if you have chassidish hashkufa and you know the derech you are taking, but these skills are necessary and you can't live without them - do you really want your children to know more Torah than you by the time they are five? Imagine the pain of not being able to sit down and learn with your son.

However, it is hard to be around people who don't have the same derech as you - and often think your derech is wrong. So what is the solution? Have Rabbonim outside who are Chassidish, who speak your language and who can go to for advice. Also daven in the shuls you like and eat your shabbes and yontif meals by families who have taken your route.

Don't think its dumb to Rebbe and shul hop - do it until you find your home, once you find it, attend everything - shachris, mincha, maariv, shabbes, seuda slishis, all within balance of course and not taking away from the yeshiva learning sedar. But get seen and let people see you are serious.

There are so many beautiful BT and gairim families out there who have taken a Chassidish derech and who are dedicated to serving HaShem.

The difference between a family who makes it and lives this life in purity and in sincerity and one who doesn't is very simple. Maintain normality - realise that there is REAL and IDEAL. Always have the IDEAL in mind but live by the REAL and keep striving for more.

It sounds obvious but believe me its not to everyone - people will respect you far more when you are breaking your teeth over a Rashi on Gemora before davening, than doing 300 immersions in the cold mikvah and wearing a gartle the side of your jacket.

Another example is I spoke to a guy who wanted to cancel a shidduch with a wonderful girl because she didn't want to shave her head yet. this is ridiculous - to turn down a good frum girl because she is balanced and wants to GROW in Yiddishkeit and not just jump in. REAL AND IDEAL is so vital. She saw hereself cutting her hair and wearing a black tichel, but wanted to work up to it - this is normal and balanced and she will go far in her Yiddishkiet. Why? Because to her it's about serving HaShem and working with HaShem, not showing the neighbours "look how shtark I am"

A big Meah Sharim Rebbe once told my friend that when he got married he should go in a long black coat and hat (previously he was in short jacket and a fedora) so as to set a new standard and level from the beginning of the marriage, but not right away change to the dress of the group he joined. Why? Because levush is nothing and Torah is everything. Once he was settled and the man had children going to the schools of the group the Rebbe told him to change his levush. This way the guy fitted into the group through hard work and getting to know people - not just blending into the secnery.

Obvious things:

* focus on learning Torah - this is the very purpose of life
learn Yiddish

* have rabbonim from your derech to speak to and build a strong kesher

* have many families and make connections for shabbes and yontif and friendships
have friends and mentors - find BTs or gairim who did this already, ask their advice

* don't do anything without running it pass the Rebbe or a Rabbi - levush, which yeshiva to go to, etc - a rabbi needs to advise on such steps
have someone to manage your shidduchim, this is a world in which a new comer needs love care and guidance
always consider - real and ideal

* If someone doesn't have a Ruv or a Rebbe and acts independently they are not a Chusid. It doesn't mean to do everything the Ruv says even if you disagree strongly - it means you have to have advice - you have to realise that your decisions are not objective and you need someone to bounce your ideas off.

* Most importantly - be normal, don't be something you are not. Real and ideal, real and ideal. Don't drop everything secular in one second because this creates a void and you need to fill it or you will burn out. Be normal - take things on slowly and always bli neder. Someone who builds this life from the inside and really holds at the level they are at, conquers this and becomes it. Someone who builds a life from the outside and isn't holding at the level that people think they are - they eventually burn out, collapse, and fail - there are plenty of fry people who once wore a streimel.

* People think that a gair tzedek is some crazy goy who go attracted by rituals. It is not true - if they do a true conversion, they were a Yid all along - HaShem bought them back to the fold and they have thus come to live such a life. People don't realise how many gairim there are running around Meah Sharim, living shtark, shtark lives, raising beautiful families and living the life HaShem always wanted them to live. And those that convert and through their jeans back on? They're still goyim, it wasn't a true conversion.

May we all have success in finding the right derech.


  1. B"H

    I very much agree with you:

    Chassidim do look at your outer appearance but what is much much more important is your Torah knowledge. If people think that they just have to look so terribly religious and this is enough to be "accepted" or get invited - they are wrong.
    First Chassidim (also their women) talk to you and thus get a picture of your personality. If someone looks religious but has never been in a firm "Misgeret" like a seminary or Yeshiva but instead studies from time to time on a small Shiur basis, Chassidim don't like that. They want to identify you and see that you actively do something and not only walk around in clothes and thinking that you are so religious and better than others.

    I, for instance, look more like national religious but as soon as chassidic women talk to me, they get a different picture. It is what you say and not so much how you look bringing you in touch with the chassidic world.

    I would also recommend going alone to Tishes and into Synagogue. This way it is much easier finding contacts.

  2. I will sum it up with a conversation from two Satmar guys talking about a young bochur

    "He is Satmar in the hear but not yet in the hat"

    They respected this boy cause he was making his way in the right direction.

    in the same shul I heard everyone commenting about the "poor boy" who wore a satmar style hat with a short jacket.

    Levush is only an external manifestation of internal Torah. and thus in good time start to consider which hat and jacket, etc.

    If you can quote rashi and toisfos on the gemora you are learning these people will respect you, if you have a felt hat ober nisht der heiliger toirah, they will think you are a bit weird.

  3. Good advice, this is basically the way I went, although not 100%, but BH I am married with 3 kids. I speak Yiddish fluently and I also know how to learn (if only I did learn more). My wife didnt shave her hair right away but now she does. But I have to disagree with the last part. Halachah is clear that if a ger goes ofd the derech he remains a Yid. It was shlomo goren's chiddush to be mevatel a giyur and all of the gedolim at that time fought strongly against this kulah that goren made up without a mekor. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zya said a beis din can only go by the words of kabbalas hamitzvos the ger says. Even if we know they wont be frum, the giyur is chal if the ger is an adult according to Rav Shlomo Zalman, to which he says a beis din must be careful so they are not oiver lifnei iver. A ger katan is different because it requires the din of zachin lo. To say a ger is insincere because he wears jeans I dont understand, it is not a sin to wear jeans. Even if he does aveiros it could be a bigger proof of the truth of his conversion, as when he gets a Jewish soul he also gets a Jewish yetzer hara. It is important to fulfill the mitvah of veahatem es hager. Saying words like this are a big diacouragement.

  4. B"H

    It actually states in Talmud Yevamot that a convert who is honestly having in mind to keep the Mitzvot (at the time of his Beit Din) cannot be declared "not Jewish" when he doesn't keep Mitzvot afterwards. Thus, it all depends on the moment of the conversion and what the converts thoughts were. Was he thinking that he won't keep Mitzvot anyway and follow his old goyishe Derech, then he is not Jewish. Was he an honest convert and, later on, got off the Derech, then he is Jewish.

    However, there is a statement in Talmud Gerim that a convert is only considered Jewish when he is keeping the Mitzvot.

    It is an interesting statement and I am interested in finding an answer to these two "contradictions".

  5. Excellent comments. Me and my wife went through Geirus about six years ago. About three years ago I met some Satmar Chasidim who came to Atlanta, GA where we live. We became very close to these wonderful people, they invited us to their son's chassuna in NY. All I Could say was Baruch Hashem! That was the beginning of an incredible journey I have two rabbonim whom I am in constant contact with. I don't speak Yiddish yet, but we are always welcomed by the community when we go there. as far as the lovush is concerned I have just recently started wearing a Bekishe and Chassidic style Hat only with the advice of my Rabbis. No shtreimel yet. You have to have the shteimel on the inside before you wear it on the out side. You have to be very careful, it's like climbing a ladder to many rungs to soon and chas v' shalom you fall and fall far and hard, by the way not counting Chabad there are only about 6 chassidic families here. bezras Hashem we hope to move to NY soon. We go up for Yom Tovim and some shabbosim. next week I'l be there for Purim YM Hashem.
    Zei Gezunt,

  6. B"H

    Mazal Tov !!! The most important thing is that you found your way and are happy with it !