Monday, March 28, 2011

Ba'al Teshuva Burnout

Edmonton / Canada


For whatever reason you decide to become a Ba'al Teshuva. More than ten years ago, I made this decision and I don't even know why. Maybe because I was so convinced that the Torah is true and that there is nothing else beyond. My entire being was getting absorbed into religious life but after a while you realize that this is not it. No matter what goals you have, your "old" life is always following you. Your old habits going to the cinema, reading novels, talking to any kind of people, just hanging around downtown, having a beer and so on. Of course, you can hang out as a Ba'al Teshuva and go to the cinema but it is not the same, as you may start questioning yourself whether this or that is allowed or issur. 

Many times I have written about the subject before and plenty of haredi Ba'alei Teshuva still ignore the significance: If you decide to become a haredi Ba'al Teshuva, your efforts are probably much higher. Especially when you live among Haredim. Then you don't only want to do everything right but also prove that you are just as good as a born Haredi. No, I am not starting again with "born Haredim will never accept you as equal" but notice one issue: Born Haredim will not necessarily provide you a Shidduch from among them, as they see Ba'alei Teshuva coming from Jewish parents who apparently didn't keep Taharat HaMishpacha (Family Purity Laws). Jewish babies born from such parents are considered to have a "blemished" soul and there "may" be something wrong with them. Their behaviour could be more vulnerable to sins then the behaviour of a Jewish baby born to parents keeping Taharat Mishpacha. Converts to Judaism following the haredi way lifestyle don't have this blemish, as they are regarded as a newborn after leaving the Mikveh.

Only a few weeks after I started the Teshuva process, I already gave up the desire of impressing my environment. I didn't care anymore and was sick of thinking what so - and - so is thinking about me and whether I am invited anymore or accepted. Other Ba'alei Teshuva just freak as soon as Mr. + Mrs. Satmar, Vishnitz or Litvish are inviting them. I didn't and this way, I got more invitations than those who are constantly trying to improve themselves and thus go on everybody's nerves. 

I spoke about my weaknesses although I wanted to be perfect. I failed, went back to my former lifestyle, returned to religion, went back and forth 100,000 times. It is not only the Ba'al Teshuva suffering from a burnout but, and this really makes me freak, other Haredim driving you nuts with their non - haredi behaviour. You think that now you are in a Yeshiva, programme or among haredi neighbours and then you see some of those people behaving like pigs. Rabbis from different programmes, for instance, who just run after donations and, as soon as a rich potential donor shows up, those Rabbis ignore all of their students. I saw a Rabbi on Fridays looking out for rich people to come by to his programme. When a rich guy stepped in, he was automatically invited for Shabbat and the Rabbis was only creeping around him. Or when Rabbis simply want to be important and you have to worship him although he isn't that big Talmid Chacham.

Those Haredim really get me and then I just feel like escaping. Whether they are Ba'alei Teshuva Rabbis or born haredi Rabbis. Some of them think that they are so holy but what they do is drawing people away from Judaism due to their behaviour. 

Months ago I have decided to do whatever I can and the Mitzvot I don't do ... well, give it time. It is much better to enjoy your life and be happy with yourself as pushing yourself into depression.


  1. LL said ...

    Don't make anyone let you think that charedim or orthodox or whatever anyone calls us don't feel the same way. Its very normal and we all move one one way or another which is all fine as long as you find peace with your self at some point.

  2. B"H


    You sent your comment to the "Picture of the Day" but I guess that you intended sending it to the "Ba'al Teshuva Burnout". This is why I moved your comment !!!

    I know that no one is perfect but I haven't realized that also Haredim have their "ways". At least in public, many of them try to behave.:-)

    What does bother me a bit is that when I tell someone haredi that I am not in this super frum world anymore but rather do whatever I can, the person sees me as a Chiloni. It gives the impression that when you are not "perfect" you cannot be Haredi but Chiloini.

  3. I have to be honest, it sounds like you are committed to entering a hostile world that is nearly impossible to realistically paint in an appealing light.

    Perhaps your efforts at discovering and tapping into the wellsprings of spirituality you have would be better suited for a more culturally diverse sect of Judaism, perhaps even an independent realization of God's prescience that can synergize your desire to connect with the holy with your upbringing in the secular world.

    More and more, Orthodox groups, especially Haredim are increasingly abrasive to other Jews. In this, I find the greatest Chilul Hashem, far more dangerous than the cinema or a beer. I should add that all the "old habits" you listed are some of my favorite activities, especially "talking to any kind of people."

    You seem to expect these people who look down on you to act more appropriately. You shouldn't hold someone to a higher standard based on something as arbitrary as religious observance. We've seen too many examples to know that what type of Jew a person calls his/herself does not reliably predict what type of person they are.

    God doesn't want you to worry yourself to death concerned over whether or not you are keeping His words correctly. More likely than not, we veered away from initial intentions long ago. So your choices are whether to be happy or not. If the situations you find yourself in are causes of stress and you just hope "it will get better one day" maybe it's time to reevaluate.

    Good luck.


  4. B"H

    This is exactly what I have done: I chose being happy but I have to admit that, once you were in the Yeshiva and haredi system, it is very hard to get rid of you "Is this allowed" thoughts. You still keep on thinking about all different kinds of Halachot and how you should do this and that and what if not.

    Certain situations are stressful and I understand when even Haredim go away from their own neighbourhoods in order to see something else and just not being watched all the time.

    Haredi lifestyle and even other strict orthodox lifestyles have hardly anything to do with the Judaism G - d wanted. Today its more about impressing your neighbours and getting the best Shidduch or into a Yeshiva with reputation. Look at the Chassidim ? Who, today, is really studying Chassidut ? A Chabadnik would now scream out "ME". But who is interested in the Baal Shem Tov when the kids need a Shidduch ?

  5. we have to realize that RABBIS aren't immune
    to the YETZER HARA and if you know better do your best to do whats right. and not say
    I know better and I will do what I want that is what the CONSERVATIVE say and YOU want to be orthodox.
    but who says you can't speak or drink beer and still be a good yid.

  6. BTW we breslovers learn chasidut and my son needs a shiduch

  7. B"H

    I am drinking beer sometimes. :-) Even the Jews in Temple times did.:-)

  8. anybody guys ever so back and forth from frum to not. This is my second crack and parents can't stand it. Now I don't feel comfortable with my head coverered for not covered with tzitzits or w ithout. My email is Any helps thoughts? Females welcome to answer.