The always-smart Rabbi Doniel Katz suggested that I share the first chapter of the eBook I just wrote, "10 Survival Tips For Baal Teshuvas”, for those who aren’t as familiar with my writing. I think he’s right, and I’d love to share it with you all. So without further ado, here it is. Chapter 1: This Is YOUR Journey.
Let’s be clear: as you grow in your acceptance of Judaism, there will be more and more people who will be invested in you. Rabbis, community members, teachers, random folks, etc. Each one of these people, more likely than not, cares deeply for you. And they want the best for you.
But no matter what, every person, no matter how deep, how special, how intelligent, cannot help but look at the world through their own lens.
And so, as you evolve, you will find that this same care can also be dangerous.
Because if you allow yourself to be too guided or too controlled, then you may very well lose your sense of self.
And (while it may seem counter-intuitive to a baal teshuva) keeping your sense of self is absolutely essential to your growth.
Because if you cannot keep that self-awareness that got you to the point of choosing to be a baal teshuva, despite what the world told you, you won’t be able to discern who to take advice from, where to learn from, when you need to change the derech that you’ve taken, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about being arrogant or ignoring the mentors around you. This isn’t about injecting Judaism with your own imagination.
No. This is about embracing that you are unique, and that the only way you can grow genuinely as a baal teshuva is to embrace that uniqueness. No one else can understand what you’re going through. Not your parents, not your rabbis, not your friends, and not even me! Imagine that.
Only you know when you’re ready to start zooming forward or to start slowing down. Or whether it’s time to change yeshivas. Or whether you should keep pursuing your dream of writing that script.
There will inevitably be times in your journey where you will take a path others, including the people who got you to where you are, may not have chosen for you. If they are mature and quality people, they will understand. If they don’t understand, perhaps it’s a good thing you’re moving on.
Either way, always remember: this journey is your journey. You are the one who has chosen to take it. You are the one that continues to choose it. And you are the one who ultimately guides where it will go.
Trust the people around you to help you. But never forget to think for yourself. You are more capable of this than you may realize.