So I’m sure all you lovelies have noticed the name of my blog: Confessions of a Baal Teshuva. But what exactly is a baal teshuva (BT for short)? According to chabad.org, a BT is someone who “turns to G-d in repentance, after willful or unknowing transgression of the Torah’s commandments; a Jew of secular or not fully observant background who has decided to undertake full Torah observance.”
I am the latter. I grew up in what some Jews call the Reform/Reconstructionist movement. In other words, I watched TV, ate pork, and never visited a synagogue except for when my grandmother bribed me with the very unkosher McDonald’s to go to Sunday School!
I don’t remember exactly what made me turn to the Orthodox way of life. Perhaps I, like so many other Baalei Teshuva, was searching for meaning. Perhaps I wanted a sense of ritual and routine in my life. Or perhaps I just wanted to be like the Orthodox Jews I saw in films like A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, Arranged, Ushpizin, Fill the Void, and For My Father. Who the hell knows? As far as I’m concerned, it may very well have been all of the above.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I’ve found my way. While I may not remember my reason for becoming frum, I do remember when it started. I was seventeen, and questioning my faith. The previous summer, I had converted to Islam for what I called shits and giggles. It was the easiest thing in the world to me. All I had to do was say a declaration of faith in Arabic and take a shower to cleanse myself of my past life. After that, I felt uncomfortable going into either a mosque or a shul. I wasn’t a Jew and I wasn’t a Muslim, since my conversion hadn’t been in true faith.
Then one day, I Googled “Prayers to put inside a mezuzah,” again for shits and giggles, and that led me to chabad.org. I read one article about the daily Tanya reading and I was hooked like a worm on a fishing line. I began spending all my time on that site, and I found myself enamored with the frum lifestyle. Before I knew it, I had memorized ideas from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s, of blessed memory, talks about things like Jewish-Gentile relations , feminism, hair covering, and even, in one case, abortion.
But it was at least a full year before I was courageous enough to actually take on my first real mitzvah. I lived with my mother and she wasn’t frum enough for me at the time. Yeah, that’s right. I went through a phase where I was one of those ultra-Orthodox sons of bitches you see on the news. Thankfully, it passed, just like my baseball phase. My mother is the type of person who I could only pray around if it was behind a locked door and drawn shades. So I chose a mitzvah which would be my own special secret, between me and G-d: I started saying Modeh Ani in the mornings.
From then on, I was on the fast track to becoming a full-fledged frummy. I read about the laws of modesty, and imitated them best I could. I found a sleeveless dress and a long-sleeve sweater and voila! My first tznius outfit. But that was when I made the mistake of showing it to Mom, and she completely shot me down, saying I looked like one of the Duggar girls. I didn’t take it as much of an insult at the time, because I didn’t know what a circus that family was. I genuinely thought they looked like a nice bunch of people.
So there you have it, the origins of my entrance into the frum world. This is my life now, and I’m loving every goddamned minute of it. If you liked this content, please feel free to share your frum story in the comments below.