Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I don't know if I want to be a BT anymore...

What does that mean?

Well, it doesn’t mean that I’m questioning whether I want to be religious or not. That decision was made years ago and has been reiterated on a daily basis since, some days with more conviction, some days with less.
What it does mean, though, is that I wonder whether I like to consider myself a BT or not.

Here’s my dilemma -

on the one hand…
It’s frustrating not feeling like an integral part of the normalized frum community. I always feel like I’m a little bit of an outsider. I don’t always know the slang; I don’t always understand references that are made; I don’t always get the inside jokes. I don’t like feeling clued out, and in this environment, where I don’t want to stand out anymore than necessary I often nod and smile and hope we can move on to something else before my cover’s blown!

The thing I especially don’t like is the tone of voice or the attitude people sometimes have when they speak to me. It’s a little bit condescending, a little bit patronizing, and sometimes even a little bit mocking. Becoming and being a BT is a process that you evolve in - it has beginning stages, and more advanced stages. It frustrates me that many in the frum community seem to have this impression that bt’s have abandoned their senses, that they’ve adopted a fairytale-like life style, bought into the party line - without questioning. It’s this subtle accusation of being naïve and blinded to the reality of things, of having been swept off your feet by an emotional, spiritual impulse and living blindly since.

Granted, the beginning stages probably are very much like that - or else why would anyone ever be interested! Of course it looks utopic at first glance, but this utopia comes with a one-dimensional view of torah life. Perhaps some people never leave that utopia, never develop depth of vision – but I assume that these same people would live with a one dimensional, flat, outlook on life regardless of their religious level.

For the rest of us, once the first burst of inspiration starts to fizzle out, reality sets in and by that point we are usually stuck in a place where we know there is truth to what we've been taught, but its not as simple as it originally seemed. Suddenly additional dimensions are revealed.

Some people give up at that point, and you will often find bt’s who started out all inspired and quickly dropped out once they realized it was much deeper and much more complex than they originally believed. But many of us, convinced we are on the right path, take on the challenge and develop and evolve with our newfound perception of this truth. With the realization of the multidimensional aspect of a torah lifestyle comes depth and understanding that wasn’t possible at the beginning.

The problem is that many ffb’s don’t seem to realize that this change has happened, that the naivete and the simplicity that bt’s first connected to is long gone. I hate when it is assumed that I think and believe the way I do out of naivete or being blinded. To be a truth seeker often implies having a certain degree of skepticism and cynicism. And to a natural skeptic and cynic, being called naïve is insulting. Changing your lifestyle, believing in a G-d and a Torah with no more than 51% “proof” is difficult enough as it is, but to then be told that the reason you’re so eager and excited about this way of life is that you’re being a “BT”, is really hurtful, and worse – doubt-inducing.

Being a bt, there isn’t a day that I don’t wonder if I did the right thing. The doubts are fleeting and in most cases dealt with with ease, but being reminded by the same people who brought you in that maybe there is value to those doubts is terribly disappointing.

So that’s why I don’t like thinking of myself as a bt, I want to just blend in, disappear into the crowd. I'm tired of being scrutinized and babied and feeling like an outsider. I want my current struggles, struggles very similar to any observant person, to be validated, not mocked.

on the other hand…
Being a bt means I get to have my doubts, and voice them.
I get to decide every day that I accept g-d and torah
I get to baby step, and accept my weaknesses, without excessive guilt.
I get more room to accept my past mistakes – recent and not so recent past.
It allows me to keep searching and learning without feeling pigeonholed into any one path of Judaism.
It gives me the freedom to be myself within a system that requires compliance and uniformity.

I don’t know what I want.
I find myself playing both cards.

I think at this point in my life I’d like to let go of the BT card and just deal with the challenges of being part of a frum community. Not that I want to give up on my strengths and what I have to offer on a personal, individual basis, but just to blend in and take on the struggles of the general frum population. I often think I have made that jump, and I am part of the frum community, and I am blending in, and struggling with the same issues, doubts, habits, but then someone comes along and makes a simplistic derogatory comment about me being a bt, or about bt’s in general and I find myself switching camps and getting defensive.

I guess that means I’m not ready to really switch over. But I’m not sure there will ever be an appropriate time..

I know I’m asking for trouble, but I would love to hear what ffb’s think of bt’s. Do it anonymously if you want. I’m not looking for praise or admiration – I want to hear the truth. If any of you have ever had any resentment or dislike of bt’s, this is your time to voice it. Maybe if I hear what all the complaints and issues and criticisms are and I deal with them, I’ll finally be able to get it out of my system and fully integrate myself into the normalized community.
…or not!


At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 3:04:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

That is so sad. I love bts. Maybe you should live in my area. The people here are very nice.

Anyway, I think bts are great and I applaud them for their hard work and dedication. And the message I want to tell them is, whenever they're wondering why they are doing this, remember it's for yourself and to connect to Him.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 3:20:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

lvsm27 - thanks, of course thats really nice of you to say .. but..
i want to hear why you DONT like bt's :) i know why poelpe like bt's, and all the nice things they say.. i know all that. i want to hear what the 'issues' are, the not so positive things people think.

you_know_who_you_are - im sorry if you found this post offensive, it was NOT meant as an attack, and it was definitely not directed at you. it's just based on an accumulation of thoughts and experiences and feelings ive had on the matter.
im really really sorry if you took it personal..

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...

Me personally, I don't really have any issues towards them. but maybe others can tell you some issues.

Also, I hope you and that other person work things out well.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 7:22:00 PM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

that is an interesting post. maybe there needs to be a new term other than 'bt' for those who blend in seamlessly with the frum community. which i think is what you need instead of the blanket term 'bt'.

kol hakavod to anyone that is a ba'al teshuva, it's a huge change. nevertheless, i see people who go completely overboard and change so much and you really wonder what their reasons are and if it's sincere. as you put it 'living blindly'. i don't get that. they go to such extremes, from one lifestyle to another so quickly (they often pick and choose what they learn, so they do some odd things) and you find them being rather patronising with their 'holier-than-thou' attitude. that irritates me a lot. do they not realise ffb's have their fair share of struggles too!

it seems to me that you have the right attitude, realistic and down-to-earth about your journey and where you are at in life and the community. i think it'll be a gradual process, very slow, you may not even realise when you 'switch over'. i'm sure it will happen when you're ready! :)

happy chanukah!

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 7:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This response is JUST for Anonymookie who understands the context of the discussion, not for anyone else who might assume I'm saying hurtful things.

I agree with you, it's inappropriate, rude, unjust and entirely wrong for there to be these differences.

But, practically speaking, there will always be little differences. Some BTs integrate very well into Frum societies while others have their quirks. It's not that the FFBs are against them, sometimes its just weird and foreign. Often the same things might even be considered strange in secular society too. It's a fact that there's many deranged BTs and that might be what brought people to Yiddishkeit in the first place. It weirds people out.

Than there are other BTs who are perfectly normal people who have found truth in Yiddishkeit. They get into the whole thing and really enjoy and appreciate Jewish life. I think that such people cause some less-inspired FFBs a little animosity because they are so committed and believing. For the BT, Judaism is an inherent truth, for the FFB, it's a way of life.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 7:52:00 PM, Anonymous duby said...

i think u've got it all wrong. my parents are bt's and they rock. bt's rock.

ha mookie, you wanna trade places? i'll become bt and you'll become ffb.


At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:33:00 PM, Anonymous bt lover said...

dont u get it ur lucky!
BT get to be objective and choose their path,while some ffbs may stay frum forever yet never trully know,think,or feel the circurcumstance their in.
its always the question-
would i become frum if i wasnt religious?

i think BTS are amazing,i truly respect their courage,strength and souls!
"bimakom shBTS omdim,ain tzaddikim omdim!!"

but if ur asking...
its more about a lifestlye than actual faults.

i dont think a bt can ever fully mold into the exact style of ffbs.
its like asking an asian teen,to completly transform to the western culture. Sure after extensive learning,he can develope deep similarities and become westernized,yet at the end of the day he is still a foreigner,Albeit the fact,that he can be MORE westernized and civilized than ur ACTUAL westerner.

so in truth,if ur looking for faults,there really is none.
its just a diff. mentality.

growing up religious,and growing up non-religious molds and creates a certain individual,which can never really be taken away.

This works vv., when u see a frum child who went off the derech,u can speak to him for half a second and know he was once religious...

but again- i think BTS are great-i love them!
besides, if its a concern to u- just remember ur children iyh will be ffbs...

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:47:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew...

And we're all BTs...

BTs mean revolution building up to Moshiach...

We all have what we need to be what we need to be...

Labels are silly...

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew...

is a JEW.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that FFBs are jealous of BTs.

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:51:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

im glad you all love bt's
but thats not what i asked :)

please make an effort and try and tell me what ELSE you feel about bt's

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:52:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

nemo, thank you!
this is what i want to hear.. i wanna hear the truth.. not the flowery kiruv marketing. of course bt's are great! but theres a lot more to it!

At Tuesday, December 19, 2006 11:10:00 PM, Anonymous btlover said...

i was being honest...
my point was,a bt can never fully conform to the style of ffbs.
i was trying to say it in a nice way.

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 1:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a FFB, I think I sometimes feel threatened by the spiritual heights achieved by some BT's I meet, especially because they have both feet planted firmly on the ground. They made a choice to become religious, and that puts them in a class of their own; a class of which I will never belong. It's actually kind of humbling.

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 3:04:00 AM, Anonymous Dunno said...

When a BT is drawn towards the frum life, it's because they truly, whole-heartedly believe in G-d, truth of Judaism, etc. and feel a personal connection to G-d, specifically found in Judaism...
So, naturally, a change in their lifestyle as a result of that would mean that their life revolves around those things.
And to be completely honest, I think when you hear the bt's talking about Hashem, Torah, Mitzvos, Truth, connecting, bonding,relationship, love of torah/hashem, etc. - a lot of ffb's for some reason are very uncomfortable with that. Possibly for many different reasons, including a certain discomfort with the ideas being presented as such true and real things in life, while many ffb's have yet to come to terms with it themselves.
Then, of course, there are those that just make fun of what they would consider this "blind devotion" - but ultimately this is for the same reason - they have yet to come to terms with it themselve - they do not see these things as their daily reality, and therefore find it easy to belittle those that do...

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 3:32:00 AM, Anonymous a reader said...

dunno, good point

mookie, sara also made a good point

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 4:04:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Far from be to criticize BT's, you may not want praise but my view is that BT's are very courageous.
I've written a post asking FFB's if they think that they would have had the courage to make the step to become a BT if they had been born into secular families.
The overwhelming response was that they weren’t sure or rather pretty sure they would not.

With this in mind, I view BT’s with respect and admiration.
Some are annoying (as are some FFB’s) some are smart and funny (as are some FFB’s) etc…

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 8:51:00 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

I have tremendous respect for BT's sorry you feel this way.

At Wednesday, December 20, 2006 11:09:00 PM, Anonymous david_in_the_lake said...

welcome to the fold M00ks..
you can take off the black sheepskin coat now :-)

One thing that will never be taken away from you..is that inborn sense
love of yiddishkeit that drove you here to begin with and continues to
through even in your "struggles" posts..and I find so inspring..

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 2:33:00 AM, Blogger 1beautiful-stranger said...

I have a very close family member of mine that is a baal teshuva, so i can very much relate.
someone in your situation doesnt belong in an enviroment where ppl arent sensitive about there backround and struggles, feel left out, and discouraged. its an awful feeling.
you need to be around ppl that give you positive energy...and in a community that doesnt suffer from homogeneity...and is more accepting...and less judgemental
the unsensitive communities will always be VERY ignorant and narrow minded...they will never change..so just try to stay the hell away from them...make some freinds that will actualy like your name, BT.

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 11:12:00 AM, Anonymous anonym00kie said...

thank you all for your comments, I'm going to reply to them soon, but I just want to ask a few more questions first.
do you feel that the issues bt's go thru are similar or different than ffb's - in terms of how much they connect to hashem, in terms of things becoming habit, in terms of the negativity and problems in the jewuish community? do you feel like bt's are naive? of course there are differnet level of bt's - theres the 2 week old bt and the 20 yr bt, so taking that into consideration, do you feel that eventuall bt's get to a point where their struggles are similar? or does the original difference taint the future struggles? for those who have bt parents, or who are close to long term bt's do you feel that they eventually blend in, or is there always a sense or being slightly different? altho they look like anyone else in the community, are there behaviours at home that are not found in ffb homes?
i'd appreciate hearing any feedback you guys have on these questions (or any other you can think of..)

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:30:00 PM, Blogger workingema said...

I go with Duby- I'm a BT wannabe. Seriously. I've always wanted to go 'off', just so I could become a BT. I've always wanted to marry a BT. I've always wanted to hang out with BT's.
BUT, I absolutely know what you're talking about when you say that people act differently to BT's. I've seen it with my own eyes, they act all patronizing and condesending. I don't know why, maybe they think they're a little better because they were born frum...
And now that I'm thinking about it.. I probably do act differently to BT's myself- but I feel it is in a different way. Not because I feel I am above them, but because I want to see and understand Yiddishkeit from their viewpoint, because, in a way, they see things in a different light than I do. I was brought up with some things coming naturally to me- like washing for bread- and to a BT, it's a whole huge experience. I once watched a BT wash her hands- and since then I wash my hands differently.

I commend all BT's because I know it must be really hard to leave one way of life and learn and follow another one.

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 4:21:00 PM, Blogger Nemo said...

Anonymookie- Having seen your comments everywhere in the blog world, I would not be able to tell at all that you are BT. If your blogface says anything about the real Mookie {as opposed to the ANONYmookie} then you've certainly become integrated already.

Also, in answer to all of your questions above, everything depends on the person. Where did they learn, for how long, how into it were/are they, are they more driven by smarts or feelings or a healthy balance of both, what kind of personality {which transcends religion} do they have, when did they get BTed- as teens, students, adult, etc. There are no real rules to the matter... it's a state of mind.

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 5:19:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are more beloved to G-d and quite an inspiration. Keep trekking on.

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:35:00 PM, Blogger the only way i know said...

Hi Mooks -
I havent read the other comments yet,
but one thing that struck me right through was that you kept saying about people considering BTs to be naive..while I have a strong sense of the exact opposite...
That of FFBs are somewhat naive simply because many of them do things by 'rote' rather than 'reason' (including myself)
It has always been my greatest pleasure...and certainly one that I seek over and over again..to converse in depth with someone who is a BT, who has questioned and fought for something they truly believe in. I feel I want it for myself too! I don't want to be pigeonholed either..but like you say..it's one of the BT perks - lol.
I can understand though, the idea that you feel like an outsider..although most BTs that I know, don't really stand out at all, and are treated with respect and warmth and inclusion.
So I am sorry for you that you feel excluded sometimes..
I guess even an FFB can feel slighted in one way or another for various reasons..not always blending in perfectly with every crowd.
Anyway - sending lots of love and acceptance your way..:)

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:49:00 PM, Blogger the only way i know said...

okay - now i've read some of your comments in the comment section - and I see you want to find what is DIFF about BTs...
For example - are their struggles the same? Funny I always wondered about that..and I think not - lol
Will they ever be the same? I still think not..because the foundation is different..
I can't even point to a single instance as an example..
but maybe I'll try...
I think one thing that I struggle with that BTs will never struggle with..is treating halachos, and davening with a far away kind of reality, a vagueness and lethargy...while other things in life take on great and significant importance (how much do i weigh today? lol ). I think BTs will always have a sense of how powerful things really are..

I don't know..
I just get the sense that the struggles are different...and will remain so...
Although obviously - the regular 'human' struggles are similar..

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:52:00 PM, Blogger the only way i know said...

I know many long term BTs -
the behaviour in the homes are no different besides for the fact that they have more inspiring lives - than others..

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 11:59:00 PM, Anonymous DS said...

‘The place where Ba’alei Teshuvah stand, even a Tzaddik Gomur can not achieve’

This statement relates not only to the metaphysical heights that are achieved spiritually through Teshuvah, but also to the daily reality that one lives.

I am fortunate enough to be a Ba’al Teshuvah –wouldn’t have it any other way, but to also have had enough experience and intimate contact with non-Ba’alei Teshuvah growing up, that I don’t have a problem fitting in. I know both worlds intimately and there is something that (almost all) non-Ba’alei Teshuvah are missing out on. A certain sense of reality. A certain sense of life!

For a Ba’al Teshuvah, being frum will never be a lifestyle. There is no such thing as doing something because that’s just the way it’s done, or because that’s just what you do. Because that’s not just what you do. It’s what you do as a result of your decision to dedicate the rest of your life to serving Hashem to the best of your ability.

Every non-Tzaddik experiences daily, the struggle of two souls that are the subject of much of Tanya. However, only Ba’alei Teshuvah have two independently complete realities that are at war. Without wanting to reduce the credit due to every single jew every time they make it through a day in this world in good form, Ba’alei Teshuvah simply experience a different reality where literally every instant of every day is just about fighting to serve Hashem.

The cliché ‘Judaism is not a religion, it is a way of life’ is nice, and when drawing a contrast it is true. Relative to other religions, Judaism is a way of life.
But strictly speaking, Judaism is not a religion. It is not a lifestyle, nor is it a way of life. Real Judaism is life.

Ba’alei Teshuvah simply have a much more intimate personal relationship with their avodas Hashem, and it is the biggest privilege one could ever ask for. I wouldn’t give it up for any amount of the accumulated knowledge that non-Ba’alei Teshuvah are lucky enough to have.

At Friday, December 22, 2006 8:50:00 AM, Blogger chaverah said...

very interesting point. I know we dont veiw things in the same way but let me give you my honest opinion. first of all you say a very interesting thing:
"Being a bt, there isn’t a day that I don’t wonder if I did the right thing".
there is no right or wrong. a BT is someone who decides to become religous right? but as a bT you know there isnt any other way. now that you have the knowledge thank god you have. you will be rewarded so much more. even more so then a FFB.

FFB people dont really understand BT beacause everthing we do is routine. Everything you do feels so much more precious. dont you agree?

OK HONESTLY (unfortunetly) FFB people are NOT sensitive to BT. It does SUCK! this is what I complain about all the time. The rules, the judging of stupidity, Yichus, all comes with a frum society. Everyone is screwed up!

For that my friend I wish you luck because FFB are not going to treat BT like an equal. There are exceptions to the rule but that is reality.

I am personaly very proud of you and god will help you out. Good luck!

my bold and honest opinion.

At Friday, December 22, 2006 1:06:00 PM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

got anthing else to say? :)

At Friday, December 22, 2006 1:16:00 PM, Blogger yingerman said...

after reading everybody else there is very little to say
I think FFBs treat BTs with pity and respect.
I dont think i would have the guts to jump in.
We FFBs think BTs are naive about jewish stuff and we will rudely smile or laugh at their mistakes just as human laugh at the 'americas funnies home video' TV clips, I mean its funny when a 2 year old hit his dad with a rake?
Not really, but humans are cruel.

I told spousy yesterday, when she metioned that she didnt get thanked for a present, I asked her 'did you do cause you wanted to or for the thank you' she agreed with me.
Mookie dont give a fluing rats hieny about people's feelings regarding your status.
Are you happy?
Do you think youre doing the right thing?
In the long run, are you doing what really matters?
Everybody has moods and moments. Hang in there kid and you'll be just fine.
Have a very good Shabbos!

At Saturday, December 23, 2006 6:48:00 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Mookie, first of all I want to second the opinion that I didn't get the message from your beautiful blog that you are a bt. Maybe there isn't anything like a typical bt anymore, and surely after years the bt has many of the same dilemmas of the ffb. Although I'm a lifer, my mashpiah is a bt, and I admit I learned some slang and beatle song names from her!!

I think raisng children is harder for bt's very often because a. they were not raised this way, b.they may not be used to big families, c. they have high expectations of their kids which can unfortunately sometimes backfired d. children are more often exposed to relatives with different lifestyles, who sometimes encourage them to follow in their footsteps.

Anotehr thing, I was thinking, bt.s are not passive people usually, because then they would never have changed their lifestyle, no matter how much sense it made. this willingness to change when things don't seem right perhaps makes bt's less tolerant of imperfections in the system or in marriage

At Sunday, December 24, 2006 12:11:00 PM, Blogger kasamba said...

Just out of curiousity- did you ever go to sem?

Also in my book- better BT than FFH (Frum From Habit)!

At Sunday, December 24, 2006 1:57:00 PM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

m00kie: A good friend of mine posted something similar a few months back, "Can A BT have doubts?" See it here. See the comments as well.

All I can say is that being FFB doesn't make life easier; it may seem easier on the outside, but many of the issues that plague you daily affect us as well.

At Monday, December 25, 2006 5:15:00 PM, Blogger Miri said...

hey- so more of a perspective on ffbs from an ffb; they tend to condescend to everyone, including themselves. I think maybe it's just a habit of talking instead of actual condescension. and also, I still don't get all the references and inside jokes either...I guess it all depends on how yeshivish you grew up. but these things can be learned - use your bt status as an excuse to ask! trust me it's more embarassing to ask as an ffb, but my curiosity gets the better of me.


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