Kelsey Media

10 step guide to becoming a Baal Teshuva

36 comments

baal teshuvaThe flaming BT is one of the most interesting and talked about phenomena in the kiruv world. I’m certian that there are whole seminars devoted to the subject of people becoming too frum, too fast, and within the frum world these are known as Flamers. Donning a black hat and woolen talis kattan before one begins keeping kosher shabbos fully, is just one example of someone becoming a flamer. If you want to really practice the art of the Flaming BT, follow my guide and you shall too become the talk of the town. You could also read the book Becoming Frum, which is 200 pages devoted to the subject.

The flamer usually calms down a bit when they realize how stupid and annoying they have become, it’s just the post “beautiful and inspirational shabbos” stage, that is usually followed by the denial and debate stage, where the flamer becomes all knowing and starts to espouse whatever their rabbi is telling them to their friends, further alienating them from their former community and allowing them to transition into full fledged frumkeit.

The flamer is extreme, you can spot them from a mile away. Their style of dress, the way they talk, the way they bash and hate, it all has the look and feel of someone who’s just joined a cult. Funny thing is, they most likely have just joined the cult of Orthodox Jewry. Follow these 10 steps to become a crazy BT, which is a necessary phase in becoming a normal frum person:

1)Denial: The first step to being a flamer is denying your former life ever existed, you need to pretend that you either grew up frum or that the BT malach tapped you on the upper lip at Aish and made you forget all that pork, shiksa sex, and 4 day weekend fun you ever had.

2)Debate: You need to start debating things you know nothing about, this includes science, women’s studies, Israeli politics, and hilchos mesirah. To prove that you have really given up your former life, you switch from being a lifelong vegan, liberal, gay activist to someone who shouts at the top of their longs that vegans are against the Torah. Somehow, in a manner of 3 weeks you have changed your entire belief system including your politics. You also suddenly know everything there is to know about the worlds age, how it was created, and why science is nonsense. You also picked up somewhere that listening to secular music is assur because it puts you in the souls of non-Jews.

3)The dumpster: Almost every BT or convert has some story about how they threw away all of their clothing, music, and books upon becoming frum. You must do this, you must not think about donating your untznius clothing or jeans to anyone who needs them because you don’t think anyone should be wearing this stuff. You also throw away entire music collections and convince yourself that Jewish music is good. You start to tell people that Blue Fringe just like Phish and that Moshav is like Dave Matthews. If you’re a real flamer, you don’t even need such justifications, you merely bash all goyishe music and say it’s assur and filled with gashmiasdicke themes. Your book collection gets thrown out, except for anything your Rav or Rebetzin told you is “ok for now”. For some reason, BT’s never think rationally during this period and donating this stuff to goodwill or someone that needs it. As if it’s even assur for the goyim.

4)Davening: Just because you’re not exactly sure what the words mean and it takes you a million years to say the words, doesn’t mean you can’t have extreme kavannah. After all, you need to beg forgiveness for all of the sins in your past life that you now deny to friends (once you’re frum, you can also deny that God even knows) You also can’t seem to figure out the correct way to bow during shemona esrei and clopping selach lanu has to look like you’re trying to restart your heart.

5)Mussar: You can’t seem to understand why FFB’s don’t have the same passion as you and you need to share this with them whenever you get the chance. You need to go up to them in shul and ask them how they could come late and why they talk the whole time. You feel the need to espouse the views of your Rav (who is probably catering his advice to you) to everyone who will listen.

6)Family Disputes: You need to ostracize yourself from your family, it starts with the hot plate and microwave in your room and it ends with you refusing to sleep in their home because it’s treife and they are going to gehenom for knowingly violating the Torah. Sometimes it ends up being the grandparents who are most compassionate, they keep kosher in the home and like that you’re starting to learn Yiddish, but you too refuse them because they have a TV and read goyishe magazines. No family, besides your charedi cousins in France are good enough for you and it turns out that you’re probably not frum enough for them.

7)Name Change: The name change is usually later in the game, for some reason, folks with names like Katie and Bob don’t get around to figuring out their Hebrew name until someone calls them a “Harry” and they decide to do some investigating. I’m sure that every BT goes through a “Eureka” period when they realize that they may be espousing frummy views on molestation being handled by gedolim, but it doesn’t count until they have a frum name. You can see on Facebook, the baby steps that some go through when changing their secular name. It begins with the middle name, but real extreme BT’s insist on being called by their new name immediately, they won’t answer to their old name. This is another way in which BT’s can insult their goyishe parents.

8)Unfriending Time: Facebook has made becoming frum infinitely harder. It used to be that one visit to a friend of the opposite sex with the classic “I don’t touch boys anymore” was enough to end friendships, after all most guys are only looking for one thing in a friendship (I knew Manis and Orlofsky were right!) Nowadays, Facebook has made it harder, people take facebook so seriously that many BT’s end up opening a frum account and deactivating their goyishe account. Your true BT status is not really solidified until you only have frum friends who are members of your own sex. The true flaming BT doesn’t care about offending people and makes a big announcement about leaving Facebook or unfriending everyone who doesn’t make the cut. Remember, being a flaming BT is all about offending those who are close to you in an effort to bring them closer to frumkeit.

9)Hating other Jews: In your quest to become a full fledged frummy, you need to espouse your hatred of other frum Jewish groups for their wrong doings. If you went to Aish you learn to hate Ohr Someyach, zionists, and chabadnicks. If you’re chabad you can argue all day long about Rav Moshe’s heter for cholov stam not being good enough, you also know all about the Rav Ahron story involving the deaths of buchrim in Shanghai during the war. You also know all about modern orthodoxy and how it’s not really frumkeit. One of the first indoctrination tools of the cult you belong to is to disparage all other branches of the cult.

10)Self Hatred: In order to become a true BT you need to start hating other BT’s and wanting to become just like those same FFB’s that you bashed when becoming frum. Calming down a bit from your climax of flaming BT, you begin to ignore the mussar, have an amicable relationship to your parents, listen to instrumental rock, talk during some portions of davening, bow correctly for mogen avram, and reactivate your old facebook account.

find out more on 4torah.com

  • Michael Makovi

    I’m a BT, and I didn’t experience any of these. I guess I’m an outlier?

    • ZZ

      Many BTs and gerim are Modern Orthodox, or frum but not overboard. Some people take things to extreme but I don’t think it’s the majority, as this post suggests.

  • Token Goyim

    I lol’d

  • Anonymous

    Thank G-d, I’m not a flamer. I became frum before ever experiencing (outside of my early childhood) a real, inspiring Shabbos. So, I’m not going to flip like the flamers… hopefully.

  • Telz Angel

    Heshy,
    #7 deserves a post on it’s own. I get email from newly flaming BTs and it always takes me a minute or two to figure out that Dinka Basha was Debbie, that Chenich Shmeel was Charlie, and that Faiyga Breindy was Maribel. I used to know Merideths and Kevins, now I know Mareh Mokem and Kefi Tzviki.

    The name change is maddening and confusing. Sometimes I’ll mistakenly revert to the old name and feel like I have to ask for mechila. Awkward.

    For me it was easy. I was named Telshe at my bris, and everyone calls me Telz or Telzer. One day I’ll get rich I’ll buy a Tesla, then I’ll have a fun time making a vanity license plate.

    • http://yeshivadaze.wordpress.com Shragi

      Telshe/Telz/Telzner,

      I come here every day looking to see whether you’ve answered my shayla, if you’re trying to drive up the hits on Frum Satire, you’re accomplishing your mission, but a fellow yid needs a teshuva and it would be a big chessed if you can supply it.

      • Telz Angel

        What’s your shayla? Why ask it here? Why would I care about driving up hits on Frum Satire? How can I do a Chessed and help you?

        • http://yeshivadaze.wordpress.com Shragi

          Ask Heshy about my shayla, he told me he forwarded it to you.

          • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

            Fine I’ll post your shayala, not sure that I’m smart enough to answer that.

          • Telz Angel

            Got it.
            Nu, you have to work on you writing style. Your shayla reads too sincerely to be satire. It’s as if you are serious. Surely you are joking. Ok I should have time next week to write an answer and post the QA. Chessed is a huge mitzvah. Just like stealing is.

            • Shragi

              You misunderstanding me; I am serious!
              I’m not in yeshiva any more, I have no need for leitzunis.

              • Dan

                Don’t answer it. just post it so we can laugh at his not leitzanus.

  • Yochanan

    What about atypical BTs? I’m sure you’ve met some of them. Can you do a post on that?

    • Michael Makovi

      I became a BT reading Rav Hirsch. I remember reading about Kabbalah and proceeding to apologize to God that we Jews used to believe in such heretical idolatry. Then I found out that some Jews actually still believe in it.

      • Yochanan

        Any particular Hirsch books? I’m reading the Collective Writings. The only thing that annoys me is that he doesn’t include the vowels when he quotes Psukim.

        • Michael Makovi

          I started with the Trumath Tzvi humash.

          • Anonymous

            Is that the main “Hirsch Chumash”?

            • Michael Makovi

              No, it’s the one-volume abridgment of the five-volume full humash.

      • ZZ

        Rav Hirsch’ book Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances is awesome — all Jews should read it. But although Rav Hirsch was not particularly mystically inclined, he was not against kabbalah. For example, the introduction to Horeb explains that he consulted the Zohar extensively in preparing to write the sefer.

  • http://yeshivadaze.wordpress.com Shragi

    I’d add to #1 Denial, they can always pretend they were born BTs.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      I said that they say they grew up frum.

      • http://yeshivadaze.wordpress.com Shragi

        I know, but I thought the idea of being born a BT was cool. It even makes sense, in a BT sort of way.

  • David

    So true! I cracked up. The same is very true of geirim as well, except… while BTs are frequently told to slow down and be more mellow, geirim are given the clear message by community and rabbonim alike that they will be safek unless they become the poster boy/girl for a bonfire of the frum vanities. This generally persists even after the geirut is completed, leading many geirim to feel like Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984. The current conversion climate means many dedicated Torah true geirim do not have an authentic religious experience because they have to live in fear of their tribal membership cards being yanked, which would also pasul their children. As a result, you cannot be seen to diverge from the strictest heterodox norms in thought, speech, or deed. I regard people – especially rabbonim – who put sincere geirim in this position as being “the destroyers of words.” As amusing as it is in terms of the “stupid things balei teshuvim and geirim do” is – and I groan in reflection – many of my own decisions were not a result of my own “flamer” passions (I did have some, I admit), but of what amounts to institutionalized extortion and bigotry. After fifteen years I decided that Torah, Mitzvoth, and Eretz Israel were thick in my blood, but that I was not having an authentic religious experience. As a result, I have re-tooled and re-approached it with a very different people. At this point, the Jewish people are simply my people, the Torah is simply my book, and Israel is simply my land. I am now shomer mitzvoth for my own evolving reasons, which has rendered Judaism much more meaningful and natural. I’ve crossed a mental threshold wherin other’s people sfeikot have become irrelevant.

    • Debbie

      Thank you for articulating your experience so well. 25 years later, I feel much the same way.

  • For the Rabbi Tells Me So

    …and then when you realize its all BS, you go OTD.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      or Orthoprax so you can enjoy the best of both worlds, without breaking up a family due to your selfish beliefs.

  • A. Nuran

    In other words, they’re like converts anywhere. New Christians. New Muslims. New Buddhists.

  • Aharon

    Heshy,
    While I realize this post is meant to be sarcastic, very few BTs really go through this phase of “extremely flaming BT”. There may be those who have a difficult past, and for them becoming religious is a way of running away from something. However, for those who become religious in order to live a more meaningful life, this phase is clearly unnecessary. Most Rabbis will advise BTs to take it slow. Judaism when done with the right sincerity improves character.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      Not sure where you hang out, but if you speak to BT’s I’d be willing to guess that 85% of them went through this and some of the things on this list. Many of them probably still go through it.

      • Tuvia

        Heshy is a little bit of an illui…

    • Synapse

      You haven’t dealt with many BTs have you? Most BTs go through a flaming period (very similar to the Modern kids that flip out), whether short and sweet or lengthy and intense. It has nothing to do with having a “difficult past” because the very fact that they were not raised religious is the problem in their new found identity. They want a more meaningful life, but don’t yet know the difference between what is meaningful in the religious Jewish identity and what is just sociological. The rabbi can tell the BT to take it slow all he wants, but in the end the BT will inevitably take on all sorts of things they don’t understand in an effort to be “naase v’nishmah” and be extremely spiritual to make up for their lacking knowledge.

      The only exceptions I’ve ever seen are kids who come from a strong religious background of a different denomination where they are knowledgeable enough that the switch requires very little from them (as it is an intellectual decision, not an emotional one).

  • William

    “(once you’re frum, you can also deny that God even knows) ”
    HAHAHA! I have seen some in that level of denial.

  • http://becomingfrum.weebly.com/ Sarah Bunin Benor

    I love this post – it perfectly describes what I discuss in my book, Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (thanks for the shout-out!). I talk about a phase of “hyperaccommodation” that many BTs go through. I also explain that some BTs actually avoid many of the elements of frum culture or create unique combinations, like Yiddish words used with English slang or gefilte fish cooked with Indian spices. I also discuss what I refer to as the “bungee effect,” which Heshy touches on in #10.

    • The Other Mike

      I just read “Becoming Frum” based on the mention of it in this blog post. I got it from the library; I am sorry that cannot buy afford to buy it and contribute to your income.

      As one who reads Heshy regularly, there was no question who the blogger was carrying on in chapter 8. Just to come across the passage quoting https://www.frumsatire.net/2007/03/20/when-baal-teshuvas-shed-their-bt-status-how-to-stereotype/ in the middle of a serious book was a peculiar delight.

      It was nice to see the subject discussed in a scholarly manner after laughing for years with Heshy at our human foibles.

  • http://martanoracing.altervista.org/phpBB2/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=4437 content

    Normaqlly ? do not leearn post on blogs, but I ?ish to say that this write-up very forced mee to twke a lokk at and ?o it!
    Your writing style hhas beedn surprisedd me.
    Thank you, quite great article.

  • SDK

    Wow. Good thing I went OTD before I finished my teshuvah!

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