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Baal teshuva

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In Judaism, a ba'al teshuvah (Hebrew: בעל תשובה; for a woman, בעלת תשובה, ba'alat teshuva or ba'alas teshuva; plural, בעלי תשובה, ba'alei teshuva, 'owner of return [to God or his way]') is a Jew who adopts some form of traditional religious observance after having previously followed a secular lifestyle or a less frum form of Judaism.[1]

Originally, the term referred to a Jew who transgressed the halakhah (Jewish law) knowingly or unknowingly and completed a process of introspection to "return" to the full observance of God's mitzvot.[1] According to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Talmud says that a true ba'al teshuvah stands higher in shamayim (lit. 'heaven') than a "frum from birth", even higher than a tzadik:[2]

The sages said: "The place whereon the penitent stand the wholly righteous could not stand;" as if saying: "their degree is above the degree of those who ever did not sin, because it is more difficult for them to subdue their passion than for the others."[3]

In modern times, the phrase is primarily used to refer to a Jew from a non-Orthodox background who becomes religiously observant in an Orthodox fashion. However, there is no strict definition of a ba'al teshuva and so the concept can also encompass Orthodox-leaning Jews who become stricter in their observance, such as those who go from keeping kosher only at home to also avoiding non-kosher restaurants.[4] The alternative term, chozer b'teshuvah (חוזר בתשובה), plural chozrim b’teshuvah, is more commonly used in Israel.[5] In Hebrew, chozer b'teshuvah translates to 'returning to return' or 'returning to repentance'.[6]

According to the teachings of the Torah, "whoever judges himself will not be judged"; however, in the described history of Talmudic times and early Hasidism, many tzadikim were able to "see" the transgressions of others.[citation needed]

Mar b. R. Ashi said: I am disqualified to judge in a scholar’s lawsuit. What is the reason? Because I love him as much as I love myself, and a person is unable to find fault with himself.[7]

For the most part, the stature and the preparation of these Tzadikim presuppose a balance that allows a peaceful coexistence even with those who have committed serious transgressions because otherwise, the intent to rage against them and, worse, to obtain advantages from them would certainly prevail.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "What Is A Ba'al Teshuvah?". My Jewish Learning. The phenomenon has inspired a number of scholarly works. Among them, Becoming Frum, an ethnographic look at how the newly religious learn the language and customs of their new Orthodox communities [...]
  2. ^ Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin. "Tzaddik — The Baal Teshuvah". Chabad.org.
  3. ^ "Laws of Repentance 7:4, citing Berakot, 34b. C. G." Mishneh Torah.
  4. ^ Levin, Sala (4 March 2016). "Jewish Word: Baal Teshuvah". Moment Magazine.
  5. ^ Dana Kessler (11 December 2018). "'Baal Teshuvah': The Next Generation". Tablet.
  6. ^ Levin, Sala (4 March 2016). "Jewish Word: Baal Teshuvah". Moment Magazine.
  7. ^ Finkel, Avraham Yaakov. Ein Yaakov Jason Aronson, Inc (p. 116)