Baal teshuva

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In Judaism, a ba'al teshuvah (Hebrew: בעל תשובה‎; for a woman, בעלת תשובה‎, baalat teshuva or baalas teshuva; plural, בעלי תשובה‎, baalei teshuva, "master of return [to God]") is a Jew from a secular background who becomes religiously observant.

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. (Baal teshuvah literally means in Hebrew "master of return" i.e., one who has "returned" to God.[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 contemporary times, the phrase is primarily used to refer to a Jew from a secular background who becomes religiously observant (normally in an Orthodox fashion) later in life. However, there is no strict definition of a ba'al teshuva and so the concept can also encompass the previously religious jews who become modern Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox or even Hasidic.[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.

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What Is A Ba'al Teshuvah?". myjewishlearning.com.
  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. "Jewish Word: Baal Teshuvah". Moment Magazine.
  5. ^ Dana Kessler (11 December 2018). "'Baal Teshuvah': The Next Generation". Tablet (magazine).
  6. ^ Levin, Sala. "Jewish Word: Baal Teshuvah". Moment Magazine.
  7. ^ Finkel, Avraham Yaakov. Ein Yaakov Jason Aronson, Inc (p. 116)