Friday, June 11, 2004

Recent events have led me to reconsider ba'alei teshuva. Oh, sure, we're supposed to be all rah-rah about them, and talk about how great it is that people are finding Judaism, etc. But I think we avoid a crucial point, and that is how many of the reasons people become ba'alei teshuva (especially as adults, although some people I've sounded off on this to have extended it to teenagers as well) are not so positive, and the effects of disruption can be disastrous. (Literally. This is why I bring this up.) On the former point, to put it simply, well-adjusted, stable people do not often decide to change their entire lives. (OK, if you're reading this and are offended, there are obviously exceptions.) My father once spoke with an older man (a shrink, I believe), traditional but non-religious, about the adult ba'alei teshuva he saw. He asked if this man's children had ever considered becoming frum, and the response was, "No. They had a solid upbringing and are comfortable with that."

So I'm conflicted. Obviously (?), religion is good. And cheers and support are due to those who take it on. But I think we delude ourselves if we don't concern ourselves with possible ramifications- not only for the state of mind of the ba'al teshuva, but more importantly, for children of those adults changing.

When I brought this up to the Seminarian, he added a point which, to me, is even more troubling. He said that Orthodox support ba'alei teshuva because, in effect, they are being validated. When I thought about this for a bit, I was troubled, because that would mean that Orthodox Jews feel as if they need validation. I brought it up to the Seminarian, a wiser man than I, and he confirmed my fear. It's not easy being frum (in the world at large? on one's own?), and many- most?- need something telling them that they're doing the right thing. It makes you wonder exactly who kiruv is supposed to benefit. (Of course, this is no fault of the ba'alei teshuva themselves.)

On another topic: The Jewish Week informs us that The Passion (the Gibson movie) "sparked a crisis in Jewish-Christian relations." What crisis? I must've missed that. But hey, Abe Foxman has to stay in the news somehow, and justify his obscene salary somehow, and so he brings it up again. Of course, any spark was from him.

I wonder how much of Foxman's Christian-bashing is residual guilt over his own Catholic upbringing. Hmmm.

A day late, a happy Brooklyn-Queens Day to all! It's one of my favorite holidays. Of course, Abe Foxman wouldn't be happy with that. Ask for details if you want.

Carlebach tonight again! It seems like every other week now.

A Reagan and me story: When I was about ten or so, I read an article (in Reader's Digest, I think) about the homeless. Reagan was being blamed for their sudden and unexplained appearance then. (The Forward used this language this week. If it was such a mystery, they could've asked where they came from, but whatever. Of course, they disappeared in 1993 only to reappear, as Rush predicted, in 2001.) The point of the article was that much of the "problem" (if it really existed, or was new) was due to the ACLU and courts forcibly deinstitutionalizing mentally ill people at that point. But once it blew up, well, blame Reagan.

Anyway, some time after, I heard a news story on the radio about how the courts and ACLU had overruled laws forcing tuberculosis patients to take their medication. "Just wait," I thought. "TB will break out, and they'll blame Reagan." Sure enough, a few years later (late 80's or so), I was listening to the same station report about TB outbreaks, drug-resistant strains, and so on. Whose fault was it? Reagan's (nonexistent) "budget cuts," of course. Another thing that turned me onto the man- when attacks are lies, I naturally side with the person being attacked.

A joke Reagan, it is said, told Gorbachev:

A Russian man goes to buy bread, and has to wait on line for quite a while. Finally, he gets fed up and starts yelling about how bad the system is, etc. etc. A man in a coat steps out of the line and says, "We're watching you, and warning you: You'd better stop that. This is your last warning." The man, fed up, says he doesn't care, and keeps yelling about everything, but nothing happens to him.

Eventually, he gets home and is met by his wife. "You were out two hours and didn't get bread!" she says. "That's not the worst of it," he answers. "They've run out of bullets, too!"

Shabbat Shalom, y'all.

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