Mayim Bialik and her journey to Torah observance with the help of Allison Josephs
What is Baal Teshuvah? Baal Teshuvah means "masters of return," returning to the essence of your being, and with this you made the choice to serve HaShem.
The history of Baal Teshuvah, which started somewhere in the mid-20th century in the US, shows that many orthodox Jews who came to the US around or just after the Second World War didn't really want to be there; to them it was a treife state, which means a non-kosher state. This is the biggest reason some movements, mainly the Ultra Orthodoxy, cut themselves off completely from American society and the American dream, especially for yeshiva students. Rabbis had a vision that instead of focusing on all the material wealth, they would focus on studying Torah and living a life far from American society, instead of pursuing the American dream, especially for yeshiva students. Instead of focusing on all the material wealth, they would focus on studying Torah and living a life far from American society, especially the American dream.
After the six-day war in 1967, the Orthodox youth had something to believe in again, and the movement took even more shape afterwards, both in the U.S. and Israel.THe outreach of Chabad to encourage non- observant Jews to become observant grew even bigger in the Baal Teshuvah movement; they opend community centers and yeshivas for all Jewish Students.
There is not just one definition of Baal Teshuvah; some begin as secular Jews with no observant upbringing, and they do complete observance, while others may have grown up in an Orthodox community and are taking steps to return to observance. Baal Teshuvah is a long journey with many steps to take, and even before you make this choice, it takes a lot of thought.
There are several reasons for someone to take this step; it could be that you desperately want to be part of Klal Yisroel and have the feeling that you belong there. to discover the Torah and learn more about what Yiddishkeit means. Every person who takes steps toward coming closer to HaShem and the purpose of all creation ; this is the essence of our being, as we all share a piece of HaShem, a divine soul. To connect with HaShem, we do this through Torah study, davening, serving HaShem, and observing the Mitzvot.
Sometimes I wonder, when a Jew has been brought up in a secular lifestyle, that the step to Orthodoxy could be a very big step, a totally different lifestyle, with observing the 613 Mitzvot, keeping Kosher, and Tznius in dressing and behavior. This all could be overwhelming, and the most important thing is to have the support of a Rabbi, or better yet, a mentor, and make contact with Jewish people in an Orthodox community. Yiddishkeit is not just about Torah study; going to shul, keeping kosher, and observing Shabbat are so much more than that. It is a tradition that is worth every bump in the road, towards observance.
Without this support, it could become a struggle, and the line is very thin; it could easily break. This could send the Baalei Teshuvah back into the life that they know, which could be far more comfortable.
Baal Teshuvah also means a Jew who sincerely is in a state of wanting to return and can't be discouraged, even when it is getting hard to keep up with the lifestyle, Torah study, or mitzvot. There should be some sort of realization that the best way to move forward is to take one mitzvah at a time and not feel bad when you fail or make mistakes; that is okay, and just remember it is a whole process that can't be done in one day, as long as someone learns by these mistakes.
Mayim Bialik, a Jewish American actress, says this about her journey to Torah observance:
"I am technically a Baalat Teshuvah; it is not always simple to figure out where Orthodoxy and modernity meet, but things are not like they used to be." The world of Orthodoxy is broad and colorful, and there is a lot of beauty in it."