About Me · Community · Religious life

Shifting Paradigms–Being a Real Ba’al Teshuvah

I was brought up with humanistic values and Jewish practice.

While I had become Ortho-practice in my life after moving to North American, where it was possible to be Ortho-practice without sacrificing all aspects of life, my mind-set had never changed. That is why I was always perplexed with the question,

“so, what’s it like being a ba’al teshuvah?”

me: “hmmm, I don’t think that I can really answer that question because I don’t really consider myself a baal teshuvah.”

“what do you mean? you were raised religious?”

me: “sort of yes and no. Because you see, I wasn’t raised in a place where the default was to be Jewish and not doing something was an active choice. I grew up in a place where the default was to do nothing and to do anything Jewish at all took great effort starting with keeping track of the Jewish holidays. I was raised with a lot considering that. We kept kosher in the home and while we ate at non-kosher restaurants, we made our best effort to have as kosher food as possible. Considering there was no kosher establishment (aside from the JCC kitchen) and no vegan restaurants at the time, that already was a lot.”

“so, you grew up Jewish?”

me: “Of course! (what else would I be raised as?) We celebrated Passover and Chanukah.”

“how about Shabbat?”

me: “I had heard about it, but I had to go to school on Saturdays and decided that I would start observing it when I was in a place in my life when I could (that chance came when I was seventeen and in a certain international school)”

When I came to New York, where keeping kosher is as easy as breathing, and in some neighborhoods there are more synagogues than Starbucks, I had a wider range of choice for my religious observance . So, I followed my line of “do as much as I can to honor my Jewish heritage.” I didn’t neglect my Japanese heritage, but it did not take form of observing any religious ritual so they didn’t particularly conflict. I became more Ortho-practice because that was consistant with my motto: “do as much as you can to honor your heritage”–but my mentality did not shift at all. I was just was as much of a secular humanist as I was raised to be.

Lately though, I have been feeling my basic paradigm shifting.

I am starting to actually believe. My basic paradigm of how I see the world is to starting to shift. It does not mean that my critical mind has turned off, but when your basic assumptions about life start to change, your perspective shifts ALOT. It is a scary feeling and I wonder where this is going to take me.


2 thoughts on “Shifting Paradigms–Being a Real Ba’al Teshuvah

  1. Hi,

    interesting blog

    >I am starting to actually believe. My basic paradigm of how I see the world is to starting to shift.

    How have your beliefs changed? What do you think has caused these changes?

  2. Hi Aryeh,

    >How have your beliefs changed?

    I don’t think that my beliefs as such has changed much. I have always had a sense of wonder and awe for this world. It’s just that I am starting to be able to accept the kind of divine image the siddur shows. The words in there are coming alive for me more and more.

    What has caused this I think partially my increasing fluency in reading English and also the experience of giving birth. Giving birth and seeing a new-born grow everyday is by far the most mystical and awesome experience in my life so far.

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