Sunday, February 4, 2018

Biblical Yitro and The Modern Baal Teshuva Movement

Just before Shabbat my neighbor called to ask me to prepare something for our weekly Shiloh Shabbat Shiur Nashim, Women's Torah Class. Within seconds my mind filled with the verse that opens the Torah Portion of the Week, Parshat Shavua, Yitro/Jethro, Exodus 18:
1Now Moses' father in law, Jethro, the chieftain of Midian, heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people that the Lord had taken Israel out of Egypt.
אוַיִּשְׁמַ֞ע יִתְר֨וֹ כֹהֵ֤ן מִדְיָן֙ חֹתֵ֣ן משֶׁ֔ה אֵת֩ כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר עָשָׂ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ לְמשֶׁ֔ה וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַמּ֑וֹ כִּֽי־הוֹצִ֧יא יְהוָֹ֛ה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִמִּצְרָֽיִם:
It immediately connected me to the very unprecedented movement of ignorant and non-committed/observant Jews to Torah Judaism which began after the establishment of the State of Israel and became much larger after the totally miraculous, of Biblical proportions, 1967 Six Days War victory. And I also connected it to the relatively recent search quite a few Christians are making into the origins of Christianity and the theological questions and doubts this research is causing them.

As I've written here many times, I became acquainted with genuine Torah Judaism through my joining the Great Neck Synagogue Teen Club and attending Shabbatot with NCSY, National Conference of Synagogue Youth of the OU. This was in the middle of the 1960s before the Six Days War.

"Becoming religious" was the term. In those days, BT or Baal Teshuva were unknown phrases. My family was shocked and horrified at my decision to take on those mitzvot that family members had been rejecting and reducing for decades. Jewish families, and other ethnic groups, related so easily to the "Fiddler on the Roof" story of the strictly traditional Jewish family whose daughters all left the fold, in their own ways. The first half of the 20th century was a time when traditional religions were being replaced by ideologies such as socialism, communism and Liberalism.

The unprecedented and unexpected rebirth of the ancient Jewish Nation as the State of Israel in the very same Holy Land as the Bible, davka, after the devastating Nazi Holocaust was very much like what Yitro heard.  The Nazi Holocaust had caused the murder/death of six million 6,000,000 Jews, most of European Jewry, and seemed to herald the end of the Jewish People. But instead the very beginnings of Jewish rebirth began. It began getting much greater after the 1967 Six Days War, when the IDF Israeli Army, without any human or diplomatic ally, quickly defeated three well-equipped Arab armies, Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Instead of Israel being pushed into the sea, Jordan retreated to the east of the Jordan River, Egypt to the Suez Canal and Syria to the other side of the Golan Heights. Finally, the State of Israel had reasonably defensible borders.

On the spiritual front, not only more and more Jews from all over the world accepted Torah and Mitzvot, but descendants of Jews who had completely left the Jewish world suddenly returned to their Jewish roots and the Land of Israel, and that included entire communities as far away as India and Ethiopia.

Everyone "...heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel, His people..."

It is so clear and obvious to me that we are privileged to be living in miraculous times, like those in the Bible.


han said...

Love this one shared,toda batya

Batya said...

Thanks so much.

Mr. Cohen said...

Rabbi Simcha Wasserman (born 1900 CE, died 1992 CE):

“We feel that those who have returned
[Baalei Teshuvah] are those who Eliyahu
[HaNavi] has selected to lead the
Jewish people to the redemption of Mashiach.

There will be hundreds and thousands, and
their numbers will grow faster and faster.
Then the whole nation will be privileged
to greet Mashiach.”

SOURCE: Reb Simcha Speaks:
Rabbi Simcha Wasserman's Insights

(page 33) by Akiva Tatz, 1994 CE,
Mesorah Publications, ISBN10: 089906115X


Rabbi Avigdor Miller
(a leading Orthodox Rabbi, born 1908 CE, died 2001 CE):

“The Baal Teshuvah girls are the best.
A Baal Teshuvah girl is a flaming idealist,
she came in under her own power.”

SOURCE: lecture by Rabbi Avigdor Miller
titled “Career of Listening – Intent


Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD:

“In the shul where I daven,
there is a young man who is a recent
Baalei Teshuvah Watching him daven,
I am envious of the sincerity of his tefillah.”

Dear Rabbi Dear Doctor (page 214)
by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD, year 2005 CE


Please read my comments on other blogs: [third comment]

Batya said...

Rabbi Wolf, of the Great Neck Synagogue, was always so proud of us, especially those of us who made aliyah.