Friday Candle Lighting: 7:49 pm
Shabbat Ends: 8:50 pm
A Gift from the Wilderness
“…a gift from the Wilderness – the gift went to the valley and from the valley to the heights and from the heights to the valley in the field of Moav, at the top of the peak, overlooking the surface of the wilderness” (21:19-20)
Most ba’alei teshuva (returnees to Torah living) will tell you how at one point they sprang out of bed with “Modeh Ani” barely having left their lips, and rushed off to daven, unbelievably charged with the thought of putting on tefillin and davening — however slowly — with a minyan. How the expectation of Shabbat was visceral and the vistas of Torah were breathtaking.
And then, somewhere along the line, habit begins to dull the gloss. It’s not that the secular world has such a strong pull. Mostly you feel: been there, done that. Worn the T-shirt. Sometimes even knitted the T-shirt. It’s just that at some point you realize that you are different, and however religious you become you’re always going to be an “outsider.” It’s ironic that to be a ba’al teshuva you have to be somewhat rebellious. If not, you’d never have given up your nine-to-five existence to become a 24-hour a day “Yid.” And then you find yourself in one of the most conformist systems known to man. You could become bitter. Or you could pin your hopes on your children. After all, they’re “religiousfrom birth” and instinctively know how to walk the walk and talk the talk. But that’s also a challenge. The majority of noshrim (“dropouts” from the observant world) seem to have either chutznik (non-Israeli) parents or ba’al teshuva parents. And if you have both — that’s a double-whammy. Despite this, with a lot of prayer and common sense it is possible to bring up normal and well-adjusted Orthodox children.
But what about their parents? Are they just a stepping stone that’s been stepped over?
Never give up on your dreams.
The “gift of the wilderness” — the gift of water, the gift of Torah — comes miraculously out of the desert of a secular life. You have to follow that water. Sometimes it goes down to the valley, and sometimes it rises miraculously, and against its nature — to heights. But it can also return seeking the fields of Moav, the tremendous pull of the 49 gates of impurity.
Yet, if you keep going and you’re not prepared to stop and say. “Well, I got this far. Not bad for a ba’al teshuva!” If you keep following the water it will lift you to the top of the peak overlooking the surface of the wilderness, and you will know how far you have come.