On one level, one could not help but be impressed by the intensity and earnestness at Aish Hatorah, circa 1983, of young people devoting themselves to the mission of revitalizing their own spiritual lives and attempting to persuade others to do the same. A spirit of idealism and camaraderie pervaded the walls. Yet at the very same time, I found myself deeply troubled by the messages I was hearing, and the understanding of truth being purveyed was very different from the way I understood the term and continue to understand it.
This series of blog posts seeks to discuss, if only preliminarily, the journey of ba’alei teshuvah (loosely defined as those who were not raised in a home of halakhic observance but chose this way of life at some point) and their place within Orthodox communities. Along with reflecting upon my own experience as a ba’al teshuvah, I would like to examine the mirror that ba’alei teshuva hold up to Orthodox society and the phenomenon of self-negation that often accompanies this quest for acceptance.