Sunday, April 5, 2009

Killing with self-righteous criticism - Tznius & piety


I just received this disturbing letter. Before reading it please read the following gemorah.

Bava Metzia(59a): Better it is for man to cohabit with a doubtful married woman rather than that he should publicly shame his neighbour. Whence do we know this? — From what Raba expounded, viz., What is meant by the verse, But in mine adversity they rejoiced and gathered themselves together... they did tear me, and ceased not?David exclaimed before the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Thou knowest full well that had they torn my flesh, my blood would not have poured forth to the earth. Moreover, when they are engaged in studying "Leprosies" and "Tents" they jeer at me, saying, "David! what is the death penalty of him who seduces a married woman?" I reply to them, "He is executed by strangulation, yet has he a portion in the world to come. But he who publicly puts his neighbour to shame has no portion in the world to come."’


To whom it may concern-

First of all, let me begin by saying that my husband always reads your blog. He enjoys what you have to say, and we are happy that someone out there is speaking about the degradation that is going on in our Jewish society.

A incident happened that was so shocking and so heartbreaking this past week, that it must be posted somewhere. Incidents keep happening against women on the issue of tznius throughout the world, and it needs to stop.

Mrs. X , called me in shock on Friday after 5 o'clock. She is a mother of four, a busy student, and she had to go pick up some items for Shabbos . She is waiting to check out at this busy grocery store when a frum man, wearing the traditional white shirt, black pants and jacket, pull his cart up behind her. In a soft but slicing tone, he begins to blast her on her appearance in front of oh, 50+ people that include every type of yid, non-religious customers, as well as non- Jewish cashiers. He goes on and on in front of all these people saying such things "Don't you know the negative impact your untznius dress has on your children?" "Don't you feel embarrassed that you dress like this in public?"

The humiliation went on and on, and she just stood there, frozen. She couldn't say anything. This was a complete stranger wearing the yeshivish dress who was humiliating her in front of so many people because she had a lower neckline and she was wearing short sleeves. What is wrong with this man's hashgafa? Doesn't he know that embarrassing someone is like killing another person?

To make matters worst, the second these 50+ spectators heard these hurtful things he was saying to her, not one person came immediately to defend her. Everyone just stood there and watched. I feel he should of just dumped bleach on her clothes. That would have been less embarrassing for her. There was even a women there who was covering her hair yet wearing pants, and even she didn't say anything or do anything to come to her defense! This man was committing every type of sinas chinam, and no one said anything.

Finally, after only a few minutes that felt like hours, a women who was wearing the ideal dress that this man was saying she should conform to, came up to her and told her "Don't say anything to him. You don't have to defend yourself". She then turned to this man, and firmly and somewhat harshly, put him in is place. She said to him "You are wearing the same type of dress that my husband wears, and this is what you are doing to a fellow Jew? You don't know her. You don't know what background she comes from. You don't know who her Rav is. This is what you do, embarrass and humiliate a women in front of many to push your agenda? This is how you are going to get people to become more tznius, by embarrassing them publicly? Who do YOU think YOU are?!?" She kept going off on him as my friend hurriedly checked out. She could still hear the woman firmly telling him off for his horrific behavior as she pushed her cart through the automatic doors.

She still cannot believe that this happened to her. She is thankful that her daughters who attend Bais Yakkov were not with her. I am sure this man sends his daughter there too.

As you are well aware, its seems that Judaism is falling down around us. It is only due to people like that woman in the store who are keeping true Torah alive.

Tznius has its laws, but it is each defined and internalized by each woman who chooses for herself to observe the modesty laws. In fact, a close friend of mine chose to stop wearing her shaitel because she said she feels naked in it. I, on the other hand, need to have hair, so I just re-cut my inexpensive wig for Pesach to better suit me.

We each internalize our level of modesty differently. However, this man and many more people with the misconstrued and misinterpreted message of Jewish values will (G-d forbid) kill any women desires to want observes tznius. What if my friend had just become frum, and this is what this man had said? If I was had just become frum, and this happened to me, my first thought would be to tear of my tichel and give up! However, when she told me about what this true Eishes Chayil did for her, I realized that Judaism is not lost entirely.

I am still in shock that the Jewish people right now are quickly finishing their preparations for Pesach, a time where Jews around the world remember what occurred centuries ago. Our ancestors fought against Egyptian oppression to wear Jewish proper dress, and the Jewish nation merit for redemption was due partly because they kept their religious code of dress. However, thousands of years later, a man preparing for in a few nights to discuss with his children what atrocities women faced at the hand of the Egyptians had the audacity to say something like this to another human being.

I just hope that this story leaves a message for people that while that man thought he was doing the right thing and addressing my friend's "inappropriate attire", what he did what 1,000, 000 times worse.

Thank you for your time.

27 comments :

  1. the Monsey TzadikApril 5, 2009 at 11:42 PM

    I have no doubt that person humiliating the woman is a BT, Usually the people who are so judgmental to other Jews are the BT.

    For example talmidim of Kol Yaakov (it is amazing how everything wrong in our community can be traced back to Tropper) are known to repeat that Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Jews are “shekotzim”, people who support the state of Israel are idolatry worshippers, people who eat Vita herring are drinking yain nesech (I am kidding not) and people who do not follow their kashrus standards are ochlei nevelos.

    And all that from people who ,less than a year ago used to eat bacon cheeseburgers.

    There is a blogger who posts on X-Currents who used to be a Conservative Jew, Now as a charedi his hatred for less observant Jews knows not bounds.

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  2. the Monsey TzadikApril 6, 2009 at 12:07 AM

    It is interesting that the Rashi (and others) there mentioned a prenup divorce condition, something that if was commonly used today would solve the agunot issue.

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  3. The man may or not be a BT; however he is "gantz meshugah".
    The issue is not this meshugenner, it is that as correctly pointed out, sane frum onlookers are now so intimidated by these people who are only a small statistical minority, that only one onlooker eventually came to her rescue.
    We, who are reputedly among the best educated in Torah in a long time, need to retrieve our personal courage and self-confidence. Perhaps this lack of self-confidence, even in the face of an obvious nutcase, stems from the excessive reliance on Daas Torah and thus rabbinim to guide our every action. If people thought for themselves they would have all defended the poor lady and the task would not have fallen to only one brave sole.

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  4. I'd bet a million to one that some of the people in the line were thinking that they're not such big people, but other people in the line are probably bigger talmidei chachamim and yirei shamayim; if they're not stopping the guy, in the minds of these folks, it means he musn't be stopped.

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  5. I am left to wonder why the FFB world feels the need to so often blame the ills of Chareidi society on the BT. One famous Rabbi here in Israel even said in a Radio address that child abuse was "strictly a BT phenomenon and that was why the Gedolim felt no need to deal with it."

    Someday I hope the frum community wakes up and owns up to their problems. These are BT issues, they are frum issues. There is a Jerusalem Rabbi known for accosting immodestly dressed women on Ben Yehuda street. He is not a BT, though that does not stop him.

    The truth is that BT's learn this behaviour of sinas chinam, as they learn every other behavior, from a Rav that tells them that this is the way they should think and act.

    Admittedly the BT makes a good target, a scape-goat if you will, for all the ills of frum society. As long as we can pin our problems on the BT we need not own them. We need never admit that there are serious problems within our society. That somewhere along the line our frum Jewtopia has become ill, that there is an internal cancer that needs be dealt with.

    As long was we can blame the BT, it is simple, this is something that the BT brought with them. They are people who used to openly commit aveiros so of course they are unrefined even still. It has to be them that polute the purity of our sacred communities.

    It is attitudes like this that leave me astounded that the BT movement rolls on as well as it does. It also leaves me to think that those involved in kiruv are heinous criminals. They are cons selling an illusion. For if we are honest with the potential BT and told them that they would not be welcome in many of our communities. That their children would not be welcome in our schools. That they are beneath us when it comes to making shidduch, and their children and possibly grand-children will be as well, then I doubt that so many would be sold on the program. Instead we bring them along with a warm smile and give them a "positive Jewish experience," initially making it seem as though it is only their lack of observance that keeps them from being fully a part our community. We keep that illusion as long as possible. Or at least until they have gone so far that it would be just was painful to back out.

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  6. Baruch said...

    I'd bet a million to one that some of the people in the line were thinking that they're not such big people, but other people in the line are probably bigger talmidei chachamim and yirei shamayim; if they're not stopping the guy, in the minds of these folks, it means he musn't be stopped.
    =================
    This is well known in social psychology - it is called the Bystander Effect. The more people are watching the less likely that a particular individual will respond. They assume someone else will take care of it or who are they. It was widely discussed as the result of a murder of a young woman in which 25 neighbors watched her being killed but no one called the police.

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  7. Tznius has its laws, but it is each defined and internalized by each woman who chooses for herself to observe the modesty laws. In fact, a close friend of mine chose to stop wearing her shaitel because she said she feels naked in it. I, on the other hand, need to have hair, so I just re-cut my inexpensive wig for Pesach to better suit me.

    We each internalize our level of modesty differently. However, this man and many more people with the misconstrued and misinterpreted message of Jewish values will (G-d forbid) kill any women desires to want observes tznius.
    ================
    I found the letter writer's description of tznius problematic. Especially since she says this woman sends her daughters to Beis Yaakov. There is something troublesome in the fact that her standards of tznius (which she has internalized) are clearly not that of Beis Yaakov. As a minimum her daughters are faced with a parent(s) whose values are at variance with what they are clearly taught in school.
    Did this woman in fact adopt these standards because a rav told her it was acceptable? Did she ever have a higher standard and now is backing out? Is her husband happy with it.

    All of the above does not diminish the disgusting behavior of her public critic. But there is obviously much more to this story then a modern orthodox or baalas teshuva who didn't know the standards of that society. It sounds like there is need for a sensitive rebbitzen or friend to have a talk with her to find out what is really bothering her. This is obviously a symptom of a deeper issue.

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  8. Man, I just typed a whole long comment and Blogger messed up...

    OK, basically, I would think that Bystander Effect is a result of a person not acting on his values because of peer pressure while a cult behavior is the result of values indoctrinated. Am I wrong?

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  9. Baruch said...

    Man, I just typed a whole long comment and Blogger messed up...

    OK, basically, I would think that Bystander Effect is a result of a person not acting on his values because of peer pressure while a cult behavior is the result of values indoctrinated. Am I wrong?
    ================
    Bystand Effect is simply the effect of the social situation in terms of how we actually perceive it. What we do with that perception is the result of cultural values.
    Whether the situation in the grocery story was the Bystander Effect - that it was assumed that someone else would respond or that there is a cultural conditioning to allow others to be abused for violating norms - is the point of interest.

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  10. April 6, 2009 5:21 PM

    I essentially agree. A topic worthy of further exploration, indeed.

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  11. Monsey Tzaddik (sic) doesn't have such a strong understanding of people. Baalei T'shuvah tend to have certain social issues, one of which is sometimes an intolerance. Another one, more common than intolerance, is a timidity and lack of independent thought and action. The man in this incident was no BT, that's for sure.

    I learned in Kol Yaakov and I know Reb Leib well. He has a lot of tremendous personal strengths. I have no idea what he is up to with the EJF thing and it should definitely be critiqued and watched closely, as R. Eidensohn is doing. I would say that R. Leib is a person that is perhaps "burdened" with kochos that are so great that they are difficult to appropriately restrain. He has done a lot of great things in his life and is a exceedingly great lamdan. Perhaps there would be a benefit in someone big trying to convince him that he should go back to full time learning, writing seforim, and drop his other activities.

    Kol Yaakov has A LOT of former talmidim. It would be a big mistake to generalize about them. There are other Rebbeim there that the talmidim have a kesher too and they have a positive and normalizing effect. I don't see that they are more or less normal than alumni of the various other baal t'shuvah yeshivos and I don't think it is mutar to comment a long the lines the tzadik ha'nal.

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  12. After attending a "Bullying Seminar" given by Rona Novick--this incident is the exact syndrome that occurs. Bullies continue their way of life and mode of behavior BECAUSE the bystanders are passive, afraid and at times encouraging.
    _________________________________

    "It sounds like there is need for a sensitive rebbitzen or friend to have a talk with her to find out what is really bothering her. This is obviously a symptom of a deeper issue".--- Sounds to me that a sensitive Rav, Rebbe, Rosh Yeshiva or Friend should have a talk with this 'talmid chochom' and find out what is really bothering him. This is obviously a symptom of a deeper issue...

    BT or not????? Good question??? Not sure that is connected to this humiliating episode. If he is a BT through Rav Grossman or Reb Noah zt"l who shower their talmidim with love this could never occur.

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  13. Don't judge Judaism by the Jews. We are, unfortunately, lousy representatives of our faith.

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  14. "I found the letter writer's description of tznius problematic. Especially since she says this woman sends her daughters to Beis Yaakov. There is something troublesome in the fact that her standards of tznius (which she has internalized) are clearly not that of Beis Yaakov. As a minimum her daughters are faced with a parent(s) whose values are at variance with what they are clearly taught in school.
    Did this woman in fact adopt these standards because a rav told her it was acceptable? Did she ever have a higher standard and now is backing out? Is her husband happy with it."

    Say she is the type who just doesn't care. that isnt the point here, it is this guy coming up to her out of nowhere and letting her know that he had evaluated her level of dress and and the result is not up to his standard. i think his comments should be reserved for his family members. not someone who it obviously won't have any effect, and embarrassing her at the same time. wouldn't any normal human being say this quietly, outside the supermarket? that is the issue here, the mother certainly does send mixed signal to her daughter, but that is not the topic here. i agree it is an issue though. just not relevant to the story

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  15. "I found the letter writer's description of tznius problematic. Especially since she says this woman sends her daughters to Beis Yaakov. There is something troublesome in the fact that her standards of tznius (which she has internalized) are clearly not that of Beis Yaakov. As a minimum her daughters are faced with a parent(s) whose values are at variance with what they are clearly taught in school.
    Did this woman in fact adopt these standards because a rav told her it was acceptable? Did she ever have a higher standard and now is backing out? Is her husband happy with it."

    ONCE AGAIN, we are blaming the VICTIM.

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  16. "I found the letter writer's description of tznius problematic. Especially since she says this woman sends her daughters to Beis Yaakov. There is something troublesome in the fact that her standards of tznius (which she has internalized) are clearly not that of Beis Yaakov. As a minimum her daughters are faced with a parent(s) whose values are at variance with what they are clearly taught in school."

    Well said. I think there is more to this one-side story, that very well may have been embellished.

    Additionally, there is a far greater societal problem with lack of adherence to tznius, than the fanatics who resort to verbal or physical violence purportedly to uphold tznius. The former is very widespread and R'L visable daily in great multitudes, while the latter is a fringe that barely registers on the Richter scale (although when it does happen [as well as when it does not but is claimed to have] it is greatly reported and condemned.)

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  17. ack said...

    "I found the letter writer's description of tznius problematic. Especially since she says this woman sends her daughters to Beis Yaakov. There is something troublesome in the fact that her standards of tznius (which she has internalized) are clearly not that of Beis Yaakov. As a minimum her daughters are faced with a parent(s) whose values are at variance with what they are clearly taught in school.
    Did this woman in fact adopt these standards because a rav told her it was acceptable? Did she ever have a higher standard and now is backing out? Is her husband happy with it."

    ONCE AGAIN, we are blaming the VICTIM.
    ==============
    This is not blaming the victim. I didn't say she deserved being grossly embarrassed or that her critic had the right to embarrass her.

    I said that her behavior indicates that there are issues of inconsistency - which even if she views what she is doing as legitimate - she needs to address them.

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  18. Garnel,
    We (Klal Yisroel) are GEVALDIG!!! And yes, we need to get even better.

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  19. I said that her behavior indicates that there are issues of inconsistency - which even if she views what she is doing as legitimate - she needs to address them.
    ----That may or may NOT be true, WHAT about the behavior of the so-called talmid chochom? have we taken the time to analyze his issues, inconsistencies, and what he and others consider LEGITIMATE BEHAVIOR?
    I believe that there is some truth to what Jack alluded to as placing the blame on the victim's head. "She made me act this way" "If she would only obey the holy mesorah I never would have......." "I am only throwing rocks since they are distrubing the heilich shabbos" etc....

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  20. Michoel, look around. We are in golus. We were put in golus because we sucked at being good and doing the right thing. We're still in golus, therefore we still suck.

    As for the statements regarding the victim being inconsistent, may I remind everyone we have no idea what she was dressed like. She may have indeed been completely consistent with her social crowd. One can be totally tznius in one crowd and a flamin' prutzah for another. After all, we're talking about some groups who think that if the woman doesn't shave her head and wearing stockings with a black line in them that she's a whore, right?
    All we know is that this guy acted like the part of your body you excrete with and we're trying to have an enlightened discussion when the issue is much simpler: he's a jerk.

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  21. Although the one who was publicly shaming the woman seems to be obviously wrong, how does this fit with the Gemara that said that Rebbi tore off a red dress from a non Jewish woman in public in error thinking that she was Jewish?

    Perhaps in his time this activity was a much more blatant violation of a standard accepted by all of clal Yisroel.

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  22. tzoorba said...

    Although the one who was publicly shaming the woman seems to be obviously wrong, how does this fit with the Gemara that said that Rebbi tore off a red dress from a non Jewish woman in public in error thinking that she was Jewish?

    Perhaps in his time this activity was a much more blatant violation of a standard accepted by all of clal Yisroel.
    ==================
    I assume you are referring to the following. It wasn't Rebbe but R' Adda and you will note he was punished for the act. He was praised for his yiras shamayim but it is not clear whether it as an admirable act. It is more similar to the issue of when you see someone wearing shatnez in the street whether you rip it off or wait until the person is able to change their clothing. I don't recall any examples from the Talmud where someone is praised for publicly criticizing a woman for not wearing proper clothes.

    Berachos (20a): The former generations used to be ready to sacrifice their lives for the sanctity of [God's] name; we do not sacrifice our lives for the sanctity of [God's] name. There was the case of R. Adda b. Ahaba who saw a heathen woman wearing a red head-dress9 in the street, and thinking that she was an Israelite woman, he rose and tore it from her. It turned out that she was a heathen woman, and they fined him four hundred zuz. He said to her: What is your name. She replied: Mathun. Mathun, he said to her: that makes four hundred zuz.

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  23. If the Gemara brings Rav Adda as an example of mesiras nefesh for the sanctity of G-d's name, it apparently felt that this was a good act.

    The 400 dollar payment just shows he was ready to sacrifice for kedusha.

    If this were a totally wrong act, it wouldn't be brought as an example of righteousness.

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  24. the Monsey TzadikApril 16, 2009 at 1:16 AM

    "....I assume you are referring to the following. It wasn't Rebbe but R' Adda..."

    Was not r' Adda the same guy who said someplace else:

    "No one has ever preceded me to the synagogue, nor has any one ever remained in the synagogue after my departure.
    I never walked as much as four cubits without meditating on the Law, and never thought of its contents at places not scrupulously clean.
    Nor did I prepare a bed for myself to enjoy regular sleep.
    nor did I disturb my colleagues by walking to my seat at college among them.
    I never nicknamed my neighbor nor rejoiced at his fall.
    Anger against my neighbor.
    I never went to bed with me, and I never passed the street near where my debtor lived;
    and while at home I never betrayed impatience, in order to observe what is said (in ), 'I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.' "
    (Jerusalem Talmud Taanit 67a

    Tzoorba,

    Until recently assaulting women was not acceptable behavior for Orthodox Jews.

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  25. Monsey Tzadik,

    By the way, you can't be the Monsey tzaddik because I live in Monsey (and so does Doniel's tzaddik brother). Only kidding :-).

    From Rav Adda we see that there are times that strong action is appropriate.

    In general, we hold that hochayach tochiach should be done in a gentle and loving fashion.

    My question is when is strong action appropriate?

    We know that if you see someone wearing shatnez, you are supposed to strip the person of it even in the street to save him from the sin. Perhaps in the case of the red dress, it was like wearing shatnez in those days in that it was a flagrant act of pritzus.

    Rabbi Miller z"l used to call out women in public in his Shul who were not dressed modestly.

    The story accompanying this article appears to be a very egregious example of over zealousness. However, there are many women (and men in their own issues) that deserve to be berated for their breach of Torah standards.

    The main question is when and where.

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  26. mekubal said... "I am left to wonder why the FFB world feels the need to so often blame the ills of Chareidi society on the BT.
    ...
    It is attitudes like this that leave me astounded that the BT movement rolls on as well as it does."
    Obviously, there are many different kinds of people who become frum for many different reasons. Baalei teshuva are people who, assuming they were well-adjusted individuals to begin with, have chosen to uproot their lives for the sake of Hashem. As such, they are, broadly speaking, a very positive influence in the frum world. At the same time, this not mean that they arrive without any negative baggage, and this reality should be recognized by both the baalei teshuva themselves and the broader community. There clearly are problems that are more common among baalei teshuva than the general community. This, of course, does not justify any kind of broad discriminatory attitudes or practices. We should treat people as individuals, not as members of a category.

    mekubal said further... It also leaves me to think that those involved in kiruv are heinous criminals. They are cons selling an illusion. For if we are honest with the potential BT ... then I doubt that so many would be sold on the program. ...As a child of parents from non-religious backgrounds, and a person who has worked "professionally" in kiruv, I have to disagree with this assessment.

    First of all, while there certainly is discrimination against baalei teshuva (and their children) it simply isn't as bad as mekubal is describing. Under normal circumstances, the children of baalei teshuva are accepted in frum schools, though perhaps not always the exact school that the parents desired (this happens to many frum parents as well). Baalei teshuva can have difficulty getting married (as do any number of frum singles as well) for a wide range of issues. Honestly, in many cases they are best off marrying other baalei teshuva. Their children may have some difficulty, but unless they fall into the common trap of seeking a "prestige" shidduch, they will almost always find a fine frum young man or woman to marry. (Frankly, those families that are most likely to have a strong bias against baalei teshuva are, in any event, very unlikely to provide an appropriate shidduch for a baal teshuva or his children.)

    Secondly, the idea that sincere baalei teshuva would not have accepted the truth of the Torah and their obligation to follow the mitzvos if they had been aware of the social difficulties that they would face in the frum community shows a deep disregard for the sincerity and sacrifices that baalei teshuva are making. These are serious people! They aren't "joining" because they like the social scene; they are "returning" to Hashem because they are convinced that this is their moral duty.

    Finally, I can't speak for other kiruv "professionals", but when I have worked with families in the process of becoming observant, I have always been careful to be sure that they went into religious observance with their eyes open, aware of the various social issues they would face. My concern was to properly prepare them for the difficulties they would face and to advise them on steps they can take to mitigate, to some degree, some of these difficulties.

    Michoel said... "Baalei T'shuvah tend to ... timidity and lack of independent thought and action."People who choose to move away from the societal norm and become religious Jews are clearly capable of independent thought and action. At the same time, baalei teshuva are late-comers to Judaism and, by necessity, need to receive a greater degree of guidance than a person who was raised in a frum household and received a Torah education from childhood (at least initially). This does not indicate an inherent tendency towards timidity or lack of independence.

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