Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
Teshuva is a concept that many of us associate with the High Holidays and actions of repentance. Teshuva means return, and – as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur arrive - many of us return to our families, our roots, and our Jewish practice. A Ba’al Teshuva is an individual who “returns” to an Orthodox Jewish life. A Ba’al Teshuva was not raised in an Orthodox Jewish environment, but he or she has come back to a traditional path of life.
Whether you are a Ba’al Teshuva (returning to traditional Judaism) or are making the smallest of changes in your Jewish practice, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz asserts that his book, Teshuva: A Guide for the Newly Observant Jew will be of benefit to you.
Rabbi Steinsaltz opens the door to the journey of change in an approachable and welcoming manner. The path of teshuva, according to Steinsaltz, merely requires the admittance of imperfection and the desire or resolve to make a change. Action is the path of the Ba’al Teshuva.
Teshuva, he further states, is ongoing and endless. We never reach perfection and, therefore, can always find something to improve in our lives. When one habit is broken, most of us can easily identify the next habit to be replaced.
Returning to Judaism is a series of replacing old habits with new habits.
If you are not on the path to traditional Judaism, you may find this book a challenging read. While the intention of Rabbi Steinsaltz was to also serve those who were making small changes to their Jewish practice, one might feel harshly judged or not measuring up.
It is a difficult undertaking to share the path of the Ba’al Teshuva and, in the same breath, caution one against taking everything on at once. Rabbi Steinsaltz wisely suggests the appointment of a guide – a Rabbi – as well as a supportive community throughout this journey. He acknowledges the doubt that can arise and encourages those on the path to accept the phase.
Further, Rabbi Steinsaltz warns against being one who is continuously on the path without much of a transformation. It is action that leads one to change, replacing old habits with the habits and lifestyles of a religious Jew.
His words are often poetic and have the potential to lure even the non-religious into a place of interest. However, if a particular message (there are many that he shares) is beyond what one is ready to hear, one might respond in defensiveness.
One of the most important elements in the path of a Ba’al Teshuva is that of consistency. Torah study is not be entered on a sporadic basis when one has the free time. Rather, this (consistent Torah study) is one of the most important habits a Ba’al Teshuva should create.
No matter where you are on your path of Jewish exploration, there are wise tidbits to gleam for this well-admired and highly respected Rabbi. I believe this book is best suited for those who are ba’al teshuva or for those who want to deepen their understanding and who seek inspiration for their own growth.
I purchased this book on my own accord and decided to write a review on it. If you are interested in purchasing this book, you can find it at Amazon: