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A Baal Teshuva is like an Immigrant (Part two)

We can discuss the 5 stages they both go through in more depth

A Baal Teshuva is like an Immigrant (Part two)
Now that we’ve learned the 5 stages an immigrant goes through: the great lights, dissonance, opposition, balance and harmony which we discussed in  part one we can briefly touch on them and show how they are the stages a Baal Teshuva must also go through to succeed in his adjustment to religious Jewish society.

Stage one, the great lights: Enthusiasm and excitement, euphoria and the sure feeling that the truth is in our pockets. Everyone can tell over their own stories about this first love of this new and exciting world. But we know a rocket must use a real lot of energy to break the bonds of gravity. This first love will dissipate and reality sinks in. You still need to pay your mortgage and your head is no longer in the clouds about your newly found life of truth. The edifice you built for yourself starts to show cracks and that’s when we come to stage two.  

Stage two, dissonance: The energy of your initial enthusiasm wore off and you become somewhat perfunctory in your mitzvah performance and lack the depth and meaning you are searching for. You’re striving for heights far out of reach without being aware of your own reality. This striving is frustrating because you may be striving without the depth and meaning you need to succeed. Remember your romance wore off and you must really look inside yourself to be able to remember where you came from and move on from there in small increments.

An analogy to this is shooting a gun. There is a rear sight and a front sight and they both need to match up. The front sight is the Torah life that you are aiming for, but the rear sight is where you came from, your own life. Both of these sights must be aligned to aim successfully. You must know and be true to where you came from to use the strengths already inside you to move forward. Not doing that is not emotionally or intellectually honest with yourself and you are throwing out a great resource for success- yourself!

Stage 3, opposition/ (getting lost): This is painful and the person deals with the pain of disenchantment searching for meaning and not always finding it. He sees things that turn him off pf his commitments and struggles to hold on to his achievements. If the songs sung in stage one were about finding the light stage two songs may be about moving forward but looking for meaning. Stage three songs are about pain and darkness and some hope to come back to the light.

Stage four, balance, equilibrium: Finding balance within yourself. You begin to align your own sight with the sight of your goal to attain the Torah life you adapted and work with who you are to get to where you want to be. Like the Italian immigrant that now embraces what he was and the culture of his new country simultaneously and begins to feel more integrated on one hand yet surer of his own identity on the other.

Stage 5, harmony: You succeeded in adapting the Torah society and culture and integrating it into your life. You integrated yourself and family into Torah society and thrive in your new environment because you are true to whom you are and use your individuality to move forward in Torah life expressing yourself from inside and growing in Torah. This is the harmony we strive for in life and we strive for holiness based on the truth of who we are and where we want to go.

It is important to note that in Jewish history spiritual growth wasn’t linear, an arrow sloping steadily upwards. There were always ups and downs. Even after receiving the Torah the people still complained about the fish they ate in Egypt along with the different vegetables there. There were 42 travels through the desert toward the Promised Land but not all of them were forward some were going backward.  If you feel the pain of stage two or three you should know you’re in the middle of a process that takes work and initiative. However, knowing what you do you can help yourself as you help friends going through the same thing each strengthening the other.

May we all reach harmony in serving G-d the way we strive to, using the strengths G-d gave each of us in his own way, true to ourselves, our families and to G-d.
 
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