Monday, November 17, 2008

Shluchim people, hear my cry!

I understand that I may have been a bit harsh yesterday to people who have returned to this, the faith of our fathers. If I did, I would like to say that I'm intensely sorry.

One of the most enjoyable things to say to a child of baalei teshuvah is the Kotzker Rebbe's explanation of why tzaddikim can't stand in the place of baalei teshuvah. This statement is generally taken to mean that by types are incredibly high, exalted above even the greatest
righteous types. The Kotzker said, "You know why they can't stand there? Because it smells so bad."

Typically, children of repentant sorts will grab whatever is nearest (for the convenience, of course) and attempt to make violent contact with mine body. This is generally why I only repeat this particular statement when in a padded room, or alternatively zal. Once I explain where I'm coming from (not that I quite understand it myself), I repeat the statement of R' Hillel Poritcher, or maybe it was R' Isaac Homler, about their view of baalei teshuvah. Basically, whichever one of was didn't trust them; after all, that they sinned he knew for sure, but their repentance? Only G-d knows that.
By this time I'm usually in full flight, pursued by thousands of crazed repentants. Before the comment box has a similar vibe going, let me just say that I don't necessarily believe everything I wrote above. So why did I write it, and why do I say it? Simple. Because I can.

All right, the answer is slightly more intelligent than that. See, I have this thing of exposing people to other viewpoints. I don't think this is necessarily a good thing, and I generally do it more to my own entertainment than anything, but it is what it is.

The truth, according to Garth, is that baalei teshuvah completely and utterly rock the house. So why didn't I wish to appear like one? Because it's disconcerting, and even more so, because it makes me feel like I'm being patronized. It's like walking into your office one day, and instead of treating you like an employee, everyone acts as if you're a guest. "What is going on," you wonder, "have I been fired, or is everyone on acid, or what?" That feeling, that odd and sinking pull you experience in your stomach as you slowly realize that something is horribly wrong; you know what I'm saying? Being treated like a visitor is fine for visitors, but or an employee, it's certainly not Best Day Ever. A BT would be treated differently than fresh fodder off the street, of course, but as a bochur, I'm used to operating in an entirely different manner. When bochurim are at a Chabad house, they're there because they've been brought out to help in some capacity, not because they want to be helped. Even when I tried to help, my efforts were kindly rebuffed. My soul cried out, "Please, let me help in the kitchen, the sanctuary, something!" And the response, kindly intentioned and kindly expressed, "Please, have a seat, make yourself at home." "But," my soul continues to bleat, "this is how I make myself at home!" And no one heard my plaintive cry.Um, yeah, it wasn't quite that melodramatic, and I see opportunity for entertainment if the situation perseveres, but I just thought you should understand a little from where I'm coming.


Leo de Toot said...

Dear Mr. R.S.:
Fascinating post of yours. I suspect that the circumstances of your visit may have contributed to your disconcerting status - presumably you were introduced to the relevant Chabad House by a "BT" and therefore your true status was in question. Regardless of the circumstances at least you have some insight into the dubious position of "BTs" within Chabad. To paraphrase, "all BTs are equal but some are more equal than others" and the attitude of Chabad shluchim reflects this. Stage 1 involves the early BT phase - shliach very welcoming, enthusiastic, all fun and encouragement, all doors open etc. The final stage, perhaps Stage 4 or 5, the BT is fully integrated in yiddishkeit but not, ever ever, completely accepted. Ultimately the BT remains an unknown, a potential source of sin (probably because he/she actually went to college), someone not to be trusted, certainly no one your sister/brother should marry. And this is the really sad part - and why I think so many BTs make it to Stage 4 or 5 (I have to work on the definitions of each stage - stage 3 is probably characterized by "buys a black hat" for example) and then don't progress further. Because ultimately they know they will never be trusted. So, anyway, I'm sorry you had the experience but at least you get to appreciate what it feels like to be (always) on the outside looking in.
Through the looking glass as always, L de Toot (note the literary reference corresponding to your earlier post).

frumhouse said...

What an amazing and insightful post.

Nemo said...

I think it's your beard that got them all BT-phobic about you ;)

e said...

Where were you? And which shliach treated you like a BT? You're telling us all the "feelings" and "fluff," but you haven't told us any hard facts.

Also, just so that you know that my praise (when I give it) is sincere, I'd like to tell you that this post was horribly written. I could not follow your train of thought. I just got the main ideas: you don't like being treated like a BT; some holy people said nasty things about BTs. More than that, I could not get.

Just like a guy said...

e: go look at the previous post, the one that this was going on, and you'll understand. Meaning, click on the links provided.
And I'm sorry if this post was badly written, but it happens to be very difficult to edit posts on an iPod.

Anonymous said...

I think the kotzker and r'hillel paritcher were reffering to those who grew up frum, left the derech and returned. Today's baalei teshuva (like your parent's and mine) would be more in the category of Tinok Shenishba. And who can be so repulsed or suspicious of those who didn't know better l'chatchila? Plus, you didn't bring what the Rebbe said about balei teshuva....

e said...

Aha. I never saw those links, because I originally read the post on my phone. Well, now I know who the rabbi was, but I still feel like I haven't heard most of the story.

RE: anonymous
I hate you. You're one of those obnoxious people who are always right because they mix the Rebbe in.

Just like a guy said...

anon: yasher loach. There's a reason I wrote that I like to say this shtuff to kids of BTs. Heck, I'm the son of BTs. Whatever, if you get it, good, otherwise, well, comment again and I'll try and explain it.

E: there's a certain way BTs are treated in lubavitch. That's the way I was treated. And I agree, once they bring the Rebbe in, it gets annoying.