Years later these young Baalei Teshuva have several children – all attending day schools. They lead their lives in the most ethical of ways and their actions are motivated by the values of the Torah. Their siblings continued to live their lives in the most self-centered of ways.
Their still secular parents who at first were apprehensive about their Baal Teshuva children having “rebelled” against the secular values they tried to instill are now enjoying being grandparents fully involved with their children and grandchildren. But they do not have that much of a connection to their secular children.
I think the appeal for many Baalei Teshuva is more along the lines of the structure and steadiness of an Observant lifestyle. Not so much on the faith aspect of Judaism. This is not to say that they aren’t believers in God. Of course they are. But that was not what precipitated their choice to become observant.
I am also not saying that this is always the case. There are plenty of secular Jews who live very wholesome lives. But I think there are a lot of Baalei Teshuva that can relate to situation I described including their motivation to become observant.
I believe that this kind of thinking also motivates Orthoprax atheists like Zeke Emanuel. They see the Taful (fringe benefits) and consider it the Ikkar (essesnce). What they fail to realize is that belief in God is the most important element of Judaism. Practicing the rituals of Judaism may help one keep his identity as a Jew. But the essence of Judaism is to do the will of God, and not to just lead the moral and ethical lifestyle of a Jew.
Nonetheless, I consider it a plus that they are observant. That means that at some level they identify as Jews. In the event that they at some point realize that there is a God in the world, their identification as Jews will make all the Mitzvos they do now count. And they will not have to make any great changes in their lifestyles.
Chazal tells us that when one does sincere Teshuva for sins that have been committed, all of those sins turn into Mitzvos. Perhaps that is true for those who were observant when they were atheists. Perhaps they will then get full credit in the eyes of God for being observant even when they didn’t believe in Him.
About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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