The Hebrew word TESHUVA stands for REPENTANCE. Generally speaking, the concept of repentance refers to building a closer relationship with G-d.
The definition of a BA’AL TESHUVA (Female: BA’ALAT TESHUVA) is a born Jew with a secular upbringing who, for whatever reason, decides in the course of his life to become religious. Being a Ba’al Teshuva doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has to turn into a super frum Jew. There are many ways of Teshuva and several ways of Jewish Orthodoxy. A newly religious Jew is not automatically doomed to move to Mea Shearim. 🙂
Becoming a Ba’al Teshuva is anything but easy because the people have to deal with certain issues from their former lives. No one should rush the process and put on a black hat after a week or so. Teshuva takes a long time and even more patience.
When a formerly secular Jew starts thinking about Teshuva, his environment may not be too excited about this idea. Many times, the Ba’al Teshuva has to face stupid remarks such as “You won’t make it anyway” or “Why are you doing these ridiculous things?”
There are always outsiders who try to badmouth the Ba’al Teshuva. And here I am referring to other secular Jews. People with a negative attitude tell others that they will fail anyway and do everything wrong.
It is extremely important that the Ba’al Teshuva sticks to his own way and doesn’t get influenced by others badmouthing him. He has to concentrate on his own individual goals in life and the best way to do so is surrounding oneself with people who think the same way. With other Ba’alei Teshuva and Teshuva classes (Shiurim). However, only dealing with other Teshuva people can also go on one’s nerves sometimes, as I know from my own experience. Nevertheless, the Ba’al Teshuva should keep away or ignore all people badmouthing him or dragging him down. While they do so, they are happy and really enjoy seeing the other person suffering.
This whole concept doesn’t only apply to a Ba’al Teshuva but to all kinds of different situations in life. There are always people who love to badmouth others and just tell them that they are a failure anyway. This is where such people get their pleasure from because they don’t have anything else in life.
At the moment, I am reading a great TESHUVA book by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who is referring to this Ba’al Teshuva issue.