Traveling the path of a ba’alat teshuvah isn’t the easiest and sometimes it feels like it takes forever to get where you want/need to be, wherever that is. The path that I have taken is that of Chabad, a Chassidic group that focuses on spreading the light. That’s how I was brought in, by an outreach group of this particular sect of Judaism. I became close to the rabbi and his family that led the group and eventually made it to the shul he belonged to. People were warm and inviting, I saw their light and it began to make my wick desire the fire that it knew was imminent. I was hooked.
After a little bit of time, slowly but surely taking on all of the mitzvot, moving within a mile of the Chabad House in my town, getting two new sets of dishes, pots and pans – no wait, three, an extra fleishig set for Pesach – and purchasing ultra-modest clothing, I feel like maybe I’m “there.” But where is “there?” I’m not sure, and I hope I’ll never know. I always hope to be growing, reaching for the stars, making myself better, learning, learning, learning…
Last night I was listening to my daughter entertain our guests as I finished frying the last latkes and cutting up an Israeli salad. I can’t tell you the nachas I shepped, pride I received, from that encounter. I thought to myself, “How did I get here?! My child knows what to do, she is entertaining the guests, doing hachnasas orchim, hosting guests, and doing a mighty fine job of it.” Okay, maybe I’m giving my, kah, 5-year-old daughter too much credit. Is she really thinking about fulfilling the mitzvah? Is she doing it because she wants to spread light? Or is she doing it because children enjoy being the center of attention?
I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter why she is doing it, but rather the fact that she is doing it. For a lot of us, there are things we need to be doing, and sometimes we do it unknowingly, but the important part is that we are doing it.
Before we started down this path of teshuva, we didn’t have a lot of guests over. Actually, we didn’t really have anyone over, ever. My daughter was ultra-shy when we met new people. When we began hosting people for meals, she was still very shy, it took her a while to warm up to them to even say hello. Now we are inviting guests for Shabbos, yomim tovim and just normal nights for dinner. My daughter entertains, I cook, clean and educate. We have conversations, love those who enter our home and show our love and fear of G-d. If you told me two years ago this is what I would be doing today, I would tell you to stop kidding yourself.
This was the moment that I said, “I’m there.” Just like all of those homes that I walked in to scared and shy to unfamiliar territories, the children came and took us by the hand – figuratively if not literally – and told us to not be scared and look, here are toys! Now my daughter was that child that I was so very thankful for when I began to traverse this path.
Realizing that your life is where you always wanted it to be (even if you didn’t know that for many, many years!) is a good feeling. It’s like waking up in the morning and realizing that you’re living life. It’s pretty cool, life’s a pretty cool thing, it’s hard to get, but once you get how to play the game and use the rules provided, it’s pretty sweet. Now that I’m “there,” all I can continue to do is do what I have been doing for the past two years. Continuing to learn, continuing to have guests, continuing to cleave closer to G-d and understand the directives from my spiritual leader, the Rebbe.
This journey for klal Yisrael was only started after we said, “naaseh v’nishma,” we will do and we will listen, saying that our children are our guarantors to continue the Torah from generation to generation. The best thing I have now is the ability to transmit good middos, values, to the next generation.