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How do you become a Baal Teshuvah? What steps would you recommend in beginning to take on observance? I try to say Modeh Ani every morning keep Kosher and Shabbos but I get bored and need to think of things to do.

Can you please help me?

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    I think it'll be useful to collect answers for this, in the general sense. For personal advice for your own progression, I strongly recommend consulting with a rabbi or other mentor whom you know or will get to know. – Isaac Moses Mar 23 at 15:01
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    Try a little Torah study. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, a famous Baal Teshuvah once wrote in a letter encouraging someone who was "becoming" a Baal Teshuva: "Got your letter, and it was nice to hear from you. In answer to your question: No. I essentially started from ground zero around the time I was 13. That's not so terrible. Rabbi Eliezer HaGadol started when he was 20, and Rabbi Akiba when he was 40. It's not when you start, it's what you do after you start!......... Your observations about Judaism being complex and endless is completely correct. The more you learn, the more you see." – Dr. Shmuel Mar 23 at 23:43
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Congratulations on your efforts. You will benefit a lot from

  • developing a relation with one or more religious Jews
  • finding a Rabbi who understands you and can help in your search
  • learning Torah - see here for some online resources which might help you and here for a reading list I compiled for similar cases
  • some resources for those beginning to keep Shabbos here

You will likely find this community to be very supportive, so feel free to come back and ask more questions.

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    Thank you so much shavua tov! – Ben Levin Mar 23 at 15:08
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    @BenLevin (As a new user) if you like a particular answer you can upvote it - the up arrowhead to the left of the answer. Also over time if one answer is particularly instructive, you can accept it - the checkmark. Not to say that participants, particularly on this stackexchange, are driven by such recognition, but it's a nice way to acknowledge their effort. Regards, – user24795 Mar 23 at 15:28
  • @BenLevin seeing your other questions on Shabbat, I added 3 books in the last 2 bullet points here which I think could be directly helpful to you – mbloch Mar 23 at 18:39
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Welcome to Mi Yodeya.

Your question is a big one (meaning that to really answer properly, would require a very long response). But with that said, hopefully, you will find this helpful.

You open your question by asking, "How do you become a Baal Teshuvah?"

For many, this specific term (in English, someone who has mastered the process of returning to G-d) has a particular meaning relating to someone who is working on themselves to correct some kind of transgression either against G-d, or their fellow human beings, or both and has completed that work. This concept is discussed in many places, but one clearly worded place discussing it is in Rambam's Mishneh Torah, Laws of Teshuvah, Chapter 2, Law 1.

But reading the balance of your question indicates that you mean this in a more general sense. That you are trying to learn more about what it means to incorporate traditional Jewish observance into your life on a daily basis. And that is a very big question indeed!

While agreeing with all the good recommendations already offered by mbloch in the first answer, I would suggest that you might find the following very helpful because of its broadly encompassing nature.

Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, wrote an all encompassing book dealing precisely with the subject of your very big question entitled Mishneh Torah.

Rambam himself wrote in his introduction to this book that any Jew who used his book would not require any other resource to know what was required to live a traditional Jewish life.

Therefore, have I, Moses son of Maimon, of Spain, girded up my loins, and, supporting myself upon the Rock, blessed be He, made a comprehensive study of all those books and minded myself to construct out of all these compilations a clear summary on the subject of that which is forbidden or permitted, defiled or clean along with the other laws of the Torah, the whole scope in pure language and concise style, so that the Oral Torah be entirely methodical in the mouth of everybody, without query and without repartee, without the contentious thus of one and such of another, but clear text, cohesive, correct, in harmony with the law which is defined out of all these existing compilations and commentaries from the days of our Holy Master till now; so that all laws be open to young and old, whether they be laws concerning each and every commandment or whether they be laws concerning matters instituted by scholars and prophets. The main object of the matter being, that no man shall have a need of any other compilation in the world for any law of the laws of Israel, but this compilation shall be a cyclopedia of the whole Oral Torah together with a code of the statutes, customs and edicts which were enacted since the days of Moses our Master until the close of the Talmud, even as they were interpreted for us by the Gaonim in all their compilations which were compiled by them since the Talmudic era. Therefore, have I named this compilation Mishneh Torah; for, when one studies Holy Writ first and thereafter reads this Work, he obtains herefrom a complete knowledge of the Oral Torah, having no need to read any other book in between them.

The book is intended to be read in order and each idea presented is built upon what preceeds it. The following link will connect you to the beginning of his overview to the contents of the Mishneh Torah.

May it be a continuous source of inspiration for you in learning how to take on traditional Jewish observance so that you may progress for the rest of your life, going from strength to strength and may it be with joy (Serve G-d with joy!) and without boredom.

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    A note of caution: For most people, it's not advised to follow everything in the Mishneh Torah. Most communities that you would join don't follow the Rambam 100% of the time. It would be better to seek out a competent Rabbi to teach you contemporary practice. I believe Yaakov Deane is simply suggesting you read this (massive) work to get a feel for Jewish law and be inspired to learn more. – robev Mar 23 at 17:31
  • @robev I would love to see your list of those who advise not to follow the Mishneh Torah. The Rogatchover Gaon and many others would laugh. Following Rambam’s view 100% of the time is your limitation & not indicated in my answer in any way. Regarding the balance of your comment, see paragraphs 5 & 6 in my answer. – Yaacov Deane Mar 23 at 18:27
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    I don't believe you follow everything in the Mishneh Torah. Who are you kidding...I said most communities. Your straw man is unnecessary. I didn't say many advise not to follow the Mishneh Torah. I said many don't. I'd say the vast majority of Jewry, save for Yemenites, don't follow the Mishneh Torah 100% of the time. That's not how halacha works. – robev Mar 23 at 19:14
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    This newcomer to observant Judaism sees you telling them to read this book of Jewish law. How are they to know that following it 100% will be detrimental to their growth? At the same time, why wouldn't they assume that they have to follow everything it says? Your lack of clarification is where my "limitation" came from. That's why I added a word or caution. – robev Mar 23 at 19:16
  • Yaacov, I hear where you're coming from but am not sure this is the right advice for a BT. I am one myself. I also learned MT from one end to the other (over 3 years) and am going through Hilchot Shmita again, this time with Kesef Mishne and Radbaz, in depth. I can't think of a more impressive work of scholarship. But it is really hard for a beginner, makes lots of assumptions, goes into so many details. Will someone really make their way through and become inspired? [to be contn'd] – mbloch Mar 24 at 4:20
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It would appear than your efforts can nominally be divided into the following areas

  • Halachah: E.g. shabbos, keeping kosher
  • Emunah: Belief in Hashem and Divine providence, e.g. includes tefillah (prayer) and seeing the hand of Hashem in your everyday life
  • Personality development: I once saw a very nice comment from a ba'al teshuvah as follows, "Of course it was traumatic becoming a ba'al teshuvah. I went from a society where character assassination was a way of getting ahead to a society where this is assur (forbidden) because of lashon ha'ra (prohibition against malicious gossip)."
  • Torah study: This is a vast never-ending area. Maybe start with studying the weekly Torah portion. There are many nice books in English that you may find useful for this.
  • Being Jewish: Just be Jewish. Listen to music from religious Jews, hang out with religious Jews, get involved with a religious Jewish organisation.

Good luck.

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