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This question may sound strange but I'm attempting to find a source for an argument I heard made by someone very recently. I'm assuming this is a known argument which I'm just unfamiliar with the source.

When I speak of Baal Teshuva I specifically mean a Jew who was born and raised in a secular household. Not a Jew who was religious, left, and then came back years later.

The argument that was made was that while all Jews are given the same commandments, Hashem holds different Jews to different standards of reward and punishment based upon their upbringing.

  • A Baal Teshuva would be held to a different standard from a typical Jew because their situation is rooted in correcting a mistake. Everything they do is ultimately rooted in an effort to become an observant Jew and since they are fighting assimilation and regrouping themselves on a cultural/spiritual level, Hashem looks at their successes as greater and their mistakes as being lesser.

  • An Orthodox Jew, on the other hand, would have been raised within a household knowing the law. This means that they are held to a higher standard of judgement based on the fact they couldn't claim ignorance or fighting a previous assimilation. The layout of their upbringing would mean their mistakes are held more against them while their successes aren't as successful as the Baal Teshuva.

Now I have previously heard a similar argument with regards to assimilated Jews. The argument basically being that Hashem doesn't hold the children to highly assimilated Jews accountable to the same degree because they were raised in ignorance. This is the argument I'm aware of.

What I hadn't heard before was the idea that after this type of Jew is weaned back into the faith, their successes are greater and their losses aren't as heavily emphasized. Their existence as a Jew at all is effectively a miracle onto itself and thus being a lackluster Jew is better than being no Jew at all.

I was curious if this was an exaggeration on the part of the person who argued this point or if there is a clear source for this point.

  • I don't see why someone who became religious (and, for the sake of argument, went religious and knowledgeable all the way) should be exempt (or punishment mitigated) from certain things. Would you say that Rabbi Akiva would be less liable for his sins than the average modern day school graduate? – Shmuel Brin Sep 17 '17 at 7:12
  • @ShmuelBrin Again, this is not my argument. That's the reason I came here to ask the question. The person in question told me this and I found it suspect which is why I came to this forum for a review of the point. I'm asking if there is a source for it or if it's not a genuine argument made by any Rabbinical source. – Avri Sep 17 '17 at 7:14
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    לפום צערא אגרא. – Double AA Sep 17 '17 at 13:31
  • @DoubleAA Not fluent in Hebrew. Could you translate that please? – Avri Sep 17 '17 at 20:52
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    @Avri The reward is according to pain (or struggle) – sabbahillel Sep 18 '17 at 1:19
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Rabbi Dessler in Michtav Me'Eliyahu explains that a person has a nekudat habechira at which he is tested. Anything lower than this is resisted without even thinking about it. Anything higher than this cannot be resisted as the struggle is too great. As I explain in Did Avrahom fail the test? and Punishment for sins one cannot now be expected to avoid

Rabbi Dessler speaks of the nekudas habechirah (the point of choice). A person faced with a trial in which the wrong answer goes against his natural tendency would not be "tested". For example, a person who has adhered to the strictest standards of kashrus throughout his life would not be tempted by a sale at Ruth's Chris Steak House (according to the ads it is among the top nonkosher dining places). However, someone who is just starting to learn about keeping kosher might find it a major trial.

As a person lives through each moment of choice, the fulcrum of the bar moves higher or lower. Each choice made will make the following tests more or less capable of being surmounted. Since the Baal Teshuva has had to work to reach the level that he is at, he is rewarded for all the choices that he made to bring him to the current level.

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He might be referring to Yevamot 121b, which tells how Rabbi Nechunya ben Hakana's son died of thirst, despite his father's merit in digging wells, because God is more exacting with those closest to him, i.e. he holds righteous people to a higher standard (וסביביו נשערה מאד - מלמד שהקדוש ברוך הוא מדקדק עם סביביו כחוט השערה).

However, this mentions only "those closest to him," and seems to be saying that it depends on personal greatness. However, you wrote:

When I speak of Baal Teshuva I specifically mean a Jew who was born and raised in a secular household. Not a Jew who was religious, left, and then came back years later.

You seem to be looking specifically for a demographic category which you call "baal teshuva" (which is obviously different from the literal meaning, "someone who repented"). People of different backgrounds might face different sorts of challenges, but being raised a certain way can only be one factor among many. I think that while it's impossible to make any generalizations of this sort, it's safe to say that only God knows how to judge each individual fairly and to take into account all the difficulties he faces.

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As far as human courts go they are exactly the same. Your question is only if does hashem judge their intentions differently. Several years ago I asked a rabbi who is also a practicing rov in my yeshiva and he said. Just like a convert only has to accept TO DO on himself certain mitzvos(which ones depends according to what opinion) and to accept to work on eventually doing all the mitzvos, the we accept them. So to as long as any person is working on improving themselves, then hashem who judges hearts in addition to actions would find this favorable. Sorry I don't have a source for this other then what this rabbi said.

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