In Judaism, a ba'al teshuvah (Hebrew: בעל תשובה; for a woman, בעל�� תשובה, baalat teshuva or baalas teshuva; plural, בעלי תשובה, baalei teshuva, "master of return [to God]") is a Jew from a secular background who becomes religiously observant.
Originally, the term referred to a Jew who transgressed the halakhah (Jewish law) knowingly or unknowingly and completed a process of introspection to "return" to the full observance of God's mitzvot. (Baal teshuvah literally means in Hebrew "master of return" i.e., one who has "returned" to God.) According to the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Talmud says that a true ba'al teshuvah stands higher in shamayim (lit. "heaven") than a "frum from birth", even higher than a tzadik:
The sages said: "The place whereon the penitent stand the wholly righteous could not stand;" as if saying: "their degree is above the degree of those who ever did not sin, because it is more difficult for them to subdue their passion than for the others.
In contemporary times, the phrase is primarily used to refer to a Jew from a secular background who becomes religiously observant (normally in an Orthodox fashion) later in life. The alternative term, chozer b'teshuvah (חוזר בתשובה), plural chozrim b’teshuvah, is more commonly used in Israel.
According to the teachings of the Torah, whoever judges himself will not be judged; however, in the described history of Talmudic times and early Hasidism, many tzadikim were able to "see" the transgressions of others, either because they were particularly inspired or because Kohen: it is also the case of the Tzadik who perceived transgressions only with a handshake... or that of the Tzadik who then renounced this "extra-spiritual power".
Mar b. R. Ashi said: I am disqualified to judge in a scholar’s lawsuit. What is the reason? Because I love him as much as I love myself, and a person is unable to find fault with himself
For the most part the stature and the preparation of these Tzadikim presuppose a balance that allows a peaceful coexistence even with those who have committed serious transgressions, because otherwise the intent to rage against them and, worse, to obtain advantages from them would certainly prevail.
- Baal teshuva movement
- List of Baalei teshuva
- Repentance in Judaism
- Off the derech, A Jew who was formerly mitzvah-observant
- Orthodox Judaism outreach
- "What Is A Ba'al Teshuvah?". myjewishlearning.com.
- Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin. "Tzaddik — The Baal Teshuvah". Chabad.org.
- "Laws of Repentance 7:4, citing Berakot, 34b. C. G." Mishneh Torah.
- Dana Kessler (11 December 2018). "'Baal Teshuvah': The Next Generation". Tablet (magazine).
- Finkel, Avraham Yaakov. Ein Yaakov Jason Aronson, Inc (p. 116)