28 Kislev 5782 / Thursday, December 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Mikeitz
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The Bodybuilder Rebbe    

The Bodybuilder Rebbe

Like many American Jews, Dave didn't get much Jewish upbringing in his childhood. He went to Sunday school and had a Bar Mitzvah, but after that, zilch...


Dear Racheli,
I really enjoy all of the Breslev books, yet I still feel that I am too far away from making teshuva. I've done so many transgressions, some of which I still can't forgive myself for. I honestly feel like I'm just too far away from Hashem...
Let me tell you the story of the Bodybuilder Rebbe.
Once upon a time, there was a guy named Dave. He was a Jewish boy growing up in the suburbs of Chicago. He went to public school and had friends of all colors and religions. His family life was typically American; they celebrated July 4th, Chanukah, and any holiday that gave everyone a day off from work and school, including the first day of Kwanzaa if it fell on a weekday.
Like many American Jews, Dave didn't get much Jewish upbringing in his childhood. He went to Sunday school and had a Bar Mitzvah, but after that, there was no more Jewish education in his life. His Jewish awareness was like a growing phase of life that he eventually out-grew.
This was fine with Dave, as in reality, his life was plenty busy. He was busy getting into all kinds of trouble at school, and when school was over, he was busy getting into all kinds of trouble at home. Miraculously, he graduated high school and went to the local University, where he switched his major at least 5 times during his first year.
Even though Dave was busy “studying” for some midterm or another, he managed to get a job at a nearby gym. This gave him plenty of time to work on his new love, which was his svelte figure. Dave discovered that he really enjoyed being at the gym, and not just because he was making loads of money selling memberships to people who would never actually use them.
Dave was a good guy, but like many good people, he didn't have a higher purpose to his life. Was life simply about growing up, having responsibility and a wife forced on you, and working until you're dead? It didn't sound like such a sweet deal.
Although Dave was Jewish, he didn't think about G-d that much. It seemed like G-d was somewhere, but certainly not involved in Dave's life. This thought left Dave settling for a vague recognition that G-d does exist, but any deeper understanding was beyond him.
Like many people with this type of awareness, they believe that G-d is not watching when they're racking up the transgressions faster than those crazy Target shoppers rack up needless purchases at the “Day after Thanksgiving” sale at three a.m.
Many people live their entire lives this way, and the harsh truth only hits them when it's too late- when they arrive at the Heavenly Court and they're shown a movie of their lives on the gigantic IMAX screen in 3D, and everyone's watching.
Oy, the shame and embarrassment! 
The worst part, however, isn't the horror over the realization that we have done terrible, embarrassing things when we assumed no one was looking. Nope. The really bad part is that once we've passed on, we've missed our opportunity to repair and correct.
Let's get back to Dave. Fast forward a decade or two...
Dave met and married the woman of his dreams and had a whole bunch of boys. Eventually, Dave was exposed to Rebbe Nachman's teachings through Breslev Israel. He started ordering Rav Shalom Arush's (narrated and translated in English by Rav Brody) awesome  CDs, and he and his wife started reading all of their books.
Soon afterwards, they sponsored one of Rav Lazer Brody's talks in Miami, and before they knew it, they found themselves on the chartered flight from Nefesh B'Nefesh with three boys that refused to sleep for even a moment on the entire flight.
Do you know what happened to Dave?
Dave is now an Ultra-Orthodox dare I say it... Rabbi?!!
How did this happen??!

Incidentally, do you know what that makes me? A R...rrr....R-R-Rebbetzin!!

Daniel, ALL Baal Teshuva people come from a place far from Hashem. You're no exception. In fact, you do have a major advantage over others who are trying to find their way back to G-d. You already have all the tools you need!
You have access to the most fundamental teaching in all of Judaism! What is that teaching? It's emuna! Do you know how many ultra frum Jews don't understand the concept of emuna? And here you are, not religious yet, but you already have some exposure to the foundation of Judaism!
Be happy, Daniel! Hashem clearly loves you and wants you to come close to Him. Every moment that you are alive, Hashem is waiting for you to come back to Him. I want you to internalize this thought: if Hashem didn't think you could make teshuva, you wouldn't be on Earth anymore!
Here are my suggestions: First of all, you need to up your observance slowly and gradually. Don't do everything tomorrow, as it will backfire and you'll end up doing nothing the day after. Read Kitzur Shulchan Aruchevery day and find yourself a local Rabbi that will help guide you through the process. Trust me, there are plenty of Rabbis who are just waiting to help others like you come closer to Hashem. Don't think for a moment that you're wasting anyone's time.
Second, forgive yourself for your past! One of Rebbe Nachman's greatest teachings is: “If you believe you can destroy, then believe you can repair!” Whatever you did in your past should stay there. Focus on moving forward and forgive yourself! I elaborate on this concept in my article, “Fuggetaboutit!”
Daniel, right now you have the greatest opportunity to start a whole new life for yourself. Wouldn't it be a wise decision to give yourself a fresh start?
Wishing you a fulfilling and successful journey back to your Source!


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