Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


The Bal Tschuve



The Bal Tschuve is the human being who regrets/ repents the “neveres" (sins or evil deeds) that he/she has committed and makes amends for his actions.  In the Jewish faith, Hashem will recognize the return to justice, to kindness, to regret, and forgives those who have committed evil deeds.  If G’d forgives, so must we as humans.  The repentant one can be forgiven as close as one hour before his death.

Among all religions we find the proverbial BLACK SHEEP.  The individual who is self seeking, selfish, narcissistic and “independent” for his own gains.  He carries out his lusts without consideration for his family, acquaintances or otherwise.  This person comes in innumerable shapes and genders.  No one has an absolute answer for the whys and  wherefores  of the creation of these personalities.  We can only describe here the theories why the traits that make up the character disordered persona develops. 

Let us take one of the most well known examples of a psychopathic creature:  Adolf Hitler.  He came from a very strict, brutal father, from a family that was created illegitimately, the standards of morality were poor. His father died before the boy was fully grown and his mother raised her brood of children alone.  Adolf grew up with deviant standards; he refused to complete his education; he was frustrated because his ambition to become a painter was rejected.  The German art school that he wanted to enter refused him.  He was frustrated in his ambitions.  He was determined to become almighty, a one man ruler over his world and the world in which he found himself.  He had no scruples and his make believe friends were assassinated at his command if they appeared to threaten his autonomy.  He had no feelings for people and only craved satisfaction for himself and himself alone. He had no mercy  for the suffering of his victims and reveled in the pain that it caused them. He accepted anything that was given him but felt no need for gratitude, let alone reciprocity.  The Jews who he later annihilated had helped to support him, to buy his amateurish painted postcards, fed him when he was in need of food.  Adolf had no conscience.  Even in his last hour in the bunker where he committed suicide with Eva Braun he had no remorse!

There is the child who is raised by a number of strangers, whose parents have in fact ignored her, and given her away. There are children who come from narcissistic, alcoholic parents, ones who do not know either mother or father; the child raised in the house of strangers, uncaring foster parents who are there for remuneration received by the caregivers, etc.  There is the child who has no satisfactory identity, who does not know his roots, those who came before him.  We can understand why such a child  wants to please only himself, and nourish himself to the exclusion of his surroundings and the need of others.

Another group of individuals who ignore that which is acceptable, G’d fearing and within decency limits are children who abandon that which was instilled in them and given them “bechol, levovcho, uvchol nafshecho, uvchol meodecho” (with full heart, soul and hand). We will here take one such example:  Boruch, a boy who attended day schools where he appeared happy, was a very good student and had friends.  His parents were educated, supportive, and took care of his every whim.  Because he had a minor physical problem, his health care was the finest and his deficit was unnoticed by his friends.  He attended an outstanding university of his choice and was independent and praised by the rabbis / professors with whom he learned.  He was adored by his parents because he not only learned the biological sciences but also the Hebrew and Jewish subjects, in which he seemed to gain nurturance and satisfaction.  He was the first son in the family and his sisters and brother adored him.  There was nothing that was not done for him.  What he needed he received and more.  He became very orthodox during the period of attending the Talmud Torah University.  He was invited to the home of rabbis to share the Sabbath meals, just as he had been used to enjoying at his parental home every Friday eve before he left for the university.  His mother furnished him with airplane tickets so that he was  given the opportunity to return home for vacation and possible weekends.  After graduation he was fortunate in being accepted and entering medical school.

Gradually this young man’s personality changed.  Boruch became cynical, declared his “ecumenism,” his diversity.  His religion seemed to mean nothing to him.  He became hostile toward his parents, and disagreed with everything that had seemed to have so much meaning to him.  He forgot the fifth commandment and dishonored his parents and all that they seemed to have meant to him.  He attempted to persuade his siblings that kashrut is meaningless.  To make matters worse, he injured his family most of all in that which meant the most to them, that he should remain true to his religion and marry within his own faith; to perpetuate that which was most close to their hearts:  to live his life as a Jew,  “den geraden Derach” / the straight and moral path.  He threw away his culture, his heritage, and the respect and love of his parents and family. 

We can ponder the whys and origins of the behaviors described.  We can say that the rejected child, the abused child, the  pampered, overindulged child grows up as the potential narcissist, character disordered or even the psychopathic personality.  We can understand the first two categories but the last is much more difficult to comprehend.  Does the creature who gets everything want a utopia that cannot be achieved and does not exist?  The Rosche, like the evil son, in the Haggadah, is most difficult to understand and the most difficult to accept.

Such a person seeks instant gratification.  This includes sexuality, drugs, money, or anything that will give him pleasure.  He rarely thinks of consequences.  When he does not receive what his “id” (impulses) needs, he will hold others responsible for his fate and his frustrations.  If someone is in his way, he figuratively pushes them aside and would step over their bodies if that would grant him his desires.

To the student of human behaviors there is no absolute in knowing the mechanisms that create the person thus described.  What has developed in his psyche, his conscious or unconscious mind, is a puzzle.  We can never know the totality of emotions, the anger or otherwise of the parents of a person thus developed.  No one can totally look into the inner feelings, actions and psyches of a “Baruch,” nor can we in totality see the inner workings of the family structure and their interactions in raising such a human being.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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