by Reb Gutman Locks
A Baal Tshuvah is a Jew who at some time fell away from a Torah life, either in this lifetime or in his last, and now he has returned to a Torah life. In some ways we are all Baal Tshuvahs, in that everyone falls. Then, it is up to each of us to pick ourselves up, brush off the dirt, and return to a life of Torah and mitzvahs.
The first Baal Tshuvah was Reuven the son of the Yacov Avinu (Jacob our father). Some say it was Adam, the first man. But the attitude, the actual mindset that a Baal Tshuvah should have can be learned from Yacov.
Yacov was on a journey. At nightfall, he fell asleep in a place that was holy. He did not realize that it was holy until he had a most wondrous dream while sleeping there. When he awoke he exclaimed, “There is G-d in this place.” Certainly G-d is everywhere. So what did Yacov mean that there was G-d in that place? Rashi explains that Yacov meant, “There is G-d in this place i.e., if I had known I would not have slept.”
This is precisely what the genuine Baal Tshuvah feels. He finally realizes that there is G-d in this place, and in every place, and if only he would have realized that G-d was right there watching him when he was sinning, he would not have “slept”. It was as if he was sleeping, unaware of his actual surroundings and what he was doing that allowed him to make those mistakes.
And now, he thanks G-d that he is awake