I’m not proud of this picture, but I am responsible for it. It’s a great illustration of when confused Baal Teshuva’s go too far. Pesach is a confusing holiday for the existentially anxious BT. It’s hard to get clear guidance about when “enough is enough.” I can’t help you figure out how much aluminum foil to use (hopefully less than we did in 2006). However, I have a possible solution for acquiring normal-ish chumras. It’s also a great way to engage and communicate with other people in your neighborhood. This is a beta version of the BT-PCI, please let me know your thoughts.
The origins of many Pesach chumras are often vague or unknown. There are few officially sanctioned Chabad Pesach chumras. Chumras often lack the Talmudic wisdom of the laws of kashrus. Local Chabad rabbis are simultaneously hesitant to endorse or denigrate specific chumras. Many families have generational Pesach chumras. As such, a recently religious Baal Teshuvah (BT) may struggle in adopting chumras for his or her family. The BT risks outlier status in accepting every chumra or feeling “less than” by not accepting any chumras. The BT-PCI aims to assist the BT in acquiring Pesach Chumras within “normative” Chabad standards of Pesach observance.
The primary goal of the BT-PCI is to assist Baal Teshuvas in improving the quality of their Pesach observance. The BT-PCI uses a small sample size to identify specific Pesach Chumras that are accepted and observed by a majority of the local Chabad community. The BT-PCI also accomplishes the secondary goals of facilitating a discussion about Pesach chumras, learning about historical Chabad practices, and strengthening community connection.
Sampling is a crucial component of the BT-PCI. Choose five families from your local Chabad community. A BT family is not an ideal choice (insofar as their chumras are not generational in transmission or traditional in origination). The chosen families should reflect the overall “flavor” of an “average” Chabad family. Briefly interview a member of the five families and check off any chumra observed by that family. Blank spaces at the bottom may be used to fill in additional chumras. Any chumra that is endorsed by at least three families is suitable for consideration as an appropriate chumra for a BT family.
The BT-PCI is a self-administered inventory and could be manipulated to encourage a very lax or extreme level of chumra acceptance. Therefore individuals should consult with their local orthodox rabbi to clarify their results and assess the feasibility and acceptability of endorsed chumras. The BT-PCI is in not a replacement for rabbinical counsel or common sense and should not be used as such.