Yiddishkeit and 12 Steps: The Rabbi's Opinion
A recovering person writes:
When I came into the program, I was told “It’s ok if I am not a super power!” It worked for a few months, now what?? I am an empty leidige zak, nothing to sell, I feel downgraded, lost all opportunity in life to grow, my life is dry, another day passes and another day... And what?? I have no goal in life. I don't even know who I am!
I look around at other people, and I say, “Wow! He is at least smart, he has good character traits, he's looked up at in the community, and I am a loser.”
Then, I hear recovery people saying: “If you're sober, you are the luckiest guy in the world!” It’s totally BS... What? When? I feel like one big, messed up loser... A full-blown sac of resentments, ego, anger, and hate.
To whom does it make a difference at all if I am here on this planet or not? Who cares at all?
Is life now in recovery better than it was before, maybe? I don't know, there is no scale that I can measure the pros and cons...
Am I healthier now? Maybe! I am clearly miserable for no reason, not happy, hate my life...
My ego doesn't let me act out, ‘cause then I'm gonna be an even bigger loser…
One of the greatest principles in the 12-srep program is “Keep it simple.”
It really can be quite simple, if we keep the first mitzvah. We may not know what the first mitzvah is.
In Bereishis, we are told that Hashem created the universe, from the tiniest ameba to the awesome super-galaxies that are so immense that we cannot even imagine them. Hashem created all this by Himself, unassisted.
Then on day #6, Hashem said “Naaseh Adam, Let us make man.” Who is the “us?” Whose help is Hashem seeking, and why could He create the whole universe unassisted, but needs help in creating man?
The Baal Shem Tov explained that all living things were created in a state of completion. They did not have to do anything on their own to change themselves from their state of creation. Little bears would grow to be big bears, and little alligators would grow to be big alligators. Even those living things that underwent transformation, such as the caterpillar becoming a butterfly, did so automatically, because the change was programmed in their genes. Angels do not even grow at all. They are created as complete spiritual beings.
For reasons known only to Him, Hashem wanted a different type of creature, called man. In contrast to all other living things, man is created incomplete. Man comes into the world as an animal, or, as it says in Job (11:12), “Man is born a wild ass.” But man is not intended to remain just an animal. Man must, by his own effort, become a spiritual being.
When Hashem said, “Let us make man,” He was addressing man, and He was essentially saying, “I could create you completely spiritual, but then you would be just another angel. My idea of man is that he must change himself from the animal he was created into man. Therefore, I cannot create you as spiritual. You must develop your own spirituality. You must participate in your own creation.”
The mitzvah given to man is to become spiritual. That is what is meant by “Let us make man.”
But the animal component of man does not seek to become spiritual. Therefore, “G-d blew a spirit of life into his nostrils,” and it is this spirit that enables man to rise above the animal state in which he was created.” The animal component seeks only pleasure, comfort, and self-gratification.
Man’s spirit gives him the ability to do things that animals cannot do, such as:
to seek a goal in life
to distinguish right from wrong and to choose right
to defy a bodily urge when it is wrong
to give of oneself for the betterment of others
to delay gratification
to forgive an offense
to be humble
to be compassionate and considerate
to search for truth
When a person does all the above, one is implementing the spirit and one is, therefore, spiritual.
What is spirituality? It is becoming that which man was meant to be. It is fulfilling the first Divine command, “Let us make man.”
It is obvious that in addiction, the animal component of man dominates him and does not allow him to implement his spiritual abilities. When the addict recognizes this, he turns to G-d and says, “I want to be that which You intended me to be, but the animal component in me overwhelms me. Please help me resist it and become that which You want me to be.”
Every human being has a mission, to become man. Whatever station and circumstances one has in life do not affect this mission. Fulfilling this mission is every person’s purpose in existence.