Guarding the tongue guards the bris
  Breaking Free Chziuk #1328  
In Today's Issue
Announcements: It's that time of year again. Please help us with your contacts!
Daily Dose of Dov: Our Yiddishkeit Changes in Recovery
Rabbi Twerski: Yiddishkeit and 12 Steps: The Rabbi's Opinion
Practical Tips: Guarding the Tongue Guards the Bris
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Daily Dose of Dov
Our Yiddishkeit Changes in Recovery
Part 3/5
Why does some people's Yiddishkeit undergo changes in recovery?
By Dov

Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski sent us the following question:

The subject has again arisen about "frum" people whose yiddishkeit weakens in the 12 step program. I think I have to address this issue. Do you have anything on the subject?

In response, Dov (who is sober in SA for 18+ years) wrote this beautiful and profound essay.

But all this changes when he starts to admit that the elephant in the room is not a Torah or Jewish problem, but a human problem. That he is ill. Now, being sick does not mean he is no longer held responsible for his behavior. As in all diseases, admitting illness is the first and crucial step toward enabling one to start taking full responsibility to do what they must to get well! Finally, his sexual acting out/drinking/drugging/gambling is revealed to be what it really is: far more serious than sinning. It is what the Gemora and Halocha refer to as: "Sakanta chamira me’isura.” Yes, there is a thing that is more serious than sin: a thing that destroys one’s very humanity and sanity. Derech Eretz is truly kodmah laTorah. Sure, when one sins we are told the sinner is subject to a spirit of folly (ruach shtus) - but addiction is far more than that. It’s ultimately a lifestyle based on and tolerant of fakeness and cultivation of insanity. It eventually makes the addict's relationships and avodas Hashem mezuyafim mitochom - filled with falsehood. An addict finally standing at his or her precious Step 1 knows that a double life is no life. If his broken heart and humiliation teach him anything, it is the humility to accept that he has not just failed at controlling his desires, but at living as himself. Life - not alcohol/sex - has become unmanageable (as stated in Step 1). The ruach shtus the Gemora refers to has little to do with addiction. Chaza”l overwhelmingly refer to normal people and their struggle against the yetzer - not to addicts and addiction. This partially explains why Torah, Mussar, Chassidus, TaPHSiC, and even, l’havdil, basic psychological treatment (again, please see ’The Doctor’s Opinion’) often fall flat on their faces for the real addict. Derech Eretz is kodmah laTorah - there is no other way. The addict eventually discovers that he cannot become frum, good, or holy enough to beat addiction. A very painful realization. But this self-honesty is the doorway to avodas Hashem that can be real (please see the first page of ch. 3 in 'Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions' for a nice description of this idea from the point of view of the alcoholic).

Thankfully, our sanity does NOT have to be perfect in order for Torah to succeed with helping people grow - as RMB”M makes clear in Sh’moneh P’rakim, we are all ill to some degree with what he calls cholo’ei hanefesh. But there is a point where derech eretz - humanity and sanity - are lacking to a degree that Torah and avodah themselves become part of the problem. Where the mind is just too twisted to succeed by 'thinking' - what Chaza”l refer to as ‘ein chavush matir atzmo mibeis ha’asurim.’ Addicts seem to be just such people, and recovery is here for us. Thank G-d, Chaza”l did not waste much time expounding on treatment of the small percentage of sinning people who are actually addicts. Instead, Chaza”l passed on to the whole of Israel, a rich and beautiful Torah sheb’al Peh filled with powerful tools for the overwhelming majority of Yidden through all generations: normal, struggling people. And it continues to serve the Jewish People very well, b"H.

But addicts need something a lot more basic than what they have always had. For we are the 'sh'eino yodeya lish'ol' of the Haggada... though we always thought we were the rosho or tzaddik (as others did, too). Derech Eretz is kodma laTorah, and it is Derech Eretz - openness, honesty, and sanity - that we need most, right now.

To be continued...
Rabbi Twerski
Yiddishkeit and 12 Steps: The Rabbi's Opinion
Part 3/6
By Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Avraham

Realizing that just drying-out someone was not enough, and that few people after detox went to AA, I militated for a rehab, and together with St. Francis Hospital, we opened Gateway Rehab Center in 1972.

Addiction is a disease and treatment is necessary to bring a person to health. The 12-step program can bring a person to health. But is it enough to be just healthy? Yiddishkeit teaches that a person must have a purpose in life. Addiction makes it impossible to reach a purpose, but overcoming the addiction is not an ultimate purpose in life. If a person has a serious physical illness, he certainly must be treated, but if he recovers, is that all there is to life?

Yiddishkeit teaches that a person has a mission in life. The first chapter in Mesilas Yesharim (Path of the Just) is “Man’s Obligation in His World.”

Having studied much mussar, I felt that Bill Wilson plagiarized mussar in developing the 12-step program. In my book, Self Improvement? I’m Jewish, I show the essential identity of the 12-steps and mussar.

Why is it that some “frum” people, even if they were well-versed in Torah and mussar fell into the trap of addiction and recovered with the 12-step program, whereas mussar did not help them? I think the answer is simple. A person who is sincere in recovery leaves a 12-step meeting with the knowledge and feeling, “If I deviate from this program, I will die.” In our davening we say, “ki heim chayenu” that Torah and mitzvos are our very life, but while we say this, I doubt that many people actually feel, “If I deviate from mussar, I will die.”

An example: An alcoholic came to rehab because his employer gave him a last chance: one more drunk and he’s fired. He was deathly afraid of losing his job. He attended AA regularly. When he was 8 months sober, he called me in a panic. He had attended a friend’s daughter’s graduation party, and the friend offered him a drink, which he refused, but did accept a glass of punch. After one swallow he realized that the punch was spiked. He called me in a panic. “What should I do, Doc? I accidentally swallowed some alcohol. Should I put myself in the hospital? I’m afraid I’ll end up in a drunk!” I told him to call his sponsor and get to a meeting.

Now let’s look at this case. A frum person has been enjoying a particular candy bar for years. This time, he was playing around with the wrapper and noticed that the hechsher symbol was gone. If the hechsher was removed, it was because they had added a non-kosher ingredient. He feels badly that he might have eaten something non-kosher, but does he call his rabbi in a panic? “Rabbi, I think I might have eaten something treife! What should I do? I’m afraid that this might lead me to eating pork on Yom Kippur!” You see, the addict knows that even an accidental slip can be fatal. The frum person may have learned that “sin begets sin,” but does not believe it the way a recovering addict does.

A recovering person may find the conviction in the 12-step program to be more intense and have greater sincerity than he experienced in Yiddishkeit. The response to this should not be to relinquish Yiddishkeit, but rather to increase his knowledge and understanding of Yiddishkeit, and to practice it with feeling rather than as routine.

To be continued...
Practical Tips

Today, Sept 8, the day of the Chofetz Chaim's yahrtzeit, The Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation is running a campaign to raise funds. See more information here.

Guarding the Tongue Guards the Bris
By Twerski, Rabbi Dr. Avraham

There are many people who are desperate and say that they would do anything to be free of the compulsion. Here is something that will indeed take much effort, but if one is really ready to do anything, this can help greatly:

WATCH YOUR SPEECH! Be meticulous in avoiding ALL lashon hara (defamatory talk), any untruth, and any coarse language (see sources below).

In order to know what proper speech is and what is forbidden, avail yourself of the Chafetz Chaim's "Guard Your Tongue."

This may seem simple, but it really takes great effort, because we are in the habit of talking without giving much thought to what we say. To become conscious and watchful of speech is anything but simple, but if one is really interested in being free of sexual compulsions, this can be of great help.



To receive daily lessons in Shmiras Halashon from the Sefer Chofetz Chaim, send an e-mail to with subject "subscribe".

Sources: Many Chassidic works are replete with the idea that "bris halashon mechuvan negged bris hamaor" and that shemiras halashon leads to shemiras habris (see Sefer Chareidim 66:9). The most common Posuk quoted in this regard is "Al titein es picha l'hachti es bisorchoh".... See also the mafteach in the Yad Ramah edition of the Shaloh hakadosh for something a bit earlier than chassidish, and this concept also comes up quite a few times in the out-of-print Peleh Yoaitz from the Hornisteipeler (Rabbi Twerski's grandfather).

Do you think you may have a porn addiction?

Do you have a problem with obsessive and compulsive porn use? Have you seriously tried the tools on GYE and feel that you are not getting better? Maybe it’s time to consider joining a 12-Step program.

Porn Anonymous (PA)
If you’re compulsively acting-out with pornography and masturbation we suggest you explore joining Porn Anonymous (PA). If you need help deciding whether to join PA, call Michael at 347-699-2368, or email to schedule a time to talk. For more information visit (Hebrew: / Yiddish:

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
If your compulsive acting-out has progressed beyond the screen (with other people, paid sexual services, etc.) we suggest you explore joining Sexaholics Anonymous (SA). To figure out if SA is for you, call Dov at 917-414-8205, or email Dov at to schedule a time to talk. For more information visit

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