Torah vs. 12 Steps
  Breaking Free #1282  
In Today's Issue
Q & A: Letting go of Shame. Helpful or Damaging?
Daily Dose of Dov: Torah or the 12-Steps?
Torah: Of Nuclear Power, Babylonian gods and Shmiras Habris...
Links: Talking Points on Porn
Torah: Here to work
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Q & A
Letting go of Shame. Helpful or Damaging?

Q: I have a question. I feel like people who come with their problem to GYE thinking and feeling like they are doing the worst thing in the world, and they see the stories of a lot of people who have gone through the same or worse things, they then feel like their problem is not so bad anymore and they feel comfortable where they are. Actually, someone in the kollel told me that he came to GYE and felt more comfortable and fell more because he realized it is something a lot of people are falling in. What do you think about this?

A: It is true that on GYE we help people see that they are not alone and they are not "bad" but rather "sick" (or you can call it addicted). This helps a person let go of the shame. But that doesn't mean they should let go of the guilt. You see, there is a very big difference between shame and guilt. Shame is damaging. It feeds the vicious cycle of addiction. Instead of "I made a mistake" (guilt), the person feels "I AM a mistake" (shame). I am messed up. I am "broken", I am "bad". This is very unhealthy and makes the person want to give up and just give in more. And our experience is that it is much more beneficial for a person to let go of shame than to hold on to it. Shame generally doesn't help a person stop, even though it seems like it might, in some cases.

On the other hand, it is very important to remain with guilt when we are acting out. The Nesivos Shalom says that when a Jew no longer feels guilt, he has no more hope and is cut off from Hashem. Guilt means that a person acknowledges that they made mistakes in the past. Guilt pushes a person to look for ways to break OUT of the addictive cycle.

So the difference between shame and guilt is subtle but very important. Shame makes a person want to give up, and Guilt pushes a person to action.

Daily Dose of Dov
Torah or the 12-Steps?
Part 1/2
By Dov

GYE Writes:

We all know that Chazal tell us how Torah is an anecdote against the Yetzer Hara and that learning Torah protects us even during the times that we are not learning. The question is, why didn't our Torah learning protect so many of us in our struggle with lust addiction? And what secrets do the "12-Steps" have that our (obviously defective) approach to Torah learning wasn't able to give us? Are the 12-Steps just a "technique", or do they hold some intrinsic "holiness" as well?

In a lively discussion on this thread on the forum, members debated and shared their enlightening and inspiring views about how the 12-Steps and Torah learning are not at all mutually exclusive in our struggle with Yetzer Hara.

Although there were so many amazing posts on this topic, I would like to share today one of Dov's posts. I chose Dov because his addiction was one of the most advanced of anyone on our forum, and yet, he's sober already for 11 years!

Besides for being quite a Talmid Chacham, Dov's honesty, humility, wisdom and hashkafa are inspiring us every day on the forum.

We love you brother Dov. Don't you EVER leave us!

Dov writes:

Hi Brothers!

Although I use the 12-Steps in my recovery, I do not accept that I have fallen off the wagon and am lost from the derech Hashem for me.

The advanced level that my addiction reached - and the ensuing 12 steps, seem to be - in retrospect - the only way I could have "found Hashem and myself". Yes, perhaps if I had learned more Torah and had had more mesiras nefesh I may have merited to accomplish the same thing without the steps, but this is not the way Hashem did it for me! I did try, and lost. I choose to believe that this was my destiny. It may not be yours, but so what?

What my experience has taught me is that I - and many others I know - learned Torah rather well while they were addicts. I gave a shiur in Mishna for Kiruv while in the midst of the very worst part of my addiction, sometimes even acting out the very same night. Some people (like me) would either learn Torah and soon afterward shock themselves at how fast and far they could fall; or first fall deeply and very soon afterward feel a religious high. Sadly, the high gave me a kind of "condolence" for my acting out, and in the long run it allowed me to "save face" enough to continue my stupid struggle. Here was a man proudly standing against a tsunami wave; what an idiot.

But I did not know any better and I really thought that I was supposed to struggle and be patient. Patient - as my relationship with my wife deteriorated under the weight of my mounting secrets; Patient - as I became well-learned in my twisted brand of "avodas Hashem" that was all about a new kind of "veHachayos Ratzo Vashov": looking at porn, lying, chasing lust, more lying, hiding and acting out, and then I would come (really) screaming and crying to Hashem, "Take me back!" Ach and Vei. Not exactly the type of "Ratzo Vashov" that the Malachim are doing around the Merkavah, is it?

So no, learning Torah as an "active addict" did not seem to "protect" me from my addiction. If anything, it made it worse at that time.

However, I do not accept that most people are addicts. I do not accept that Dovid Hamelech struggled with addiction, though he surely knew of it like he knew of every other type of suffering, L"A. I do not think that normal people are really made for the 12 steps, as presented in the AA literature. The actual implementation of the Steps (i.e. "working them" - not just reading them) usually seems to be unnecessarily heavy for normal people.

To be continued...

As the world powers discuss the nuclear deal with Iran, what does nuclear power mean to us as Jews, and how does it tie in with the month of Tamuz?

Of Nuclear Power, Babylonian gods and Shmiras Habris...
Part 1/2

Today is Rosh Chodesh Tamuz; a day of renewal, as well as the Yartzeit of Yosef Hatzadik's birth and passing.

In Babylonian tradition, Tamuz was a god that came to symbolize the death of nature in the heat of summer, and they named the month of "Tamuz" after this god. Saddam Hussein YM'Sh named his Osirak nuclear reactor "Tamuz" after this god as well.

The Zohar (in Chelek Beis, pg 78b) writes that Yakov Avinu took the months of Nissan and Iyar for himself (hence Yetziyas Mitzrayim, Kabbalas Hatorah), and Eisav took the months of Tamuz and Av for himself (and hence, the 17th of Tamuz and Tisha Be'av).

It occurred to me that Tamuz is the epitome of Kedusha vs. Tumah; as it says "Zeh Le'umas Zeh bara Elokim - Hashem created this one opposite the other". On the one hand, Eisav chose this month for himself and the Babylonians also chose it as a symbol of "death". But on the other hand, Hashem prepared the "refuah" (healing) before the "makah" (disease) and Yosef Hatzadik was born in the very beginning of Eisav's two month reign. The Pasuk says that when Moshiach comes "the house of Yosef will be a flame and the house of Eisav will be like straw". Yosef's flame of Kedusha will devour and eradicate the power of Eisav from the world.

How can we understand these two opposing forces in the month of Tamuz?

The "death" in the heat of summer is really a preparation for the renewal that comes in the rainy season. While everything in Israel (and Babylonia) becomes dry and withered in Tamuz, Yosef Hatzadik symbolizes bounty and plenty. According to Kabbalah, Yosef is the Middah of Yesod, which passes on all the heavenly light to "Malchus" (our world), as it says "ve'Yosef Hu Hamashbir lechol am ha'aretz - and Yosef was the provider for all the people of the land".

While Eisav dwells in the death itself, a Jew uses the death for renewal, turning it into endless divine bounty. A Jew is able to take his past falls and uses them as a spring-board for growth. Like a seed that needs to rot in the ground before it can sprout into a fruitful tree, Hashem wants us to use the times of darkness to appreciate the light that will inevitably follow.

To be continued...

Responses to pro-porn arguments.

Talking Points on Porn
Here to work

One way or another, we are here to work. Our sages say "adam le'amal yulad" - "a man was born to toil". There's no escaping it, and there are no two ways about it. As the Torah makes clear many times, and as we remember all the more so during the three weeks, if the Jewish people try to shirk their obligations to serve G-d through joy, they will serve their enemies through suffering instead. And as it is on a national level, so it applies on an individual level. Each one of us has his or her job to do. If we decide that it is too difficult to fight our evil inclinations, we will find ourselves fighting much more difficult and bitter things down the line, G-d forbid. One who gives up on his fight with the yetzer hara may find himself fighting his wife, fighting poverty, fighting illness, or any combination of these.

Read more
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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