Mussar & the 12-Steps

Part 4/5 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)

Rabbi Twerski shared with me today an article that he wrote for the website It describes beautifully how the 12-Steps are derived from Torah principles, and it gives a clear summary of the 12-steps and how they apply to us as Frum Jews.

Step #10: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

In Alei Shur, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe says that one should carry a notebook and record occurrences of a moral or ethical nature, and review them at the end of the day. We may so easily forget things we don't like to remember, but it is precisely these things that require our attention. Keeping a running chesbon hanefesh is the best way to identify mistakes and correct them

One cannot emphasize strongly enough "when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." The natural tendency is to defend a mistake and rationalize it. This is a gross error. Recent political events have proven that "cover-ups" do not work. One will have much better results if one overcomes the tendency to defend a mistake, and admit it promptly.

One of the Torah commentaries points out the greatness of the patriarch, Abraham. The Torah sharply condemns human sacrifice, "For everything that is an abomination of Hashem, that He hates, have they done to their gods; for even their sons and their daughters have they burned in the fire for their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:31). For decades Abraham had preached against this pagan worship, stating that G-d could never desire a human sacrifice.

Now, Abraham understood that Hashem wanted him to sacrifice Isaac, and he was actually eager to fulfill the Divine will. But how would he face the scores of people to whom he had so vehemently condemned human sacrifice? He would have to say, "For the past sixty or more years, what I told you was wrong." Abraham was willing to admit that all his life, he had been wrong. That was the greatness of Abraham.

Step #11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious with G-d, praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.

The mussar and Chassidic literature is replete with this principle.

Rather than praying for personal needs, King David says, "One thing I ask of Hashem, that I shall seek; That I dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life (Psalms 27:4). When G-d appeared to King Solomon in a dream, and offered to grant him a wish, Solomon asked only for wisdom.

In his fervent Tefillah Kodem Hatfillah (Introductory prayer), Rebbe Elimelech pleads for Divine assistance in praying. He closes his prayer with, "If we lack the wisdom to direct our hearts to You, then You teach us that we should know in truth the intention of Your good will."