Yiddishkeit and 12 Steps: The Rabbi's Opinion
A recovering person writes:
In the program, I know everyone, and we are all open with each other about our feelings and character defects. When I'm with program members, I can be myself.
When I'm in shul, I feel that we are a bunch of fakes that are trying to impress each other. (How many times do I close my eyes during shmona esrei and sway vigorously to impress everyone...) Since all my life I lived a double life, I had enough of it. I want to be real, and I want to be next to people who are real, and I don't feel comfortable in shul. I don't want to feel "if they only knew who I really was…" I don't want to be judged.
Be careful not to project. Just because you felt you were not genuine does not give you the right to accuse others of being fakes. If you don’t want to be judged, why are you judging others?
I was at a gathering where a woman who had converted to Judaism said, “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews.” Similarly, don’t judge Yiddishkeit by how some frum Jews may behave. There are many sincere frum Jews, although there may be some who only act frum. Not every person in the 12-step program is a saint.
Incidentally, the issue of not judging others is fundamental to Yiddishkeit. My mother used to refer to “the holy al tadin,” the statement in Pirke Avos, “Do not judge another person until you have been in his place.” One who judges others is not being frum.
A recovering person writes:
Step 11 says don't pray for yourself - Yiddishkeit is full of prayers for yourself.
Program focuses on a loving Gd - Yiddishkeit includes a Gd that punishes (that’s not all that He does, obviously...).
Program says there is no bchira for the sex addict (if that’s what powerless means) - Yiddishkeit says there is.
Yiddishkeit is relating to G-d as our Father. A child should feel free to ask his/her father for something he/she wants.
I dealt with punishment issue earlier.
G-d wants us to live the right life for our own sake, not for His. It is to our advantage to have a close relationship with G-d. The gap between mortal man and the Infinite G-d is so vast that it cannot be bridged except with the way G-d designed. The addict who uses hallucinogens may think this is the way to get close to G-d. The thought that we can decide how to have a close relationship with G-d is mistaken. Observing the G-d-given Torah is the way G-d designed for man to get close to him.
G-d created man, and just as a manufacturer provides instructions on how to use an appliance, G-d has given us the Torah, the Manufacturer’s instructions on how to live. If one ignores the manufacturer’s guidelines, one cannot expect proper function.
We should recognize our dependence on G-d. In fact, we admit that without His help we could not overcome our addiction. Praying for our needs reinforces our feeling of dependence on Him.
The issue of bechira is a very sensitive one. It is one of the distinguishing features between man and animals. Animals are at the mercy of their bodies. They have no choice. They cannot defy a bodily urge. A human being has bechira. It is a Divine gift.
The Talmud says that the human being’s animalistic drives are so powerful that without the help of G-d we could not resist them. That is Steps 1 & 2. Our bechira consists of asking G-d to help us resist some animalistic drives.
Human beings’ temperaments vary. One person may have stronger animalistic drives than another, and they may vary in character. Prior to recovery, the addict thinks that he can control these drives, until he discovers otherwise.
Two children received Chanuka gelt. One child ran off to the candy store and gorged himself with candy, then went to the toy store and bought toys. He ended up with a stomach ache, and, within several days, his toys were on the junk pile of his old toys.
The other child said to his father, “I don’t know what to do with this money. You invest it for me.”
Both children had bechira. The first child used it to his detriment. The second child used his bechira wisely.
In recovery, we say to G-d: “Thank You for the gift of bechira, but my experience has shown me that I cannot always use it wisely. So, dear G-d, You take the bechira and choose for me.”