Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The 12-Steps in Practice

Part 2/2 (to see other parts of the article, click on the pages at the bottom)
Another great piece by Boruch explaining what the 12-Step groups provide that Musar Sefarim don't.

by Boruch, GYE (See all authors)

And Here is the system that did it for me:

-- Joining an SA Group

-- Getting a Sponsor

-- Listening to your Group, following your Sponsor, and working the list below into your life:

1. Admission of powerlessness.
2. Reliance on a Higher Power.
3. Total surrender to God.
4. Moral inventory.
5. Admission of the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Commitment to total change.
7. Prayer for wholeness.
8. Total willingness to amend.
9. Making amends where possible.
10. Continuing inventory.
11. Prayer meditation, leading to improved conscious contact with God.
12. Spiritual awakening, carrying the message and practicing the principles in everything we do.

In my experience, the difference between the 12 Steps and musar seforim is like the difference between an Alef Beis Sefer and the Chovos Halevavos. The Chovos Halevavos will give you much, much more. As long as you have mastered Alef Beis.

But if you have not yet mastered Alef Beis then the Alef Beis sefer will give infinitely more, until you have mastered it and are ready for the next level, and ultimately for the Chovos Halevavos.

The same is true for the musar seforim. As Rav Avigdor Miller Zt"l said many times that the sifrei musar were written for generations in which even the worst of goyim were terrified of gehinnom.

Says Rabbi Miller, Are most of us as terrified today of gehinnom as the worst goyim were then?

Certainly not.

Unlike the worst goyim then, who constantly spoke about Gan Eden and Gehinnom, many of us find that we never even discuss Gan Eden and Gehinnom. And even if we do, it is usually all very abstract.

Why? Are we worse than the worst goyim then? Intrinsically no, however, we are victims of centuries of the arrogance of Scientists, the arrogance of inventors, the arrogance of business leaders and the arrogance of political leaders. And all that arrogance has had one result.

"rak ein Yiras Elokim bamokom hazeh - For there is no fear of Heaven in this place".

And so, as I quoted originally from Rabbi Miller, the sifrei musar all assume a basic minimum of Yiras Shomayim and kavod for Hashem that are way beyond us. They are far too advanced. It is like trying to get a pre-1A student to learn Rashb"o, it doesn't go. Even if he could understand the words, the content would be way beyond his scope.

And we remain stuck at first base until we do the Steps and they get us to be living with Hashem. And then - and only then - are we ready to start learning Orchos Tzaddikim, Chovos Halevovos, Mesilas Yeshorim... and the sky is the limit.

But until we get past Alef Beis, the musar seforim may be very informative but they are even more beyond our reach.


Just to add to Boruch's words, the underlying message of these 12 Steps are the basic moral principles that distinguish man from beast. A set of principles so basic that even the goyish drunks of AA were able to internalize them and turn their lives completely around. Some of the underlying principles are; A complete dependence on Hashem, a pure faith and trust in Him to care for us and take our lust away, humility and rigorous honesty.