Recovery and Repentance

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Experienced Talmud students know that definitions are crystallized by examining extreme cases. Rabbi Shais Taub, in his God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction, shows that this is true not only for legal issues but also matters of the soul.

The only known cure for addiction is hard work. A proponent of Alcoholics Anonymous’ twelve steps, R. Taub explains them to readers and shows how they adhere to Jewish tradition. Most importantly, recovery from addiction requires deep humility, reliance on a higher power (generally God) and tremendous self-awareness. These concepts are easily transferrable to the broader context of repentance.

By examining the many pitfalls that addicts have faced and the methods they have acquired to successfully change, we see a template for repentance. This isn’t the garden variety, stop doing one bad thing repentance. This is personality altering, digging deep and changing your basic attitude repentance. It is becoming a different person.

One of Rav Soloveitchik’s fundamental principles of repentance is that the person acquires a new identity. While I had thought I understood it, this book gave me much greater perspective. The saying is that an addict who goes through the Twelve Steps and later reverts back to his addiction does not go back to his old ways. After the Twelve Steps he became a new person and when he returned to his addiction he became a third person. True repentance is transformative to the extent that you never return because you have deeply changed your personality (see Mishneh Torah, Hilkhos Teshuvah 2:1).

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

54 comments

  1. Re Twelve Step Programs:
    See how a Twelve Step program may be in reality a religion see
    eg
    http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2001/03/A-A-Americas-Stealth-Religion.aspx
    if so how can Rabbis encourage another religion even if helpful

    some courts have recognizedthe explicit religious content of 12 step programs see eg
    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/news.aspx?id=19058

    Even if helpful how can one encourage using a program which is based on the Oxford Group a 1930s evangelical group.

    Whether or not 12 step programs are effective is certainly open to debate but IMHO hirhurim is not the place to get into such discussions-a quick google search can find arguments on both sides. What I am questioning is the acceptance by many of ideas that may be contrary to Yahadus.
    Do we confess our sins to another hum,a being or to God alone-do we have a confession booth?
    see eg from 12 step
    5Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs

    1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
    Do we say we are powerless or do we attempt to change our behavior by being kovesh et yitzro.

  2. This book is an extended argument against such claims.

  3. I have similar problems to mycroft’s.

    Step 1 isn’t that problematic, since by definition an addiction is beyond what R’ Dessler calls the “decision point” (nequdas habechirah), the place at which the two inclinations are balanced enough to force conscious decision-making. An addiction is beyond that, and therefore much of the decision is being made preconsciously; not with true free will.

    However, the basic point remains when you look at steps 6 and 7:
    6: Were entirely ready to have G-d remove all these defects of character.
    7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

    This elevates the stakes from the flaw that is messing up my life but I lost control over to all of my character defects and shortcomings.

    What the Mussarist would consider the central avodas Hashem, what the Vilna Gaon literally called “the purpose of the entire Torah”, the 12 Steps are telling you to give up ownership and hand to the Almighty. Not, R’ Nachman style asking HQBH for success while knowing the job of actually doing it is mine. This is giving Him the task.

    Salvation through Faith rather than Redemption through Self-Transformation. The Christian Evangelical roots are very pronounced.

  4. It’s not like there are a shortage of Jewish spiritual programs one could be seeking rather than using a Christian program designed for addicts.

  5. The title in your link is incorrect. It should read “Recovery from Addiction”.

  6. RGS: This book is an extended argument against such claims.

    From what I can tell from the Amazon preview, the majority of the book finds points of correspondence. And even of those there are points about which I am not sure I agree with RST’s interpretation. I’m talking about the shape of the forest, not whether or not one can find matching trees. (Eg: Chapters 7 & 8, on Hashem’s Goodness and Forebearance respectively, don’t really argue for or against the Jewishness of 12 Step Programs.)

    Chapter 6, “What Religion is Recovery”, appears to be the relevant chapter, but I have no access to it.

    In any case, my impression is based on 2 years experience in an OA group for frum men, as well as years’ experience trying to follow a Torah-based spiritual program. And I wasn’t really commenting on this particular book.

    But naniach the point for a moment. So, 12 Step Programming doesn’t have elements that contradict Yahadus. The question would then revolve around wolve’s teeth, and the machloqes rishonim about whether health trumps derekh emori. The origin in the Oxford Group, an AZ source for a spiritual program, makes issues of derekh emori inarguable.

    There is a rumor floating around AA and OA that RYSE permitted 12 Step programming. I wonder if he was addressing the many 12 Steppers aren’t remotely near saqanas nefashos, as well as the existence of books trying to bring the steps to non-addicts (R’ Twerski’s most notably), or if he was relying on qulos because of the risk.

  7. “Hirhurim on January 28, 2011 at 9:22 am
    This book is an extended argument against such claims”

    I would hope that some non Chassidic expert on Jewish theology who is not involved in the “recovery business” would address such claims. I have seen arguments by Milwaukee native? Rabbi Dr. Twerski stating how 12 steps are in the Jewish tradition-apparently Rabbi Taub is also in the Recovery business. An analysis by those who are not “nogeah badavar” would be desireable.
    I don’t mean to imply that either Rabbi Twerski or Rabbi Taub do not genuinely believe their arguments-similarto my arguments on the brain death thread.

  8. Mycroft-many classical Sifei Machshavah and Mussar such as Mesilas Yesharim, as well as many sefarim written long before MY, posit that teshuvah is a step by step process.

  9. “Steve Brizel on January 28, 2011 at 12:41 pm
    Mycroft-many classical Sifei Machshavah and Mussar such as Mesilas Yesharim, as well as many sefarim written long before MY, posit that teshuvah is a step by step process.”

    That is not the issue that I have with 12 step programs-although they became twelve steps because Bill W and his wife sat down in a kitchen table and just adapted the Oxford Evangelical program into 12 steps-12 being very convenient for the months ofthe year and of course they have since made other 12s that the 12 step programs treat as their Torah.

  10. esthermeinkint

    I have seen arguments by Milwaukee native? Rabbi Dr. Twerski stating how 12 steps are in the Jewish tradition-apparently Rabbi Taub is also in the Recovery business. An analysis by those who are not “nogeah badavar” would be desireable.

    Mycroft: You’ve got it backwards. Rabbi Twerski became interested in the 12 Steps after being introduced to them by a psychiatric client of his and being profoundly affected by the recovery of this woman who’d been a down-and-out alcoholic for 40 years. He attended an AA meeting to see what this was about and found Torah in the 12 steps. Subsequently he got involved in the drug and alcohol addiction/recovery movement.
    As a recovering person in Alanon, for the relatives and friends of alcoholics/addicts (which, incidentally, is full of frum people), I can confirm that there is nothing anti-Torah in these rooms, and many of us have found Hashem in a deeper way than in any other setting. We use the same 12 Steps.

    # Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    We admitted we were powerless to change our addicted/alcoholic loved one though we went to crazy extremes to try to do so. And if you understand addiction, you will know that with “will-power” alone it is impossible to conquer this all-encompassing yetzer horah.

    # Step 2 – Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

    Both the addict/alcoholic and their relatives’ lives had descended into insanity (living with such a person, particularly one you love who is self-destructing before your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it, is beyond horrific). Seeing no hope and accepting our own powerlessness, we came to believe that only Hashem could help us and our loved one. You may claim that this is not a chiddush for you but there is a vast difference between knowing this intellectually and turning to Him in your time of deepest despair.

    # Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
    The steps wisely break the process up so that we need to cry out to Hashem and believe He can help us before we turn our will and our lives over to Him. Once we finally accept that Hashem can and will take care of us can we begin to stop our futile journey to find our own solutions and understand that Hashem will guide us with His solutions. The same goes for the alcoholic/addict.

    As to the personal inventory, and ultimately asking Hashem to remove our character defects, what do you think Yom Kippur is all about. If you were able to do this alone, do you think you would need another Yom Kippur? Hashem helps us remove these defects when we are truly ready to have them removed, not only when we’ve worked ourselves up into a sweat by neilah, followed by a rush home to eat something, and then to pick up life as we know it. We are not always as ready as we think we are.

    There is a rumor floating around AA and OA that RYSE permitted 12 Step programming. I wonder if he was addressing the many 12 Steppers aren’t remotely near saqanas nefashos, as well as the existence of books trying to bring the steps to non-addicts (R’ Twerski’s most notably), or if he was relying on qulos because of the risk.
    Addicts and alcoholics are always one drink/drug away from saqanas nefashos and have a heter to go to meetings even on Shabbos. Other 12 Steppers do not have such a heter. True, in OA eating a piece of kokosh cake would not put you in the emergency room but an alcoholic starting a glass of shnapps can easily end up there once they get started.
    It’s easy to pass judgement having not had to go through the experience, but one must get their facts straight and understand the 12 steps on a deeper level before knocking them off as “another religion”.

  11. Historical note: the nineteenth-century Oxford Movement was “Anglo-Catholic,” opposed in principle to the evangelical forgetting or erasure of pre-Reformation Christian traditions the Movement was trying to recover for the Church of England. The Twelve Steps, I am told, are based ulimately on the Rule of St. Benedict.

    The Twelve Steps al regel echad: we tried to sober up by hishtadlut, and that doesn’t work — but we succeed by accepting sobriety as a gift from G-d.

  12. “Mycroft: You’ve got it backwards. Rabbi Twerski became interested in the 12 Steps after being introduced to them by a psychiatric client of his and being profoundly affected by the recovery of this woman who’d been a down-and-out alcoholic for 40 years”

    By the time Dr Twerski had graduated medical school AA had been in existence a quarter of a century.

    “# Step 1 – We admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable.
    We admitted we were powerless to change our addicted/alcoholic loved one though we went to crazy extremes to try to do so.”

    There is a big difference between recognizing that one is powerless to change another person the message of the anons which is not contrary to basic yahadus than the concept of one is powerless over ones one addiction-note addiction can be alcohol, drugs, sex etc-does yahadus ever say that one can throw up ones hands and not take responsibility to try and improve ones own behavior.

    ” Step 3 – Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.
    The steps wisely break the process up so that we need to cry out to Hashem and believe He can help us before we turn our will and our lives over to Him. Once we finally accept that Hashem can and will take care of us can we begin to stop our futile journey to find our own solutions and understand that Hashem will guide us with His solutions. The same goes for the alcoholic/addict.”

    Certainly that hashkafa is counter to the Rambams-maybe Chassidic that God controls every leaf-but standard is that although God certainly has the ability to intervene ain somchin al hanesw it is our hishtadlus which is what we have to do

    “And if you understand addiction, you will know that with “will-power” alone it is impossible to conquer this all-encompassing yetzer horah.’
    For some yes and some no-12 steps do not follow scientific medicine that would determine each individual to them everyone is the same. BTW- 12 steps started when modern addiction medicine was in its infancy today depending on the addiction there may or may not be medical intervention that can help.
    BTW if addiction is a disease why treat it by going to self help meetings-would one dream of treating diabetes and cancer by going to meetings.

    “The Twelve Steps al regel echad: we tried to sober up by hishtadlut, and that doesn’t work”
    That may be true for some and may not be true for others-medicine would state try and treatthe individual person with a disease-religion would have everyone except the same principles of faith instead of 13 Rambam-one has Bill W’s 12 principles of faith.

    — but we succeed by accepting sobriety as a gift from G-d.”
    That

  13. “The Twelve Steps al regel echad: we tried to sober up by hishtadlut, and that doesn’t work — but we succeed by accepting sobriety as a gift from G-d.”

    AN ELEMENT OF RELIGIOUS FAITH NOT SCIENCE-SOME PEOPLE GET BETTER BY HISHTADLUT AND SOME DON’T IT IS THE HEIGHT OF FOLLY TO IMPLY EVERYONE CAN’T GET BETTER BY HISHTADLUT.

  14. Mycroft, I think you have put your finger on the difference between the alcoholic and the non-alcoholic who might be mistaken for him (e.g. the binge drinker or hell-raising shaigetz.) The alcoholic is the drinker who can’t stop drinking by hishtadlut. And you have picked up on another all-important point, as well: Twelve Step sobriety requires a decisive element of faith because it relies on supernatural causation, stepping outside or above the realm of natural causation that hishtadlut and science work in to receive supernaturally infused sobriety: a gift from G-d, not an achievement on the alcoholic’s inadequate part. To be sure, the alcoholic should, and always does, try at first to control his drinking — but when he can’t, he is ready to go to AA and learn that G-d will help him do what he can’t on his own. Alcoholism may be his natural mazal, but with that help, he can live as a sober alcoholic.

    OTOH, if he thinks it’s up to him and hishtadlut, he (again, I’m talking about the genuine alcoholic) may try to fool himself that he can continue drinking but moderate it. AA meetings throng with alcoholics who used to think so.

  15. “And you have picked up on another all-important point, as well: Twelve Step sobriety requires a decisive element of faith because it relies on supernatural causation, stepping outside or above the realm of natural causation that hishtadlut and science work in to receive supernaturally infused sobriety: a gift from G-d, not an achievement on the alcoholic’s inadequate part.”
    If Twelve Steps relies on “supernatural causation” and the source of Twelve Steps is clearly non-Jewish religions what is the heter for adopting 12 Steps. Would anyone say that one can attend a Christian spirtual retreat and partake in its activities including prayers even if shown to be an effective treatment?

  16. esthermeinkint

    If Twelve Steps relies on “supernatural causation” and the source of Twelve Steps is clearly non-Jewish religions what is the heter for adopting 12 Steps.

    Mycroft: I haven’t yet read “God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction”, but am looking forward. And I suspect what I’ll find is that the 12 Steps, sketchily derived from the Oxford Group, finds their basis in Torah. I have yet to hear gedolim assuring AA et al., although I’m sure there must be some. You might find it interesting to familiarize yourself with JACS, Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent, and their Significant Others. It is run under the umbrella of JBFCS. They sponsor retreats upstate attended by Jews from the most Chassidishe and Yeshivishe to the most Reformed. Without life-saving organizations like this, AA, NA, and their Anonymous cousins, we’d hear about far more overdoses than we already know of. Check out http://www.jacsweb.org/.
    And trust me, when working the 12 Steps there is TREMENDOUS hishtadlus. All the alcoholic is doing is asking for G-d’s help. What is so goyishe about that?

  17. “And I suspect what I’ll find is that the 12 Steps, sketchily derived from the Oxford Group, finds their basis in Torah”
    As is much of Christianity and Islam derived from theTorah -andIslam BTW from Torah Shebeal Peh, That would not kasher following prayers etc written by them.

    “All the alcoholic is doing is asking for G-d’s help. What is so goyishe about that”
    As is the non Jew asking for Gods help in his places of worship-so if 12 step is a religion as is recognized by many US jurisdictions in court cases.

  18. “12 step is a religion as is recognized by many US jurisdictions in court cases.”

    My recollection (haven’t looked at this is a long time) is that the cases do not hold that 12 step is a specific religion, only thatit requires some religious belief, which, with its references to God it surely seems to. But there’s no reason that religious belief can’t be Jewish for Jews, Christianity for Christians etc. In any event, Mycroft, why are you so “frum” and machmir about this when no one else seems to be?

  19. “My recollection (haven’t looked at this is a long time) is that the cases do not hold that 12 step is a specific religion,”
    There are at least 2 line of cases one that 12 steps gets treated as religion for privleges eg Clergy-penitent NY law example that confession to fellow 12 step member treated as religious confession-also line of cases that courts can’t mandate attendance at a 12 step program as a condition of probation/parole etc see it would be government mandating religious practice.

    ” In any event, Mycroft, why are you so “frum” and machmir about this when no one else seems to be?”
    Are you surprised that I would argue a position differentthan what is generally accepted?
    I believe that most have not thought about the issue.
    Certainly, most who are not a nogeah badavar as are Dr Twerski and Rabbi Taub-both in recovery business from a non medical angle.

  20. Mycroft wrote:

    “Certainly, most who are not a nogeah badavar as are Dr Twerski and Rabbi Taub-both in recovery business from a non medical angle”

    WADR, why such a sustained animus against R D A Twersky, whose books and writings have added much spiritual enhancement to many lives, Jewish and non-Jewish, and who has helped make mental health issues a subject that can be discussed in the Torah observant community?

  21. Mycroft wrote:

    “Certainly, most who are not a nogeah badavar as are Dr Twerski and Rabbi Taub-both in recovery business from a non medical angle”

    WADR, I don’t understand or comprehend your sustained animus against R D A Twersky, whose books and writings have added much spiritual enhancement to many lives, Jewish and non-Jewish, and who has helped make mental health issues a subject that can be discussed in the Torah observant community?

  22. Steve Brizel on February 1, 2011 at 8:42 pm
    Mycroft wrote:

    “Certainly, most who are not a nogeah badavar as are Dr Twerski and Rabbi Taub-both in recovery business from a non medical angle”

    “WADR, I don’t understand or comprehend your sustained animus against R D A Twersky, whose books and writings have added much spiritual enhancement to many lives, Jewish and non-Jewish, and who has helped make mental health issues a subject that can be discussed in the Torah observant community?”

    I have read some of his books and have heard him lecture a few times-disagreeing/asking a question about the appropriateness of attendance and adopting as principles something that at least in some circles is treated as a religion.

    Stating that someone is a nogeah badavar doesn’t indicate an animus towards that person-it doesn’t even indicate that a person is necessarily consciously ruling in a way because of his other interests-it simply is stating the obvious that when one has other interests as Dr Twerski does-he is not the one to rule on the halachik appropriateness of 12 steps.
    Note Rabbi Reisman in his book about his Navi lectures discusses the topic of how even our greatest may not realize when they are a nogeah badavar.

  23. Mycroft wrote in response to the following:

    ““WADR, I don’t understand or comprehend your sustained animus against R D A Twersky, whose books and writings have added much spiritual enhancement to many lives, Jewish and non-Jewish, and who has helped make mental health issues a subject that can be discussed in the Torah observant community?”

    I have read some of his books and have heard him lecture a few times-disagreeing/asking a question about the appropriateness of attendance and adopting as principles something that at least in some circles is treated as a religion.”

    That is a conclusion, not a logical answer.Merely reading some of R D Twersky’s books and hearing him lecture would hardly justify your ongoing animosity against a person who has done more to bring mental health issues to the fore within all sectors of Torah Judaism than anyone else. As of this post, you have not presented an iota of proof that R D Twersky’s hashkafa or his approach to therapeutic issues is against Halacha. I think that your objection ignores the fact that many Baalei Musar and Chasidus work on elevating man in a series of progressions and actions. Simply stated, man is a Holech, not an Omed, and your objections do not reflect the fact that throughput Jewish history, many approaches have been developed to enable man to be a Holech, even to the extent of using “foreign” and “non Jewish” thought systems. Would you apply your logic to the Aristotelian influenced sections of the MN, and if not, why not?

  24. “I don’t understand or comprehend your sustained animus against R D A Twersky, whose books and writings have added much spiritual enhancement to many lives, Jewish and non-Jewish”

    I am just being consistent the same way that I believe physicians do not have any role in determining halachik brain death because there could easily be a conflict-so therapists and others in the recovery business should not determine if 12 step programs do or do not violate Yahadus either because of their message or source.

  25. “Merely reading some of R D Twersky’s books and hearing him lecture would hardly justify your ongoing animosity against a person who has done more to bring mental health issues to the fore within all sectors of Torah Judaism than anyone else.”

    That does not make R D Twerski the appropriate person to discuss the halachik issues-it is no more appropriate for him than it is for a transplantsurgeon to determine the appropriate definition of halachik death.

    “As of this post, you have not presented an iota of proof that R D Twersky’s hashkafa or his approach to therapeutic issues is against Halacha.”
    I have not questioned Dr Twerski because I obviously do not know his therapeutic approach. I have discussed 12 step programs. The 12 steps are freely available on the web. Certainly, there is at least a question if a Jew is allowed to follow a non Jewish religion which 12 steps is-if it is a religion. Certainly, there is much to indicate that 12 steps has a lot of elements of a religion-there are many US cases that treat it as a religion.
    Even if 12 steps is not a religion can aJew follow something that is based on a nonJewish religion-there can not be any dispute that 12 step programs were based on the message a non Jewish religion.

    “I think that your objection ignores the fact that many Baalei Musar and Chasidus work on elevating man in a series of progressions and actions.”
    not my objection-a couple of steps raise questions in my mind.

    “Simply stated, man is a Holech, not an Omed, and your objections do not reflect the fact that throughput Jewish history, many approaches have been developed to enable man to be a Holech, even to the extent of using “foreign” and “non Jewish” thought systems. Would you apply your logic to the Aristotelian influenced sections of the MN, and if not, why not?”

    I didn’t say that I would object to a Jewish variation of the general concept of 12 steps-it is the copying of the Oxford program a non Jewish religious group that is the basis of 12 steps.
    Other than a couple of steps I would have no objection to the concept of 12 steps if it were not an offshoot of non Jewish religion. I have listed my objections about a couple of steps as not being part of Jewish tradition-but major objection is the source.
    To the best of my knowledge MN does not advocate prayers composed by Greeks-12 step programs do advocate saying prayers composed by non Jews.

  26. Joseph Kaplan

    Mycroft, do the cases say it is “A religion” or it is “religion”? There’s an important difference which you continue to ignore.

  27. “Joseph Kaplan on February 3, 2011 at 6:56 am
    Mycroft, do the cases say it is “A religion” or it is “religion”? There’s an important difference which you continue to ignore”

    see eg the following from
    DeStefano v. Emergency Housing Group, Inc., 247 F. 3d 397 – Court of Appeals, (2nd Cir 2001)

    “The district court in the case before us rightly considered the A.A. program at the MACC to be a “religion” for Establishment Clause purposes. It is too late in the day for the defendants to argue otherwise. See Warner, Griffin v. Coughlin, 88 N.Y.2d 674, 683, 649 N.Y.S.2d 903, 908, 673 N.E.2d 98 (1996), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1054, 117 S.Ct. 681, 136 L.Ed.2d 607 (1997) (holding that a review of A.A. materials “demonstrates beyond peradventure that doctrinally and as actually practiced in the 12-step methodology, adherence to the A.A. fellowship entails engagement in religious activity and religious proselytization”); see also Kerr v. Farrey, 95 F.3d 472, 479-480 (7th Cir.1996) (reaching the same conclusion about a materially indistinguishable N.A. program); Alexander v. Schenk, 118 F.Supp.2d 298, 300 n. 1 (N.D.N.Y.2000) (treating A.A. as a religion, following Warner and Griffin); Yates v. Cunningham, 70 F.Supp.2d 47, 49 (D.N.H. 1999) (same, citing, inter alia, Warner and Kerr); Warburton v. Underwood, 2 F.Supp.2d 306, 316-18 (W.D.N.Y.1998) (treating N.A. as a religion, citing, inter alia, Warner and Griffin).”

    A religion which of course is not Judaism.

  28. Joseph Kaplan

    We can beat this to death but one issue in Warner was whether AA was a nonsectarian religion. The court held it wasn’t because a Christian prayer was said at all meetings. But it also said that even a nonsectarian religion falls under the First Amendment. so, it’s really a question of metziut. If there is always a Christian prayer at all AA meetings, then I understand your position. But if there are AA meetings without such prayers or other Christian rituals then AA would be religious practice under the First Amendment but would not necessarily be incompatible with Judaism. (See the quote from Griffin where it speaks about religious activity.)

  29. Joe:
    I did my google search for structure of AA meetings and found what is found the following url which has a description of AA meetings.

    http://www.new-life-in-recovery.com/aameeting.html

    IMHO if the description is accurate there is much to be at least concerned about from a halachik standpoint.

  30. Mycroft:

    Thanks for the link. As I said, it’s a question of metzi’ut. If that’s accurate, then I see the problem.

  31. Mycroft-thanks for the link. The question remains how AA groups that are directed at the Torah observant community and function in such facilities as a shul, JCC and are led by Torah observant mental health professionals are organized and run. It strikes me as bizarre to assume that such groups would use prayers of a non-Jewish origin. FWIW, whether or not a Circuit Court of Appeals views AA as a non sectarian religion does not strike me as the end of the inquiry.

  32. IIRC, Stanley Fish , who is the subject of an extensive interview in the latest Cardozo LS alumni journal, quoted Justice Scalia on his less than favorable view of the quality of and rationale in much,if not all, of the cases involving the Establishment Clause. It should also be noted that in many areas of law, working under New York constitutional law considerations, as opposed to the more conservative US Supreme Court, the New York Court of Appeals is far more liberal than the US Supreme Court and has a concept of the Establishment Clause fortified by the Blaine Amendment, that views the same as almost absolute in nature. See, for instance, the Court of Appeals’ decisions re Kiryas Yoel, for an example of the views of the Court of Appeals in this arena.

  33. “The question remains how AA groups that are directed at the Torah observant community and function in such facilities as a shul, JCC and are led by Torah observant mental health professionals are organized and run.”

    I have no idea-I would assume or at least hope that those groups avoid the problem. My general posts are about 12 step programs in general from publicly available data-it is my understanding and I could be wrong that Dr Twerski advocates patients go to 12 step programs even if not adapted to Jewish concerns.

    “It strikes me as bizarre to assume that such groups would use prayers of a non-Jewish origin.”
    It should strike them as bizarre.

    “FWIW, whether or not a Circuit Court of Appeals views AA as a non sectarian religion does not strike me as the end of the inquiry.”
    Agreed-a Court of Appeals can’t determine halacha-but I think their opinion and statements of facts are relevant to what actually goes on in 12 step programs. It is an area worthy of serious halachik discussion-BTW will sadly probably impact far more people than brain death will.

  34. Mtcroft wrote in part:

    “it is my understanding and I could be wrong that Dr Twerski advocates patients go to 12 step programs even if not adapted to Jewish concerns.”

    Proof please?

  35. Steve Brizel on February 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm
    Mtcroft wrote in part:

    ““it is my understanding and I could be wrong that Dr Twerski advocates patients go to 12 step programs even if not adapted to Jewish concerns.”

    Proof please?”
    I stated my understanding and could be wrong-means I am not currently claiming bloggable proof.

  36. Steve Brizel on February 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm
    Mtcroft wrote in part:

    ““it is my understanding and I could be wrong that Dr Twerski advocates patients go to 12 step programs even if not adapted to Jewish concerns.”

    Proof please?”
    Steve Brizel on February 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm
    Mtcroft wrote in part:

    “it is my understanding and I could be wrong that Dr Twerski advocates patients go to 12 step programs even if not adapted to Jewish concerns.”

    Proof please?

    http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Judaism__the_12_Steps.html

    Dr Twerski’s viewpoint why 12 steps are permitted-shows clear advocacy for 12 steps-
    “Since the majority of meetings are held in church basements or social halls, some feel that these are Christian programs. The sad fact is that very few synagogues have made themselves available to program meetings. Inasmuch as the various addictions have seriously affected many Jews, it would be a mitzvah for synagogues to open their doors to meetings”
    “The fact hat they were adopted by a Christian group hardly disqualifies them, just as the kedusha prayer in the amidah was not disqualified by its adoption into the Lord’s Prayer.”
    Does that make the Lords Prayer acceptable for a Jew?

    A quick google search found the following:
    “Dear Rabbi,

    At the end of my 12 Step meetings, the group joins hands in a circle and says the Lord’s Prayer. When I am there at the end, sometimes I say the prayer and sometimes I don’t. I didn’t feel I was ‘worshipping false idols’ when I said the prayer, I felt like I was just part of the fellowship and saying the words, not praying the words. I have no problem saying the Serenity prayer (which we say at the end of business meetings), but lately I am noticing I am not comfortable with the Lord’s Prayer, and questioning whether it’s wrong even to stand silently with bowed head.

    -Prayer-full in Peoria

    Dear Prayer-full:
    The Lord’s Prayer is the most well-known and widely used prayer of Christianity. According to Wikepedia, it is used by all major denominations in almost every language of the globe and unites Christians across theological and political divides. Interestingly enough, the content of the prayer is not particularly “Christian” and makes no reference to Jesus, the trinity or other doctrines of exclusively Christian faith. It is attributed to Jesus in at least two accounts of the Gospels (Matthew and Luke) and, in that context, could be understood as a prayer that Jesus, a Jew, taught to his followers, also Jews making it originally a Jewish prayer.
    Here is the most common version from the Book of Common Prayer (1929):

    Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name.
    Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,
    As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil. [For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.]

    The words of the Lord’s Prayer may sound somewhat familiar to Jewish worshipers. In many senses, it echoes some of the various meditations offered at the end of the Amidah or central standing prayer of the Jewish liturgy. For example, look at this one from Kol HaNeshemah, p. 322:

    Sovereign of the universe, fulfill my heart’s petitions for the good,
    Let me be worthy to perform your will with a whole heart,
    Deliver me from the inclination to do evil, and give me my portion in your Torah.
    May I merit, with all Israel, that your Presence dwells among us.
    Make evident among us the spirit of wisdom, and understanding, strength and
    counsel, knowledge and awe of You.
    May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to
    you my God, my rock and my redeemer.

    Since there doesn’t seem to be any thing antithetical to Judaism or offensive to Judaism in this prayer, I see no reason to avoid being respectfully present while it is recited. Standing in support of its intent and ideals, bowing ones head or even offering an “Amen” to the prayer, which essentially asks God for support on our life’s journeys, seems at the very least, harmless and maybe even desirable. It would not be appropriate, however, for a Jew to lead the recitation or recite the prayer with the community.
    On the other hand, The Lord’s Prayer is so directly associated with Christianity and Jesus that its recitation often makes Jews feel uncomfortable, particularly in what we believe to be non-denominational, interfaith or secular settings. Given the unfortunate history of Christian oppression and antipathy towards Jews and Judaism, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in an interfaith setting can be experienced as making Jews feel invisible or shut down. In those cases, it might be more appropriate to suggest a truly interfaith or non-denominational alternative like the serenity prayer or other such invocations, of which there are many available on the internet.

    Rabbi Elyse”
    In addition to Dr. Twerski at least a non Orthodox Rabbi seems to permit saying that Prayer which apparently is fpound in many 12 step programs.

  37. “Rabbi Elyse”
    In addition to Dr. Twerski at least a non Orthodox Rabbi seems to permit saying that Prayer which apparently is fpound in many 12 step programs”

    My mistake “Standing in support of its intent and ideals, bowing ones head or even offering an “Amen” to the prayer, which essentially asks God for support on our life’s journeys, seems at the very least, harmless and maybe even desirable. It would not be appropriate, however, for a Jew to lead the recitation or recite the prayer with the community.”
    The non Orthodox Rabbi does not believe it appropriate for a Jew to recite the prayer-although he would allow bowing ones head in support etc-IMHO also problematic.

  38. Mycroft-WADrR, the web based anecdote that you cited does not strike me either as proof that Orthodox Jews are going to 12 step groups where meetings end with a non Jewish prayer. My query re proof with respect to your “understanding” remains, especially since you essentially admit that you have neither documented nor verified proof that such meetings occur at AA meetings attended by Torah observant Jews in their communities. I would suggest that the subject requires further clarification before you claim that such practices are utilized at AA type meetings that service the Torah observant community.

  39. Mycroft-WADR, the web based anecdote that you cited does not strike me either as proof that Orthodox Jews are going to 12 step groups where meetings end with a non Jewish prayer.

  40. Mycroft-any comments re an article in this week’s FTJT entitled “My Life as an Addict”?

  41. ” the web based anecdote that you cited does not strike me either as proof that Orthodox Jews are going to 12 step groups where meetings end with a non Jewish prayer.”
    It is evidence-circumstantial evidence-proof?

    ” My query re proof with respect to your “understanding” remains, especially since you essentially admit that you have neither documented nor verified proof that such meetings occur at AA meetings attended by Torah observant Jews in their communities.”

    Impossible to verify or study AA and all 12 step meetings are anonymous.

    “I would suggest that the subject requires further clarification before you claim that such practices are utilized at AA type meetings that service the Torah observant community.”

    Not what I stated or meant to state-I am stating that Orthodox Jews are being encouraged to go to 12 step meetings even general 12 step meetings.
    I believe that Dr Twerski both MD father and son Phd who are both in the recovery business encourage addicts to attend 12 step programs without restriction- You believe I’m wrong ask them.

  42. “Steve Brizel on February 5, 2011 at 8:04 pm
    Mycroft-WADR, the web based anecdote that you cited does not strike me either as proof that Orthodox Jews are going to 12 step groups where meetings end with a non Jewish prayer.”

    Steve:
    Where are the 12 step programs that you believe Orthodox Jews are going to?
    I checked online for Flatbush, Boro Park and Midwood and did not see any AA meetings listed that would qualify for Orthodox Jews-if not there then where?

    http://www.nyintergroup.org/meetinglist/zone.cfm?zone=05&boro=BK

    Is the url for Boro Park meetings.
    How could one respond to you Steve wo Google?

  43. Myroft wrote in part:

    “Not what I stated or meant to state-I am stating that Orthodox Jews are being encouraged to go to 12 step meetings even general 12 step meetings.
    I believe that Dr Twerski both MD father and son Phd who are both in the recovery business encourage addicts to attend 12 step programs without restriction- You believe I’m wrong ask them”

    Mycroft-You made the statement re Torah observant Jews attending the program in quetion. In that case, I think that the burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate that such is the case. Merely stating what you “believe” does not satisfy that burden.

  44. “Mycroft-You made the statement re Torah observant Jews attending the program in quetion. In that case, I think that the burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate that such is the case. Merely stating what you “believe” does not satisfy that burden”

    Steve:

    I gave you circumstantial evidence-it is clear that Dr Twerski advocates attendance at 12 step programs, it is evident thaqt there are few 12 step sessions adapted for Orthodox sesibilities-where are the Orthodox attendees going.
    Now of course, if one states that one can’t be Orthodox if one is an addict than your statement is true-but assuming arguendo one means those who associate with Orthodox schuls/go or went to Yeshivot etc as Orthodox then clearly they are going to general 12 step programs.
    A last circumstantial piece of evidence Dr. B Twerski apparently has become associated with some new treatment center that has advertised in the Orthodox Press.
    http://beithatikvah.com/index.php/home

    http://beithatikvah.com/index.php/article/help_for_you
    has this specifically
    “Can’t I just go to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous meetings?
    Many people who did not go to a formal treatment program have been successful through Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous. For others, however, the disease has progressed to a point where they need the added structure, support and clinical services that are provided in a more formal program. Many of our alumni rely on Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous meetings to provide lifelong support after receiving treatment at Beit Hatikvah. ”
    Clearly, regular 12 step program attendance is advocated by the institution that Benzion Twerski treats himself as spiritual director-he must have great Chassidic kochot living in Brooklyn-spiritual director down in Florida.

    “Mycroft-You made the statement re Torah observant Jews attending the program in quetion. In that case, I think that the burden of proof lies with you to demonstrate that such is the case. Merely stating what you “believe” does not satisfy that burden”

    I( believe I have satisfied the answers as much as I expect to-those who aren’t satisfied by my arguments and evidence fine-I submit I have given more evidence than the vast majority of assertions on Hirhurim.
    I may not have bloggable proof that satisfied you Steve- but “believe” is one of my stronger words that I use for a level of internal belief that what I am stating is true wo listing bloggable proof.
    One can simply look at my track record for general accuracy over the years on commenting.

  45. Mycroft wrote:

    “http://beithatikvah.com/index.php/article/help_for_you
    has this specifically
    “Can’t I just go to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous meetings?
    Many people who did not go to a formal treatment program have been successful through Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous. For others, however, the disease has progressed to a point where they need the added structure, support and clinical services that are provided in a more formal program. Many of our alumni rely on Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gambling Anonymous meetings to provide lifelong support after receiving treatment at Beit Hatikvah. ”
    Clearly, regular 12 step program attendance is advocated by the institution that Benzion Twerski treats himself as spiritual director-he must have great Chassidic kochot living in Brooklyn-spiritual director down in Florida.”

    I saw nothing in the above link that advocated a 12 step based therapy, but rather that the addict recognize that some sort of therapy, whether AA, NA or GA is needed after a stay in a rehab facility and that Beit HaTikvah is merely a rehab facility that is Torah friendly, as opposed to a rehab facility that relies on 12 steps. Again, I fail to see your animus against R D A Twerski or R D B Twerski.

  46. Mycroft-have you seen this essay by R D A Twerski on this issue?
    http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2010/dtwe_12steps.html

  47. Mycroft-R D A Twerski’s article that is on both Aish and Torahweb is not advocacy, but rather showing the obvious- that the 12 step approach has its roots in Chazal, Rishonim, and Sifrei Chasidus and Musar, and that any non-Jewish aspects that one finds in AA, etc, can be easily changed to accomodate Halachic and Hashkafic concerns. WADR, I strongly disagree with your contention that the 12 step approach is rooted in a foreign religion.

  48. Mycroft-R D A Twerski’s article that is on both Aish and Torahweb is not advocacy, but rather showing that the 12 step approach has its roots in Chazal, Rishonim, and Sifrei Chasidus and Musar, and that any non-Jewish aspects that one finds in AA, etc, can be easily changed to accomodate Halachic and Hashkafic concerns. WADR, I strongly disagree with your contention that the 12 step approach is rooted in a foreign religion.

  49. Mycroft-One’s internal belief is fine for those matters that are beyond man’s ability to document or verify. However, relying on the same as a means of questionning the Halachic and Hashkafic bonafides of an Adamn Gadol UTzadik Mfursam who has helped the Torah world more than anyone else deal with mental health issues is IMO wrong.

  50. Mycroft wrote in part:

    “Clearly, regular 12 step program attendance is advocated by the institution that Benzion Twerski treats himself as spiritual director-he must have great Chassidic kochot living in Brooklyn-spiritual director down in Florida.”

    Perhaps, R D B Twerski flies down to Florida and is in touch via other means of communication that can be described as contemporary means of Kefitzas HaDerech.

  51. “Steve Brizel on February 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm
    Mycroft-R D A Twerski’s article that is on both Aish and Torahweb is not advocacy, but rather showing that the 12 step approach has its roots in Chazal, Rishonim, and Sifrei Chasidus and Musar,”
    It is clear that AAs 12 step does NOT have its roots in Chazal etc-it has its roots in Oxford Group an evangelical group that Bill W attended before he and his wife sat down in a kitchen one night to market it as 12 steps. DR Twerski has shown that he can find sources in Chazal that have maintained positions similar to 12 steps. One can find positions in Chazal that ein mashiach bisrael or that God is corporeal-dcertainly in the Chassidic world one can easily find positions that differ from mainstream Yahadus-see eg R D David Bergers attacks on Lubavitch-BTW I don’t see you arguing against D Berger that he is attacking an “an Adamn Gadol UTzadik Mfursam”-I have simply stated that I believe and besides my belief I think it is evident by all the defenses that R D Twerski has written for 12 steps that others must have questioned the propriety of jews using something based on a foreign religion. To me it is evident that Rabbi Twerski advocates 12 steps-his most recent book published to commemmorate his 80th birthday has a few pages advocating 12 steps.

    “can be easily changed to accomodate Halachic and Hashkafic concerns.”
    Assuming arguendo that one can do that and it is clear that R Twerski has attempted to do that in one of his booksMy sole argument has been about the propriety of Jews using a religion that was founded on the basis of non Jewish religions as a treatment modality.

    “WADR, I strongly disagree with your contention that the 12 step approach is rooted in a foreign religion.”
    read the history-available online many places about Bill Ws founding of AA.

  52. “Brizel on February 6, 2011 at 6:05 pm
    Mycroft-One’s internal belief is fine for those matters that are beyond man’s ability to document or verify.”

    I am NOT questioning R Twerski bona fides etc-I merely am stating what I beleive to be his viewpoint on 12 steps.It is clear that his viewpoint is genuinely held-but being sincere in ones beliefs doews not necessarily make them correct-it is clear that others disagree. ”
    “However, relying on the same as a means of questionning the Halachic and Hashkafic bonafides of an Adamn Gadol UTzadik Mfursam who has helped the Torah world more than anyone else deal with mental health issues is IMO wrong”

    Irrelevant it is the truth that I am after-R D Berger has certainly written much more strongly against others who certainly are knowledgeable.
    Different people can have different viewpoints-the Rav for example was very strict against copying the influence of nonJewish religions-thus he was opposed to stain glass windows in schuls since they were copied from a church-it is certainly possible that R Twerski does not have the samedegree of aversion to copying things from other religions.

  53. Would one say that attending a Christian or Islamic religious activity would be proper for a Jew assuming that practice was beneficial in making someone better?
    For both the above religions it would be very easy to find sources within Chazal that essentially advocate similar positions.

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