Posted by Beit T'shuvah
by Rabbi Mark Borovitz
This week's blog is an example of a day in the life of Rabbi Mark Borovitz. Since I have been writing about redemption, I thought I would show how much it imbues my life and the lives of others. This is a compilation of a few different days.
Here it is:
3:00 am: Wake up- not exactly sure why, it just seems as if this is the time when my wife Harriet and I are able to spend uninterrupted time together to ensure our spiritual connection, talk about ideas and how to bring them to fruition personally, professionally and for others. Our discussions center on how to enhance our own redemption and spread this message of hope to others. Harriet always goes to work out after we have coffee and I have recently committed to do the same.
6:00: I usually meet with graduates and/or employees to study some spiritual text and help them with the challenges that life/work is presenting. We look at the whole picture, always seeing the situation as a way of growing and learning more. The solutions are never about blame; they are about solutions as to how to redeem moments, events, and souls. The issues raised always speak to my own inner conflicts. I want to just tell someone what the next right thing is according to how I see the situation. However I know I have to make sure I ask the right questions so the other person reaches the best solution for themselves; always hearing the call of their soul.
7:30: Torah Study with primary residents - this is a time for me to interact with the newer people at Beit T’Shuvah. I teach that Torah is relevant and necessary to living well, which is the purpose of Beit T’Shuvah and, in my opinion, Judaism and every other Spiritual Path. I believe that we have to see ourselves in every Torah portion, every chapter of Torah and Tanakh. If we don't, we are hiding from ourselves, others and God. From our place of hiding comes blame and shame that Adam and Eve experienced in "the Garden of Eden" story. When a resident confronts me on my way of reading Torah either from a more "either/or", traditional or non-believing stance, I have to take a breath and remember that my role is to demonstrate the wrestling that living a Spiritual Life entails. I want to just send forth "fire and brimstone" yet I know that this is not the way. I want to ask, " who are you to question me, I have the experience that you don't!!" What I do most of the time since I am not perfect is to ask the person more questions about what they are saying. I find that this brings about more discussion and we all find the "right" questions for this moment, experience. It takes more patience and control then I want to exhibit at times and doing the next right thing is the most important action I can model for others, especially people who are new in Recovery.
8:00: My plan of meeting with a resident or staff person is interrupted by a frantic phone call from a family member who's son, daughter, cousin, nephew/niece, parent, spouse and/or friend wants a bed. I am reminded of something my aunt taught me, "be careful what you ask for, you might get it!" Harriet and I have worked hard for all these years to build an innovative, state of the art, center for healing of addictive disorders, family wellness, Jewish spirituality and living well. We have succeeded in these aspects and our success has made more people want our services than we can accommodate. When the person on the other side of the line is desperate, it is hard for me to not feed into their desperation. I am worried about how this will affect fundraising, our reputation, etc. I want to say talk to the staff in charge AND I know they are calling me because they are desperate and the staff has put their person on the waiting list. I have to assess the acuteness of this situation and talk the family off the ledge. It usually ends with me agreeing to see the people, the addict and the family that day and shuffling around my schedule. There are times when I don't want to deal with this stuff anymore; yet, I wrestle with my own personal mission and Rabbinate. They are one in the same: to be a personal Rabbi who deals with each person as an advocate of their soul and a shleioch/representative of God. So I do see the people and usually find a solution even if I have to use my discretionary fund to pay for a sober living until a bed comes available.
More to come next week.
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November 29, 2012 | 7:27 pm
Posted by Michael Soter
At every school we work with, without fail, somebody asks, “Is marijuana a gateway drug?” As recent graduates from teenagedom, we grew up with police officers coming into our schools championing a Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” approach to drugs and alcohol—that if we tried marijuana, our brains would inevitably eventually turn into eggs on a frying pan, the result of daily ecstasy use. This message obviously did not work for us. When we called into question Nancy’s thesis and saw others drinking and smoking with impunity, we rejected her entire philosophy. Several years later, we checked into rehab.
While most people who move on to what have been deemed “hard” drugs started with marijuana, the majority of people who smoke weed never try anything else. The majority don’t become stoners or alcoholics or high school dropouts. For them, marijuana was the gateway to nothing other than the Del Taco Drive Thru.
However, on the other end of the spectrum is the kid who decides to smoke weed every day. It fills a hole within him, helping him cope with what was otherwise an “unmanageable” amount of stress or discomfort. He usually finds that somebody he is spending time with has access to other drugs. What started with a joint quickly escalates either into more frequent use or experimentation with other drugs. This may end in a destructive addiction. Studies show that the earlier the initial “experimentation”, the more likely it is that addiction is going to be the final stop.
So, is marijuana a gateway drug? It certainly can be. But you don’t have to start calling rehabs just because you found a lighter in your teenager’s pocket.
November 28, 2012 | 10:57 am
Posted by Ben Spielberg
When I was younger, I had the annoying inclination to make a name for myself. I hated everyone (I still do, for the most part), but I wanted everyone to love me. I wanted my name to be heard of by everyone, my true personality known by few, and my externalities respected by all who came across my path.
I wanted my blogs to evoke powerful emotions, my MySpace profiles to provide witty commentary on not just my life, but everyone else’s as well. I wanted to post pictures that struck every walk of life with familiarity and necessity.
For the most part, I failed. When I look back, my e-biographies were pretentious and vague; my images were blurred and melodramatic representations of what actually happened in my life. My public songs were off-key, disjointed, and incoherent.
I know how the process works. I had a poor self-image, and I tried to project something greater than I was. However, transparency struck through my opaque reflections. This is a process that does not concern me; I’m concerned instead by the process of which I could write something, deem it beautiful, and then look at it later in life and be utterly embarrassed by it.
Am I embarrassed at myself for submitting various forms of nonsense publicly, or am I embarrassed about the way I viewed myself when I was younger? I want to argue for the former, but I know the truth lies in the latter. The substance of the historical Ben Spielberg is contrived; it is misrepresented information that unveils neither genuine emotion nor actual content. If one were to attempt to find information about me, one would find only a mask that I tried to pass off as my own face.
Nobody loved me because nobody knew me, or knew what I actually stood for--instead they had only an idea of pessimistic sarcasm or nonlinear punch lines. My name may have been known, but not in the way that I had intended. My true personality was not known by few--it was known by none.
November 27, 2012 | 2:53 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Welch
How often have I misrepresented the truth with words? Abiding by commands--be them the commands of G-d or the commands of my fellow man--have not been good enough.
When I'm asked to be “of service,” I find myself consistently molding the particular situation to serve me. Recently, I was asked to participate in an event that I was less than enthusiastic about. I immediately thought about what I could get out of it, what I have already invested, what I needed from this person, and what this person has done for me in the past. I had an aggressive back in forth within myself; I selfishly placed myself into resentment before I could even respond coherently. I could easily argue that I'm in no control of my internal thought processes, although teachings at Beit T’Shuvah could prove this argument fallacious. The thoughts tend to be both consuming and perceptually challenging at times. The solution is not to silence the thoughts, but to instead proceed to the most correct action.
My potential for calculated manipulation is not abnormal. Abraham Joshua Heschel implores:
“We are guilty of committing the fallacy of misplacement. We define self-reliance and call it faith, shrewdness and call it wisdom, anthropology and call it ethics, literature and call it Bible, inner security and call it religion, conscience and call it G-d.”
I am admitting my guilt to perfecting this behavior. I am admitting that I substitute my beliefs for faith, and my communication for duplicity. As time tells us, nothing can bear hardship that is false or counterfeit. My quest is to re-discover the language of honesty and truth without personal scrutiny or biased interpretation. We all speak the language that Heschel described. Admitting it, however, is just too responsible of a notion.
*This Sunday, we are so excited to present Sing to Save a Soul, a concert where Cantors from the Jewish community come together to sing entertaining and secular repertoire in order to benefit the residents of Beit T’shuvah. Bring your family and friends and get your tickets today! Info can be found on the Beit T’Shuvah homepage at www.beittshuvah.org in the announcements section.
November 26, 2012 | 11:07 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
I hesitate to write about what’s going on in Israel. It’s a fragile issue and words are powerful. I will tread respectfully and lightly.
I remember having a heated discussion with my sister about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, not long ago. She, like many young Jewish liberals, felt that the Palestinians had been reduced to second-class citizens and were being methodically controlled and abused by the Israeli Government. She believed that the land rightfully belonged to the Palestinians and Israel had essentially taken it. I countered that Israel had changed hands many times throughout history and it would be difficult for any people to make a righteous political claim on that land, but if anyone had a claim it is the Jewish people. My sister was doing what we were raised to do, fight for the underdog. In this situation, however, there is no underdog. The Palestinians have less political and military power than the Israelis. But the Israeli’s are surely the underdog in the Middle East in general, surrounded by nations that are hostile (to say the least). I could go on and on about the historical, political, Religious, and spiritual layers of this conflict but instead I want to speak about a hypothetical. What if Hamas were in the position Israel is in with a strong military and the political advantage? We would not be talking about second-class citizenship and a war; we would be looking at genocide. I have very little doubt, that given the opportunity, Hamas would kill me, and my entire family, for the very fact that I am Jewish. I am grateful that the shoe is not on the other foot.
I have great empathy for the Palestinian people and when I see local Pro-Israel Jews ranting and raving on the streets and on Facebook it saddens me. To be “Pro-Israel” does not make me anti- Palestinian, on the contrary, Palestinians have more connection to Israel than I do; they live there. However I believe that the Israeli Government has shown great restraint and acted principally in a very difficult conflict. I believe we as Jews have the obligation to support Israel, Peace in Israel, and righteousness in Israel. I am not supporting Israel because I am Jewish, I support Israel based on the principles of liberty and justice. I believe that Israel is a just nation, and cares about the Palestinians while simultaneously “taking care of their own.” I, myself, will mourn for the losses on both sides of the conflict, and pray that Israel continues to take major risks for the sake of peace, but also with a heavy heart and much deliberation do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and keep the Jewish Homeland a just democratic nation.
November 25, 2012 | 1:16 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
The following passage reflects the sentiments of thousands of residents who have had their lives saved at Beit T’Shuvah, specifically by the Founder and CEO Harriet Rossetto and the COO and Head Rabbi Mark Borovitz. As the upcoming release of Rossetto’s book Sacred Housekeeping, A Spiritual Memoir nears, this honest testimonial gives insight into why her work and profound mission are extraordinary.
Arriving at the doorposts of Beit T’Shuvah at 39, I was homeless, broke, unemployable and spiritually bankrupt. How that happened to a Jewish boy from Beverly Hills is just another story of a lost soul fumbling through life. BTS was my last home after many emergency rooms, detoxes and treatment centers. I remember so many events, stories and moments during my early sobriety that impacted me, but a visiting rabbi’s story was the moment hope for me... A single missing brushstroke is the writing of a Torah made the entire torah ‘pasul’ or invalid. He went on to talk about each of us being a brushstroke. Unique. Important. And part of making something bigger than ourselves, whole. That we each had a place in the world that was ours alone to take, and that without each of us, the world would not be whole. For whatever reason, that story, that moment, woke me up to the possibility that I might have a place in the world.
November 23, 2012 | 1:49 pm
Posted by Rabbi Mark Borovitz
The Torah teaches us to place principles over personalities. It tells us to help even our enemy if they are in dire straits. I believe in this principle because it is what allows for forgiveness when we have been harmed. We become open to take on the obligation of redemption for others and ourselves. Rather than wanting to hate others, we can then see the good in them.
Yet, this principle can be bastardized as well. In speaking with two Israeli women yesterday at Thanksgiving dinner, I witnessed their pain over the situation in Israel and the Middle East. They told me about past friendships with Arab individuals and how they played together, went to school together and worked together. When the war broke out in 1948, one young Arab woman told her Jewish "friend" that in a few days she would "cut her throat"! I noticed her bewilderment as she recounted the story of her sadness and confusion as a 16-year-old. Then her daughter spoke about her friends and co-workers telling her that they would kill her first, even though they socialized and shared so much together. Both of these women wondered how this could be.
I understand the thinking. The Arabs, and some Jews I am sure, kept the principle of taking care of their own first, last and always. They saw “the other” as a person when there was no war and it didn't conflict with their "cause". When they put their "cause" over their ability to see the other as a human being and one of G-d's creations; “the other” became an object that was an obstacle to their "principles". This is when Principles over Personalities get bastardized.
In theTalmud we are taught that each person has infinite dignity and worth according to Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, in the name of Shimon Ben Azzai. In the Torah we are taught that each of us is created Tzelum Elokim, in the Image of G-d. Until everyone lives this principle, there can be no peace, no co-existence in Israel, the Middles East, or the world.
We have to redeem this principle and lift it above our causes—no matter how noble we think the causes are. Hamas is an organization that believes in the destruction of their "enemies", real and imagined. The people of TERROR, just like all fundamentalists, do not believe in Tzelum Elokim. They don't subscribe to "love your neighbor as yourself.” This is what makes talking to them seem impossible, it is what makes peace so difficult to achieve. We have to get world leaders and all people, to place the principles of Human Dignity and Worth, each of us being made in G-d's image—and love your neighbor as yourself, above all causes.
When we do this, we will redeem the world. We will make Tikkun Olam a reality. Israel is not perfect—I know this. We hear about the occupation of the Palestinians all the time. We have to redeem the Truth of the situation as well. The Arab nations kept Israeli’s as “the others” prior to 1967. The Arab Nations have done next to nothing to make peace and allow Israel to exist from 1948 on. Where are these facts when reporting on the situation? Let us redeem the Truth of the siege mentality that the Israeli people have had to live under since before 1948!
We have the power as individuals to place the principle of Human Dignity, Worth and Love above any particular causes. I ask you to join me in being Addicted to Redeeming the Worth of each individual and Redeeming Principles and Truth over our desires and causes.
November 22, 2012 | 2:53 pm
Posted by BTS Prevention Team
Turkey, football, shopping, and judgment—these are the cornerstones of American Thanksgiving. When relatives get together to celebrate and share gratitude, there typically exists an undercurrent of misguided judgment. The day that should propagate assessment of character is instead steeped in superficiality. We are more focused on the shine of the turkey than the flavor of the stuffing.
After the ceremonial roundtable discussion on the subject of gratitude, questions devolve in substance. “What are you grateful for?” becomes “What do you do?”, “what are you passionate about?” becomes “where do you go to school?”, and “are you fulfilled?” becomes “why aren’t you seeing anyone?”
The kid who is enrolled at a prestigious university, who is in a relationship, who has acquired a summer internship—this is the one who is doing well. The one who is searching for himself—he isn’t.
But often the trappings of success hide a hollow interior. The turkey may look good, but when bitten into, it is dry and flavorless. This Thanksgiving, instead of judging your nephew because he is on a day-pass from rehab, ask him how he’s grown in the past year. Instead of admonishing your unemployed daughter, congratulate her triumphs. Let this Thanksgiving be the day of the stuffing rather than the day of the turkey.