Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
When an addict is submerged in their drug, beverage, or behavior of choice, they tend to lose skill in terms of realistic reasoning. As a result, addicts tend to overcompensate by using faulty logic. The very same logical fallacies that Aristotle warned Athens about end up being used by scrawny dope fiends, obsessively compulsive gamblers, and only-after-5pm alcoholics. As a result, these are the most likely logical fallacies that one might hear if they hang around somebody in the act of addiction:
1. Tu Quoque
The fallacy of “you, too.” Also known as the appeal to hypocrisy, this fallacy is largely used by adolescents on the verge of a grounding. For instance: “Why can’t I drink if it is okay for you to drink?” The fallacy usually goes even further, especially with opiate users: “If you do Oxycontin, why can’t I do heroin?”
2. Two Wrongs Make A Right
It may sound obvious and cliche, but it is used a lot. For instance, somebody might rob a CVS because CVS is a chain store that puts smaller stores out of business. In another case, a sick addict might rob a drug dealer.
3. Ad Hominem
This is where the fallacies tend to hit home and get brutal. When somebody uses ad hominem, they do not attack with logic; they attack the person behind the logic. This tends to become intertwined with tu quoque, resulting in a vicious verbal blow Example: “Why would I listen to you? You never even finished college.”
4. Ad Populum
Appeal to the masses. This means that if a widely affirmed belief is held by a large enough group of people in one social circle, it becomes true. This can be especially dangerous, depending on the type of crowd one spends time with. Example: “All my friends do ecstasy at raves in the desert, therefore it is safe to do ecstasy at raves in the desert.”
5. Ad Misercordiam
This means the appeal to misery, or pity. After the grace period before substance/behavioral dependence kicks in (“pre-addiction”), user ends up feeling bad about themselves. As a result, they deflect their emotions and use them as an excuse to continue in active addiction. Example: “I have no one to get sober for,” or “I’m too sick and depressed to get a job.”
BONUS: The Gambler’s Fallacy
This is a classic statistical fallacy in which the gambler believes that they can be “due for a win.” It goes like this: “The roulette wheel landed on black and I bet on red three times already. Next time it has to land on red and I’ll get my big win!” This is incorrect and faulty logic because each spin is an independent event, and the previous spin has no effect on any spins in the future.
Follow Ben on Twitter @benspielblog
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December 4, 2012 | 1:40 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Cantor Rachel Goldman Neubauer
To quote from one of my favorite movies, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive.”
I take a lot of things seriously. I’m a Type A person that will drive my coworkers up the wall with my organizational ‘tactics’—ones that usually involve color-coding systems, timelines, mass emails, and a lot of post-it notes. If you had met me six years ago, you would not be shocked to discover that I was someone who trained in classical music, because classically trained individuals are bursting with seriousness. We take those notes on the page VERY seriously…every dynamic marking, every rest, we observe it. Recovery is one of those things that requires the same level of seriousness. This concept of living well is meant to be your strong foundation in which you build an amazing life on top of. It’s a similarly meticulous process.
Something that needs to be worked into this seriousness, though, is the concept of FUN. At Beit T’Shuvah, any money placed into our tzedakah boxes (before we light Shabbat candles and officially welcome in the Sabbath bride) goes towards something Harriet devised, “mandatory fun.” It’s some sort of weekend programming, ranging anywhere from movies to field trips to the theater to museums, that comes with a philosophy of “you’re going to have fun, whether you like it or not, because it’s just as much a part of your recovery as everything else you’re learning.” Being around Beit T’Shuvah, I also had to learn how to adopt the concept of “mandatory fun” into my music. Find the “both/and.” Respect the notes on the page AND give them a free spirit. It sounds so contradictory (or at least it really felt so to me), but it’s not. It’s synergistic, actually. I forced myself to sing things that weren’t in my comfort zone—jazz, pop, anything that could push me into HAVING FUN. Six years later, I’d like to think I’m a whole new type of musician than just someone who is classically trained.
This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of producing Beit T’Shuvah’s very first “cantorial” concert, Sing to Save a Soul. I put the word “cantorial” in quotes here because, while the performers were all cantors (and certainly some of the most talented in this city in my opinion), I tried my best to shatter the rigid seriousness that seems to be in so many other concerts that feature cantors. I took the concert very seriously, and at the same time I applied the concept of mandatory fun. Everybody had to come with music that they had fun singing…that was my only rule for song selection. I stuck to my guns on it (nobody seemed to complain).
The result was far greater than anything I could have ever comprehended. It felt like everyone was letting their guard down, both on stage and in the audience. As cantors, we have years of training in voice, language, Jewish law, liturgy, and a million other things I could list off. But when you throw some occasional fun into the mix and make it a requirement alongside the required meticulous seriousness, then real spirit can thrive. I can’t describe G-d that well, but I’d like to believe that where seriousness and fun meet, He is right there smiling in that convergence.
December 3, 2012 | 2:07 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
In this week’s Jewish Journal there is a heated exchange between Rabbi Daniel Gordis and Rabbi Sharon Brous. If you look closely at their arguments you will see very important principled positions. Rabbi Gordis speaks about the reality and necessity of loyalty to the Jewish people, and the state of Israel, emphasizing the importance of that loyalty, over empathy for the Palestinians and particularly Hamas. He then accuses Brous of preaching "universalism", that we should essentially care as much about others as we do our own. Brous for her part states explicitly, " I did not challenge Israel’s right to respond to Hamas rockets. On the contrary I said, ‘Israel had not only a right but an obligation to defend it's people.’ Nor did I suggest a moral equivalency between Hamas operatives targeting Jewish civilians and Israeli soldiers targeting Hamas operatives but inadvertently hitting Palestinian civilians." However Rabbi Brous never goes as far as saying that there is a moral in-equivalency and walks a very fine line of supporting Israel without taking a side. Rabbi Gordis wants Rabbi Brous to take a side, and he puts up a good argument as to why. Rabbi Gordis' argument has been labeled "particularism." However if you read his response to Brous carefully, it is more a "universal particularism.” He believes starting with family, and working out towards nations and ethnic groups, that as a universal principle of connection and loyalty to one’s own, in his words "make us who we are and enables us to leave our distinct fingerprints on the world." I do believe that both Rabbis are making important principled arguments for the sake of Judaism, and for the sake of the world. One leans toward the former the other the latter. Why their opinions caught the cover of the Jewish Journal is another matter. Both Rabbis climbed down from their principles to throw mud at each other. Gordis accuses Brous of being a sellout, and Brous accuses Gordis of having a history of selling out for publicity. It is this personal piece that caught the eyes of the Jewish community, not the principled piece (at least it's what caught my attention). Rabbi Feinstein did an eloquent job of calling each Rabbi back to their higher selves (or their corners as the case may be). Bringing back a vision of a living, breathing, Judaism with a thriving tension between the poles of particularism and universalism. He makes the outstanding point that both are true, and invites Rabbi Gordis to Ikar to see the other side. I would have added that Rabbi Brous should bring an Ikar service to Israel and feel the weight of the conflict beneath her feet in the ground and soil of the holy land. (or both could come to Beit T’Shuvah and dance to the music of redemption and hear the passion of my Rabbi Mark Borovitz!)
I remember being a Jewish kid in the eighties and feeling uncomfortable with the term "chosen people." Rabbi Brous and I are of the same generation, I wonder if she felt the same. I remember all the explanations about chosen being obligated, and not special, about each people having a unique function etc., however in my mind I was still always uncomfortable with the term. Practically speaking, in my heart, I know I consistently care more for those I am closer to than those further out, my kids, my parents, my people; I choose them over the other. However I am inspired by a vision of weeping for my enemies, with the same grief I have for my own. Judaism offers us glimpses of this ideal, which I try to incorporate into my life, however I am human, and humanity by its very nature has its limits. It is a deep and difficult issue, in a world where at times you are forced into these moral/spiritual dilemmas, and what's on the table is people's lives. How do we make peace? At even the highest levels of man/women there is conflict. Conflict is a necessary function of growth in any system as Rabbi Feinstein points out, but sustained conflict can also bring out the worst in us, whether that is slinging mud, or worse, slinging bombs. I do think Judaism offers us a deep insight and that is T’Shuvah. The mystics say G-d created T’Shuvah before he created the world, G-d must have anticipated Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, Jacob, Esau and the ensuing drama that we call human history. The conflict was built in, in the form of a snake in the beginning and in the form of free will now. Judaism offers us a vision of peace in the reality of one G-d, and the practice of T’Shuvah, to return us to G-d, to ourselves and to each other. Judaism calls on us to transcend, it tells us we can fight against the strongest pull and choose life, choose peace, choose G-d. I agree that differences of opinion are what defines Judaism in many ways, but when those differences pull us away from each other, we are simultaneously pulling ourselves away from G-d or G-dliness. Far be it for me (a rabbi in training at a crazy little Shul called Beit T’Shuvah) to tell a rabbi what to do... But at my Shul we have a saying. It goes, "oops I made a mistake, how can I make it right, I'd like to make a T’Shuvah."
December 2, 2012 | 4:22 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Harriet Rossetto
When you think of a drug addict you probably picture that dirty, bearded man who harasses you for change outside of 7-Eleven. Addicts are usually portrayed as the bottom level of society, people who steal, lie, and who should never be trusted. Although many people often try to help addicts there is still an overwhelming belief in the Jewish community that, “It won’t happen to my kid.” Jewish children are raised in an atmosphere where success is revered and most Jews continue to think that addiction is something that happens to other people.
The fact is that addiction is a problem that is affecting more and more Jews every day. When Harriet Rossetto started Beit T’Shuvah she conceptualized it as a place for Jewish convicts to live as they transitioned back into society. Now 25 years later, the facility has grown into a full scale addiction treatment center that houses over 150 residents. Beit T’Shuvah is the only treatment center that combines psychotherapy, 12-step recovery, and Jewish spirituality to try and help Jewish addicts live a better life.
Harriet’s new memoir, Sacred Housekeeping, will be published next month. In it, she chronicles not just her own struggles in life but also what led her into this line of work. The book will also describe Harriet’s thoughts on how to address addiction in the Jewish community.