Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Adam Siegel
At Beit T’Shuvah, we thrive on transformative experiences; stories of transformation and redemption nourish our souls. Often times, the stories people share with me serve as sustenance for showing up (for life) each morning. We collectively celebrate achievements (i.e. cheering on the Run to Save a Soul marathoners yesterday!) and loss (see Remembering Ira Skolky). We encourage each other to embrace transformative processes and then try to be available when things don’t exactly transform the way they were “supposed” to. As most of our community can attest, transformation isn’t about enlightenment, but rather, it’s about engaging the experiences available to us with our full selves.
This coming August, a group of BTS community members will have the unique opportunity to engage themselves and others while visiting one of the worlds’s most complicated and multi-dimensional places: Israel. In conjunction with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, BTS is sponsoring a 10-day transformative experience otherwise known as Birthright Israel. While one of the trip’s main goals is to help young American Jews answer the question “Why is Israel important?”, I’m more interested in how it helps them answer the question, “Why be Jewish?”. By meeting and traveling with Israelis their own age, they will be exposed to a much wider perspective on the joys and struggles of being a Jew. From what I’ve seen, there will be a couple of people who’ll experience the trip as just a subsidized tour of a foreign place and culture. Fortunately, for most, there’ll be a sense that the foreign world they’ve immersed themselves in contains traces of a long-awaited homecoming. Despite the super-sized itinerary (try going from Holocaust memorial overload in the morning to Dead Sea swimming in the afternoon), the trip does a really good job of creating space for exploring oneself in the context of Jewish peoplehood.
By and large, this group of young adults (ages 18-26) will share many similarities with the 1,000’s of other Birthrighters visiting Israel this summer. One key factor distinguishing their bus from the others will be the stories that brought each of them to our community. At BTS, we tend to describe addiction through a spiritual lens; viewing addictive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as a reflection of psycho-spiritual brokenness and dis-ease. Consequently, a big part of recovery is the (on-going) choice to embrace and wrestle with all parts of oneself while in relationship with others and the Divine. Whereas, Birthright Israel might be a re-orienting experience for many of the other group’s participants, this trip will likely be a continuation of the transformative process these young adults began engaging in months or years ago. For eligibility for our trip includes an implicit acknowledgement that they surrendered themselves to the unknowingness of being a spiritual seeker. Where better to do this in than Israel?
12.6.13 at 2:19 pm | Last night, as we were getting ready to go to the. . .
12.5.13 at 10:12 am | Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my entire. . .
11.29.13 at 11:12 am | As we celebrate Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, I keep. . .
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11.15.13 at 12:38 pm | I have been thinking about this week's Torah. . .
11.14.13 at 10:48 am | These past couple weeks my anxiety has been. . .
12.5.13 at 10:12 am | Every year at Thanksgiving dinner, my entire. . . (72)
12.6.13 at 2:19 pm | Last night, as we were getting ready to go to the. . . (57)
2.25.13 at 2:00 pm | Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions. . . (46)
March 15, 2013 | 11:09 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Reading the front cover article of the Jewish Journal sparked a lively conversation between my wife, Harriet Rossetto, and myself. It also sparked an internal dialogue within me. What is our fascination with lists and how do we let them determine our own self-worth? Even though the "Rabbi's List" has no real meaning, no weight, nothing really to it except the abuse of power, influence and media attention; I still find myself checking it and getting angry that I and many of my most deserving colleagues aren't on it! I think it is about 51/49 between me and my colleagues with me not being on it the 51%:). There are lists of the best places to go to and the best hotels to stay at, etc. Every category of life has lists, except maybe lists of how to care for others, lists of how I have harmed others, lists of the ways we can improve our world. Those lists don't seem to get as much attention.
I want to be on a list! I know I am on lists of people who feel both gratitude and resentment towards me. I know I influence people to live well. I also know I check all of the lists that come out to see if my organization, my name, my friend’s names, the places I have seen and visited, my ideas and ideals, etc. are on the multitude of lists that come out. What is wrong here?
We are a world obsessed with outside validation. We are a people who need outside validation to feel okay about ourselves. We are people who judge our insides by the outsides of others. We are, unfortunately, not validating our own intrinsic worth. We are, sadly, not honoring the wisdom God has given us.
Passover is 10 days away. How do we get out of these slaveries? By knowing we are not stuck in the narrow places of lists. Knowing that the four people mentioned in the cover article of the Jewish Journal are not the "great arbiters" of influence, even though they are engaging in influence peddling. We get out of slavery by Redeeming ourselves and each other through honest self-assessment, asking for help from others and allowing our inner Moses and God-Wisdom (our soul knowledge) to lead us instead of our false pride, our emotional attachment to outside validation and our cunning thoughts on how to "get ahead.” I am Addicted to Redemption because I need to be engaged in Redemption each day in order to not "turn back to Egypt.”
Please join us these next two weeks for our many events including 3 Seders, a learning about Technology's enslaving nature this Monday evening and a special showing of Hava Nagila, the movie and a discussion with Roberta Grossman and Marta Kaufman afterwards on Thursday, March 21, 2013. Thanks and Shabbat Shalom.
For a full list of our upcoming events as well as ways to find tickets visit www.beittshuvah.org
March 14, 2013 | 10:28 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By M. Alexander
Earlier this week, while running a Prevention group at a Hebrew School in the valley, we ran into a difficult dilemma when we split the group into boys and girls. The teacher fashions herself a progressive and decided that a split by gender was antiquated. What about sexual preference? What about gender identity?
The teacher decided that the students could go into whichever group they felt the most comfortable. In a hypersensitive and politically correct world, this seems a reasonable solution. The teacher didn’t want anybody to be marginalized. However, the teacher’s focus was not on the rest of the class. What happens if the desires of the few affect the comfort of the many? After all, these are 10th graders and I am not sure if a boy would feel as comfortable sharing his intimate problems if he was sitting across from somebody he does not think shares the same issues.
I don’t know if there is a simple solution. I have absolutely no problem discussing “men’s” issues with a group that includes transgender and homosexual students. But what about the students who do? Should they suck it up and enter modernity? Or is there another reasonable solution that I have not yet thought of? Your help would be much appreciated.
March 13, 2013 | 1:21 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Ben Spielberg
As I halfheartedly worked on a paper on Sunday night, an infomercial on Comedy Central piqued my interest. It was some type of advertisement for recovery. However, like most treatment centers flaunting late-night commercials, there was a catch. Turn To Help labels itself as a place to go when opioid dependents feel alone and/or want help.
The problem is not the website. The problem is that Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals owns the website. Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals owns something else, too: Suboxone. Yes, the same Suboxone that is used as an opioid maintenance alternative to the “liquid handcuffs” of Methadone. And, yes, the same Suboxone that led to a 13% net increase in revenue for Reckitt Benckiser in 2009.
In this case, we are facing two distinct dilemmas. On the one hand, Reckitt Benckiser is doing something positive, because they are making harm reduction mainstream, thus leading to a reduced crime and disease rate. On the other hand, Reckitt Benckiser is advertising maintenance as recovery in order to sell a product that prolongs withdrawal in order to make a profit.
Upon visiting the Turn to Help website, I can do three things: learn about opioid dependence, take a quick survey if I am unsure of my addiction, or find a licensed doctor near my zip code. It is only after checking out the bottom of the “Treatment” category, after tabs of licensed doctors and methadone clinics, that I found information regarding 12-step programs and inpatient treatment options. However, there was no information about where to find them. Surely, the website developers for Reckitt Benckiser could figure out an algorithm to find a few meetings or treatment centers in different cities.
Turn to Help isn’t necessarily a bad idea--in fact, it’s a great strategy to take up the most market share possible, just short of selling heroin and owning rehabs. Phillip Morris owns “Quit Assist,” but even they don’t have the audacity to peddle their nicotine patches and gums to desperate smokers. Suboxone isn’t necessarily bad, but it needs to be marketed transparently—at least until the tablets can absorb an AA meeting and three months of primary treatment at Beit T’Shuvah. If that’s the case, then find me a doctor ASAP.
March 12, 2013 | 1:50 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Michael Welch
This week, I began writing my blog earlier than usual. If I don’t say so myself, it was a wonderfully executed critique, demonizing Michael Bloomberg’s misguided radical soda reform. As I finished typing the last word of my searing expose, my news ticker mooted my entire blog; a judge agrees with me, nixing Mike’s grandiose, obesity “eradicating” law. The regulation’s intention was to put 16-ounce limits on sugary drinks. The judge called the proposed legislation “arbitrary and capricious.” Judges tend to use this circuitous lingo instead of getting to the point and calling them moronic.
Yesterday we issued a metaphorically premature goodbye to a “super” mogul who, since his inception as Mayor of New York City, has hogged the national municipal spotlight for his fascist reforms. Today, we are vindicated. Your restaurants, movie theatres, sport venues, and street carts are safe and will continue to allow you to indulge in gluttony—the road to obesity is yours and mine for the taking.
I’m curious as to why Bloomberg’s focus seems to be a restrictive model of governing. Have you ever tried to take a candy bar from one who’s in desperate need of it? Do any of you remember what took place when your booze was taken away? I thought we had moved past taking things from people to teach them a lesson. Mr. Bloomberg; my mother doesn’t even agree with your grassroots behavioral modification method. As canonized by our Sunday countdown commentators, “Come on man!”
It’s not that I don’t agree that we could all use a quick tune-up, but clearly this decision is lacking in creativity. Sometimes our politicians tend to get lazy, grasping for meaningful change during the twilight of their terms. This appears to be a classic case of short-timers disease.
Let’s give a big round of applause to our judicial branch, checking what had become unbalanced! It feels good to be right. Most people would gloat or blog about a victory such as this. Me? Well, I’m just gonna chalk this up as another win and instead of physical exercise, I’ll exercise some humility.
March 11, 2013 | 2:06 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Yeshaia Blakeney
I want to share a story about this very difficult concept we call belief, or faith. These are tough concepts. I'm not going to get into them fully now, I just want to share a story to illuminate some of these ideas. So there's a game called stump the rabbi. It's when a bunch of people get together and try to get a rabbi to admit that he really doesn't believe in god. With my keen philosophical mind, I'm pretty adept at this game. So one day about a year ago, I cornered our Rabbi Mark Borovitz in front of a small crowd and said:
“Rabbi, do you BELIEVE in G-d?” “Yes,” he replied.
“Do you agree that inherent in belief is doubt?” “Yes,” he replied.
So, do you ever doubt the existence of God?
The room went silent, I felt I had done it, I was even afraid I might have pushed him too far, there was no way out. The Rabbi was finally going to have to admit the truth of his own faith, I wanted to run and hide; morph into a fly on the wall even though I was already there.
And then he said this amazing thing. “No.”
How can that be? He just admitted he had doubts! He then said, “I sometimes doubt G-d's intentions, but I never doubt the existence of G-d.”
It took a whole year since then to fully grasp that simple statement. That it was an elevated struggle, not struggling with belief in G-d but really wrestling with G-d's intentions inside of ourselves and in the world. It was about his relationship to G-d not G-ds existence.
So my hope this week is that we all can elevate what we struggle with, so that we can struggle with higher and higher things!
March 8, 2013 | 10:25 am
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
As I sit here trying to think of a blog topic, I realize that I have been on email and using my iPad, my iPhone, listening to bells and whistles of my wife's Blackberry for so long, that I take it for granted. Harriet complains that I don't look at her because I am checking the dings from my phone, computer, iPad, etc. I am driven to distraction by technology, tv, you name it. I have to be doing more than one thing at a time! I say I am multi-tasking, the Truth is, I can't concentrate on one thing for too long, unless it captivates me. I get bored easy and quickly.
I make a public T'Shuvah to anyone and everyone who has felt ignored by my "multi-tasking." I realize how much of a put off this is and, in my constant compulsion/addiction to Redemption, I cannot continue this way of being. I may have to be interrupted and/or called away for an emergency and I will not distract myself with my toys when we are meeting, etc.
I bring this up because we all have seen people talking out loud walking an the street and thought they were either nuts or talking to us only to find out he/she is talking to someone on their Bluetooth! We get to hear everyone's business when we want to or not! We all give in to our Narcissism by thinking we can talk as loud as we want and use our phones, answer emails, etc. no matter where we are and/or who we are with! This is not connection; it is distraction!!
I am one of those people. I do this and commit to do better about being present when I am with people. I am so into this aspect of my being that I am seeing Technology as Enslaver/Egypt and I need to get liberated from my obsession to distraction. I am so excited that on March 18, 2013 Cambria Gordon, an expert on distraction and technology will be speaking at a dinner and learning at Beit T'Shuvah 8831 Venice Blvd. Cambria and I will engage in a discussion on how to leave the Enslaver and Egypt.
One of the examples of the wisdom of the Haggadah is that we are told we are "obligated to see ourselves as if we left Egypt.” Technology can be our Egypt this year. Multi-Tasking may be our Egypt this year. Join us to find your Egypt this year so you can help us and allow us to help you to Freedom!
March 7, 2013 | 1:24 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Gavi Applebaum
Ever since I was young, I knew that I was an intellectual. I loved to read. It gave me an outlet. As I progressed through school, I came to believe that knowledge could arm me, enable me to deal with the world. Somewhere along the lines, however, knowledge transformed from a noble protector into a prohibitive mask. I didn’t need anyone or anything as long as I had my mind. I was smarter than you— therefore, you had nothing to offer.
I landed on the doorstep of Beit T’Shuvah in January of 2011. I continued to labor under the delusion that I could use my knowledge to power me through rehab. Several months into treatment, I remember cracking open the Twelve and Twelve, the Alcoholics Anonymous book that discusses the 12 steps and 12 traditions. I read a paragraph that changed everything:
"Now we come to another kind of problem: the intellectually self-sufficient man or woman. To these, many A.A.'s can say, "Yes, we were like you - far too smart for our own good…The god of intellect displaced the God of our fathers. But again John Barleycorn had other ideas. We who had won so handsomely in a walk turned into all-time losers. We saw that we had to reconsider or die. We found many in A.A. who once thought as we did. They helped us to get down to our right size. By their example they showed us that humility and intellect could be compatible, provided we placed humility first. When we began to do that, we received the gift of faith, a faith which works.”
I had a moment of clarity. I realized that my best and brightest ideas brought me into rehab and they could easily take me out. I needed to alter my beliefs. Knowledge isn’t power. Humility is power. Humility enables me to seek help, to stay teachable and to absorb the keys to my recovery.
In January 2012, I went back to school. I was instantly drawn to neuroscience. I became fascinated with the brain. I initiated a quest to understand the inner workings of my mind. I studied how cocaine, alcohol, amphetamines, opiates, etc. altered my neurochemistry. I came to understand the way that prolonged usage of drugs and alcohol shaped my neuroanatomy and as a result my cerebral cortex, my limbic system and my brainstem. Invigorated with this new influx of knowledge, I began to feel as if I could conquer the world.
Slowly but surely an insidious idea crept back into my thoughts. “Maybe if I understand exactly how drugs and alcohol affect my brain, I can control them. I lacked understanding, not control.” Back again was this idea that knowledge was power, an idea that I thought had disintegrated.
Luckily with a year sober and the tools of my recovery, I was able to dismiss this dangerous idea. But the question still persisted, why did a part of me still believe that knowledge was power?
Knowledge has been my coping tool for as long as I can remember. It enabled me to excel in academia, which is a realm that I so highly prized. Perfectionism tied my self-worth to academic excellence. Knowledge was the end-all for me. Of course, it all made sense. Back in school again, perfectionism managed to seep into my thinking and humility managed to escape. But with the tools I have gained in sobriety, I have kept myself in check.
Today, I have the ability to dismiss such thinking, to understand that it does not serve in my best interest. Today, I try to stay in a place of humility. I try to remain teachable. I use knowledge as an asset, not as a weapon. Today, I realize that I am not smarter than everyone— that’s why I had a friend (Michael Soter) edit this blog.