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.
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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.
November 21, 2012 | 2:31 pm
Posted by Ben Spielberg
The mantras of Alcoholics Anonymous have always intrinsically conflicted with my belief system. The one that caused me the most stress was not about God, powerlessness, or any type of spiritual conditioning; rather, the mantra that, to this day, irks me to my core, is the infamous KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
The power of the slogan is impressive. When one righteously questions certain principles, they are told to keep it straightforward. When one cannot fathom an idea of a Great Being or Creator, they are told to stop thinking so hard. And when one can barely get through a day without getting high, they are told that it's simple—when, in fact, it is one of the most intricately complex and jumbled processes a human being can go through.
These examples notwithstanding, I do understand the relevance of the phenomenal catch-phrase. Addicts have a tendency to over-think ordinary tasks so much so that making a bed turns into an activity of existential despair. After years of stoned mannerisms and opiated thoughts, the use of praying and meditation seem pointless when attempting to fix the problems of the world.
A balance must be found. Keeping it too simple contradicts the some of the most respected values in Judaism that are ruthlessly upheld at Beit T'Shuvah; we must wrestle with our thoughts, feelings, and external influences. Extracting significance from every event does not end with knowledge—it ends with compulsion and empty neurosis and disappointment. We must wrestle, but not fight. We must question with dignity and refute only if necessary. We must understand that some of the most complicated things in life are deemed by some people as “simple.”
November 20, 2012 | 1:37 pm
Posted by Beit T'shuvah
By Cantor Rachel Goldman Neubauer
It’s hard to forget that Thanksgiving is this week. I go to the supermarket and see pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING on display (yum), my favorite Thursday shows aren’t on this week, and I’m already being bombarded by Christmas decorations in the malls and on the city streets to warm the whole world up for Black Friday. Yup, it’s definitely Thanksgiving time.
Minus the excuse to gather with friends and family and enjoy an awesome spread of food, Thanksgiving has, in the past few years, been one of those days when I ask myself “what’s the big deal?” Yes, I know the holiday originally served the purpose of marking something great in history, but culturally it has become exactly what its namesake suggests: a day to give thanks. A day to be in gratitude.
Now listen, don’t get me wrong—I love spending time with friends and family. I love fighting over the last slice (or entirety) of a pumpkin pie. But a day set aside to be grateful? Just one day? Those of us in recovery, in the Beit T’shuvah community, and/or living lives of T’shuvah do this on a daily basis. I personally know that I live in gratitude. I am constantly aware of it. It’s something that I’ve worked for, but it’s pretty much a constant thing for me at this point. Gratitude is my rule, not my exception. This is why I personally struggle with this concept of setting aside ONE single day to be grateful. Why not just try and have every day of my life be a Thanksgiving of sorts?
I would like to wish everyone reading this a Happy Thanksgiving. But I would also like to encourage everyone, like we encourage at Beit T’Shuvah do on Yom Kippur, to remember that the sentiments behind the holiday do not disappear with the turkey leftovers. Try writing a gratitude list in the morning or at night. Remember that T’Shuvah is not just saying sorry when you are wrong, but realizing that your life is full of things to give thanks for, and knowing that those things exist is exactly what helps you “return” when you find something you want to run away from. So what I’d really like to wish everyone is a grounding Thanksgiving. May we all find the things that we are thankful for and want to hold onto no matter what, and may we keep holding onto it even when Hallmark doesn’t remind us that we need to.