By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
My day has gotten even crazier than I last wrote about. I have had to deal with someone who left Beit T’Shuvah owing a lot of money—someone I had helped personally. She ripped a couple of other people off and now wants help. What do I do?
This is my struggle: I like the young woman and feel sorry for her. She has had many years of therapy and yet she continues to play the role of victim. She has used it against her family and everyone else that has tried to help her. The spiritual drain of helping her has taken away from my ability to help another. Yet, Redemption/T’Shuvah is always possible.
The last time she was here, I had to ask her to leave because she was working and not paying anything for rent/cost of care. While money is not held against anyone for entry to the program, not paying one’s rent when one is in Sober Living, is not Living Sober. We can’t be enablers; we can’t take the place of parents who have enabled prior to their children getting here. So, what do I do? I find myself getting angry with this young woman because she is making her screw-ups, her chaos and her destructive actions, my responsibility. This is an old pattern and I am not going to play. It is very difficult for me. I understand the actions but I can’t stand people I’ve invested time, energy and spirit in going against everything that is important in order to live well. I constantly struggle not to get angry and I find myself winning the battle more often than not. I also know that I do get angry, I am angry that I am put in this position. I am angry that I could not find the key to the soul of another to unlock their inner “Pintele Yid”, their innate decency and love for self and others.
My next call was from a family member of a homeless person who has a high IQ and is also schizophrenic. This man was complaining about the system that doesn’t help his brother. He was upset that he had to put a restraining order out on his brother because his brother could get violent with him and he was worried about his wife and children. He knew he was powerless and he couldn’t put this together with living a Jewish Life. “How come there is nothing we can do, Rabbi?” I shook my head, I was angry also at the way our system treats the mentally ill and homeless. I was angry that I also am powerless to help. I spoke to him about some possible solutions and am waiting for his brother or he to call me so I can talk to the man. Maybe, I can find the words that will unlock his soul to hope and being in the solution to his problems. I am praying this can happen.
The thing that brings both of these instances together is Powerlessness. I am not happy that I am powerless. I connect with God in these moments very deeply and powerfully. I realize the truth of Rabbi Heschel’s words about God after Cain slew Abel: “God should have been disgusted. He said, No, I will keep the human species alive. I’m waiting. Maybe someday there’ll be a righteous generation”…But He’s still waiting, waiting, waiting for a mankind that will live by justice and compassion. He’s in search of man.” I get upset, sad and angry that I/we are not in search of God. I get sad, upset and angry that we are not living by justice and compassion enough. I just get angry that I don’t/can’t do enough to make this happen. I hate powerlessness.
My struggle is that together, WE can find God. We can live a life and make a world full of Justice and Compassion. Yet, we don’t. We are too polarized, we are too indulgent in our own victimhood, and we are too consumed with our own selves to make this happen. This angers me because it is not just others, it is me too. I am part of the problem and the solution. I pray each day for more of the solution and less of the problem. I pray each day for the grace to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things that should be changed. Please God, Please all of you, help me to know the difference and enact the changes to make us all more just and compassionate.