Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Mother Worries…….


Jeff Hewitt

My most heart-felt inspiration is my mother April, but to understand my mother, you must first know how addiction has torn through her life. My father developed a heavy dependence on crack cocaine and methamphetamine, needless to say, the thirteen years of their marriage consisted of more hard times than good. Early in their relationship my brother and I were born. My mother worked multiple jobs to ensure my brother and I were cared for, despite having no time what so ever, dealing with my father’s problem and working multiple jobs, my mother always found the time to instill values and pay special attention to myself and my brother. This is where my inspiration is derived from, she immersed herself in us boys. We are her purpose and her passion. This for me, defines the essence of being human.

When my older brother and I went through our addictions, my mother could have easily thrown money at us when we asked for it, or let us live in her home till we were in our late twenties. However my mothers beliefs kept her strong though these horrible times. You see my mother believed that by enabling us that she would be hurting us, and though at the time my brother and I were blind to this, we now realize that it saved our lives. I can’t imagine the heartache, the sleepless nights, the emotions of terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair she endured. My heart wrenches just to think of it. With out a doubt, it is the worst pain any mother could go through.

In June of 2008 my older brother entered the doors of Beit T’Shuvah from Los Angeles County Jail. In that simple action a miracle occurred. In the following months my brother, after over a decade of drug abuse, was delivered from a hopeless state of mind, body, and spirit, to a man of passion and purpose. When I came into the loving hands of Beit T’Shuvah in November of 2009, I had no idea that in the proceeding months I too would find the fervor for life that I thought I had forsaken. I realized I was a person of worth, and my life would play a significant role in history. I had discovered my purpose!

On January 24th, 2010, Beit T’Shuvah had its annual gala at the Beverly Hilton. My brother and I were sitting at a table next to each other looking and feeling absolutely superb. Both of us, and how we felt that night, was nothing in comparison when I looked up at the table into the eyes of my mother. The love, pride, and gratitude poured from her heart and filled the air. For that night, the pain, heart ache and suffering we had put her through had left and need not come back, for her children, her little boys that she loves with all her heart were returned to her safe, sober and filled with purpose. I am so grateful for my life.

Jeff Hewitt

Beit T’Shuvah Resident

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Death of a Resident


By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

In reflecting on the death of Steven R., I am profoundly sad, confused and angry. It does not make sense to me that a young man full of promise who had seen the joys and possibilities of sobriety and decency would choose to play Russian Roulette with Drugs.

I know that many people will say,  “Rabbi, it is a disease.” I understand and agree with this. Yet, unlike my oldest brother’s Multiple Sclerosis, the disease of addiction has remission and hope. Steven decided to gamble with the hope, beauty and joy of Sobriety. This is what I don’t understand. A young man who could work with autistic children, a young man who could love music, this young man would laugh at and make mockery of friendship, love, sobriety and God’s call to him? This is what I don’t understand.

I know that Steven must have been tormented. I know that he was unable to really speak about and deal with his demons. Yet, he had a family that loved him. He went to a friend’s house that cared for him. He overdosed and put two families and a community through hell. This was a choice.

Herein lied my confusion, anger and sadness. Steven knew that he had more than one option. He knew that his choices were very plain. Sobriety brought hope and using brought ??? He knew that he had people who loved him, cared for and about him and needed him. He knew that there was a place in the world just for Steven and that he was wanted and accepted. He knew that he was seen for who he was, warts and all. Yet, he made the choice to play Russian roulette with his life and affect the lives of so many other people.

So, yes, I am angry at his choice. I am angry that he hurt so many people. I am angry that he put his family through the worst nightmare possible and made another family have to deal with the aftermath of his overdose.

Yes, I am sad that he snuffed out a beautiful soul and light that God created. I am sad that his place in this world will never be filled and we all lost something precious Saturday night.

Most of all, I am confused. I am confused that friendship meant holding secrets. I am confused that he took kindness for weakness. I am confused that he chose to give in to the demons that called him instead of asking for help to get back to the light. I am confused that he chose possible death over beautiful life.

I ask you, as individuals and community members, to stop the sadness, anger and confusion most of us feel when people give into their demons after they have seen a different way.

I ask you to keep HOLDING ON!! WE WON’T LET GO OF YOU!

God Bless, Rabbi Mark

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“The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”


By: Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Original Image: “‘Declaration of Independence,” by John Trumbull/The Bridgeman Art Library

Yesterday, I was reading the New York Times Sunday Magazine and I came across the main article, Founding Father by Russell Shorto. I read with amazement the actions of the Texas Board of Education regarding what goes into the State textbooks. What the Board is committed to, according to this article, is promoting that the United States was founded as a Christian Country. They have issued guidelines that, among other things, ask eighth graders to analyze the importance of the Mayflower Compact and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The reason being that the Fundamental Orders declare that the State was founded “to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.” The Mayflower Compact describes the Pilgrims journey as being “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith”. While Cynthia Dunbar, a member of the Board also believes that we follow the Judeo-Christian law and speaks of Moses’ influence on American Law, she makes no mention of any other religion and/or ideology as valid.

This is scary, people. The textbook publishers follow the Texas Guidelines very heavily for the textbooks for all the country. Our children are being taught that they have no legitimate place in the fabric of this country unless they are Christian. These conservatives have marginalized everyone else, even Catholics! They quote Moses but give no credence to the idea that Jews have a place here. They are heading toward the day when we have to pledge allegiance to Jesus or not be counted! This is the natural outgrowth of the “Family” a secret conservative organization that says to worship power is to worship Jesus!!

We have to start to speak out. We have to stop trying to reason with people who don’t listen. We have to gather together to preserve the 1st Amendment’s right to Freedom of Religion. I believe in Religion. I believe in Mosaic Law. I believe in the Bible. I believe in living a life of faith. I don’t believe in a faith monopoly. I don’t believe in fundamentalism and fanaticism of any kind. I don’t believe in the Literal Interpretation of the Bible. I don’t believe in the Literal Interpretation of Mosaic Law. All of Judaism rails against this type of thinking. The Rabbis took the Torah and made the 613 Mitzvot from the Agada (stories) as well as the Halacha (law). They interpreted the Torah and found that an eye for an eye was never to be taken literally. They took the words and proved how it must mean monetary compensation for the action. In fact, actuary tables are still in effect to this day. Does this mean that the United States is, in fact, a Jewish Nation because it uses so many of the Mosaic Laws as the basis for American Law? Of course not.

One of the principles that the United States, not the colonies, was founded on was Freedom of Religion. The Declaration of Independence states that there is a Creator, which most of us can agree on. It does not, however, state that Jesus is the Creator! The Christian Right is working hard to remake our Country to exclude any one other than Christians. Is this really what we want for our Country?

We have to stop this! We have to speak out against apartheid by the Religious Right. We must speak out against intolerance and either/or thinking. We must stand up for the qualities and principles that have made our Country great! We must stand up in order to keep America “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave”!!

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Mindfulness


By: Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Mindfulness is the buzzword today. It is used in Book titles,
seminars, etc. Most people associate mindfulness with Buddhism. I
would like to explain the origins of mindfulness in Judaism.

My definition of Mindfulness is: awareness of what is reality, being
present and awareness of consequences of what my current and next
actions will bring. In our tradition, we learn about being mindful in
the first chapter of Genesis. God tells us to take care of the earth,
having rule and dominion over all. In order to do this, we have to
know what each part of the earth needs to flourish. In the second
chapter of Genesis, we are told to take the seventh day, Shabbat, and
make it holy. We do this by not doing any creative work. How
interesting, we are commanded to take time to review what we have
created in the past week and appreciate it and appreciate and be
grateful for what God has created. To me, this is the height of
mindfulness!

Adam then goes on and names all the animals. Here again, awareness of
what each creature is and naming them according to their own traits
takes being mindful. We are commanded to work the land and guard it.
In order to guard something, we have to be aware of what is going on
with it and around it. God is showing us mindfulness when God says
that it is not good for a human to be alone and that we need an Ezer
K’negdo, a helpmeet. This is someone who helps us do the next right
thing and pushes against us when we are doing the next wrong thing.
To know one from the other takes a great deal of awareness.

When man sees woman, face to face for the first time, he becomes
aware of his need to be connected. So, we learn in this second
chapter of Genesis to be aware of our need to love and be loved, to
be known by another person and to know another person. Finally in the
second chapter of Genesis, we are told to leave our parents home and
have Devekut, a complete union, with our soul mate. Devekut is the
same union that we seek with God. So, just as we have to be aware of
our need to be connected to God, we have to be aware of and cultivate
and grow our connection to our soul and to the soul of our mate.

Now, these are all positive examples of mindfulness. In Chapter three
of Genesis, we see what happens when we are not mindful. This is the
Garden of Eden story. When we don’t see what is and either talk
ourselves into a lie or allow ourselves to be led astray, we go into
hiding. Then, when found out, we blame another. This is the state of
most of our world today, non-mindfulness.

We see another example of this when Cain is told that “sin couches at
your door, it desires you much AND you can master it”. What does Cain
do with this warning and direction? He kills his brother Abel.

The only way to “master sin” is to be mindful of what is negative in
you and around you. Then, by knowing what the consequences of what
acting on this negativity will bring and making a conscious decision
to not give in to our negative impulses and, rather, transform the
energy to do good, we live a mindful life.

God Bless, Rabbi Mark

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Authenticity vs. Falseness in Living


By: Rabbi Mark Borovitz

Living well is a struggle. For many of us, just defining living well is daunting. One definition is having what I want and enjoying life. Another is wanting what I have and enjoying life. Still another is having fame and fortune. Living well, according to Spiritual traditions is wanting what I have, living joyously through the agonies, ecstasies and in-betweens of life. To do this, I have to live authentically. This is one of the hardest principles for most of us to live! I am still searching for what is authentic in my life, who I really am and how to practice authenticity in a world filled with falseness. In fact, it seems as if the phonier I am, the more I give people what they want and who they want to see, the more I am rewarded. This is a difficult obstacle to overcome for me. I know in my soul and in my being that I live better when I am being authentic and I know that my life is easier when I live according to what others want. Yet, every time I engage in deception and falseness, my life comes apart at the seams! I am totally confused some days as to which way of being is running the show. Am I being nice to someone because it is going to get me something or am I being nice to someone because it is the right thing to do? If I don’t get what I want, does this mean that I was stupid for being nice? When I am being authentic and people reject me, does this mean that I am bad, defective, wrong, etc.? Does authentic mean that I act whatever way I feel when I feel it?

These questions haunt me every minute of every day. I want to live well. I lived badly for many years and caused much trauma and pain to the people I love and to the world. Was that authentic? I see many people who are trying to live according to how the world says they should and/or how the world says they shouldn’t. I am always confronted with the statement, “this is the real me, take it or leave it’. Yet, is it the “real” person?

Many of us believe that we have to rebel against something or someone to be authentic. This is a fallacy. We have to rebel to our true selves and to a living in truth. This is why having a Spiritual discipline is so important.

The rebellion of any and every Spiritual Discipline stands for non-conformity. This is what makes it a Spiritual Discipline. Conformity, in our society, is doing what everyone else is doing just because they are doing it, like ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, etc. are all rebellions. Alcoholics Anonymous is a rebellion. All of these and the rest of the Spiritual Disciplines say that living a life of service, compassion, healing, love and Truth is the real path to living a good life. This is against what society says. Society is saying ‘the right house, job, car, mate, bank account, etc. is the path to a good life’. A Spiritual Discipline says that life is not hopeless. These rebellions stand for principles. What principle does your rebellion stand for?

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Denial is dangerous!


By: Harriet Rossetto

I was relieved to read an article (albeit a small one) in this morning’s N.Y. Times about the boycott of the National Prayer Breakfast by an ethics watchdog group. The story revealed that a covert evangelical group called The Family is the force behind the prayer breakfast. After I read Jeff Sharlits’ book The Family several months ago, I talked of nothing else to anyone who would listen to me. I bought a dozen books and gave them to friends and family. This powerful, secretive, right wing, Christian group is successfully hijacking our elected leaders and using them as collateral to further their power base at home and abroad. It’s an organization that doesn’t exist, which cleverly shields it from scrutiny. But it controls elections and politicians seeking office are afraid of its power. Its agenda is the usual evangelical agenda – anti abortion, anti gay and anti egalitarian. It smacks of master race; its members, soldiers of Jesus, are exempt from moral responsibility by virtue of membership in the army of Jesus. Their Jesus is not the Jesus of the meek and servant of the oppressed. They do not revere the teaching of Jesus is Ruler, conferring upon themselves the Divine Right of Kings. They are free of moral restraint as long as they pay homage and several of their members have been arrested for sexual and ethical violations. These are the guys behind the scenes, funding the tea parties, inciting the rabble to disrupt civil discourse and invigorating Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. They are economically strong among elections in third world nations, assisting right wing dictators in Africa and Latin America. Where is the media when we need them? Why isn’t this part of the 24 hour news cycle? Balloon Boy, Tiger Woods’ sex life or the latest celebrity scandal doesn’t keep me up nights. The Family does. Please Mr. President, pay attention to these people. Denial is dangerous!

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We have to go beyond our own pettiness and pride.


In last week’s papers there were two articles that caught my attention. One was about the Lt. Governor of South Carolina, Andre Bauer. He was talking to a group of conservatives and spoke of his grandmother’s wisdom when she told him not to feed strays. The reason being; they breed! He then extrapolated this warning to mean that the State of South Carolina should not provide ample food to people because they will reproduce. This is his reason for opposing subsidized lunches for children of parents who don’t show up for school conferences and/or whose parents use drugs.

What has happened to us? This man is an elected official, so, while his words reflect cruelty and stupidity, the people who elected him bear responsibility as well. Where is the kindness, love and tolerance that defined our American Revolution? In a land that believes in the dignity of every human being, how do the rest of us let this type of rhetoric and governing go on? This is EVIL! Mr. Bauer is using the vulnerabilities of poor people and people who have lost their jobs, etc. against them for his own gain. Is this truly a Christian Conservative way? Is this truly a Jewish Conservative path? I think not.

Granted, I am not a conservative. Yet, when principles of faith are invoked, I believe that I have the right and the duty to comment. One of the reasons that I am speaking out is because people in Recovery are treated as Pariah’s and less than as well as the poor.

I have heard many comments about “those” people. Well, as Harriet Rossetto said at the 18th Steps to Recovery Gala, “those” people are us, our children, our neighbors, etc. Some of our friends have suffered deep financial setbacks, some of our family members are addicts of one kind or another. Some of us have been to jail and/or prison. Some of us have done things wrong that we haven’t been “caught” for. Some of us have been “caught” doing what seemed like “normal business” and we are vilified, thrown out of the club and our families suffer. Should we be restricted from reproducing? Should our children suffer for our errors? Is this Jewish, Christian, faith-based at all?

We have to go beyond our own pettiness and pride. We must, to paraphrase Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, surrender our own self interest to serve the interest of God and others. Can we? Will we? I invite your thoughts and comments.

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