Monthly Archives: March 2011

War War Everywhere, and Not a Thing Has Changed

Soviet troops (in right row) withdrawing from ...

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By M. Alexander

Why is this “war” different from all other wars? It seems to me like the same thing is happening in Libya that happened in Iraq, the same thing is happening that happened in Afghanistan—an escalation of media coverage, increased military presence, and deterioration of domestic infrastructure; a civil war within the country causing an international conflict.

To be honest, I haven’t been keeping up with the all of the news about Libya. Most of my knowledge comes from headlines and passing conversations. I hear things like “We’re at war…again” “There is a no-fly zone” and “This is going to be World War 3”.

I am not writing this blog to agree with or dispute any of these claims. I am just tired of the debate about whether it’s a war or not a war. What does the definition have to do with it? As far as I can tell, people are dying. As far as I can tell, social uprisings seem to be popular in The Middle East lately. As far as I can tell, this will not be the last one.

I don’t know how to stop it, I don’t know what we should do, but can we try to do something different this time?

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Filed under Current Events, Gratitude, Uncategorized

My Rabbi: The Ex-Convict

By Ben Spielberg

I hate my rabbi. He makes me clean my room. He yells at me when I’m being disrespectful, and he always calls me out when I’m lying! I hate that my Rabbi makes me a better person—I mean, after all, who does he think he is? Some sort of religious authority?

The first time I had ever heard of Rabbi Mark Borovitz was a couple years ago when I read his autobiography, The Holy Thief. It was a quick read, a good story, and well written. After coming to Beit T’Shuvah for about four months for therapy once a week, I eventually set up a meeting with him. I complimented his book; we chatted a little bit, and set up another meeting for the next week. I don’t think I had ever even talked to a Rabbi before.

The next meeting didn’t go over so well. I was loaded, and he knew that I was loaded. Without so much as completing a sentence, he called me out on my manipulation. He knew I was lying to everybody around me and he knew I was in trouble. “You have a week to tell your family that you’re getting loaded, or I will.” Needless to say, I was furious. This guy I don’t even know was trying to ruin my life!

My Rabbi is a man who cares. My Rabbi has been through it all—he’s been to prison, he’s been confused, frustrated, angry, sad, and lonely just like me. And that’s why he cares so much about everyone here. He has been through exactly what all the residents are going through, and after making T’Shuvah, he has figured out that the greatest thing he could possibly do would be to help out others in positions he was in, and bring them to making their own T’Shuvah. I hate my Rabbi for making me clean my room, but I love him for it, too.

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Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Gratitude, Incarceration, Judaism, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety, Torah

Our Very Own Beit T’Shuvah Brand of Torah

"Adam and Eve" - Adriaen van der Wer...

Image by Tilemahos Efthimiadis via Flickr

By M. Alexander

The Torah has always interested me, both as a piece of literature and as a historic document; as a point of contention, rather than as a means of connection. I studied it in college and criticized it with my friends. I rejected it, seeing it as a document to control the masses.

It wasn’t until I came to Beit T’Shuvah that I began to see the Torah as a path, as a way, as instruction, as teaching, and as law. Beit T’Shuvah’s brand of Torah is one of personal redemption and of recovery.  Each story in the Torah can teach a lesson to the drug addict, the depressed, the gambler, and the person who wants a better life. I had been looking at The Torah through the eyes of a cynical rejectionist contrarian; once my mind was opened, even by one grain of sand, the messages were able to flood in.

I had always learned that the first sin was eating from The Tree of Knowledge.  Beit T’Shuvah teaches that the true sin in the Garden Story is hiding.  When Adam and Eve realize what they have done, they hide, attempting to avoid God’s wrath.  Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake. I have committed many errors (heit, missing the mark) in my life.  I must stop hiding when I miss the mark and show through my actions that I can change.

While wandering in the desert, after leaving my master, Pharaoh Heroin, I search for other comforts.  These are my golden calves—the girl across the hall, the new job, the power, and the prestige. The battle for freedom is just beginning.  I am free from the grips of The Pharaoh, but false gods are omnipresent. I must not find false gods in sobriety.

During Simchat Torah, the celebration that marks the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis, we wrap the Torah around each of the residents and community members. Everybody is assigned a word from the Torah; mine was B’reishit (the beginning). Just as the Torah is incomplete if one word is missing, the community suffers if one member is missing.  Every word matters and every person matters.  What a novel, enlightening concept for this cynic!

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Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Gratitude, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety, Temple, Torah, Uncategorized

James Franco: Was He High and Why Do You Care?

James Franco at the Harvard Yard to receive hi...

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By M. Alexander

So I am reading some blogs about Sunday night’s Oscars and I see widespread gossip that James Franco was loaded.  Aren’t there enough people in Hollywood that are in rehab, in recovery, or currently drinking themselves into oblivion that we do not have to spread lashon hara about somebody else?  Maybe he was just a bad host.  Maybe he thought that his cool, calm demeanor would get him more “James Dean-esque” movie roles.  Maybe he was embarrassed by Anne Hathaway’s cross-dressing Les Miserables rendition of “On My Own”.  Maybe he wanted to look high because the younger, “hipper” viewers remember him in Pineapple Express, not Milk or 127 Hours.  Maybe that is just the way he is.

On the other hand, maybe he was loaded; maybe he was smoking crack backstage with Charlie Sheen’s hookers, had just stolen from a jewelry store, or had just been in a hotel room on Sunset shooting dope.  But the point is that we, the viewers, have no idea.  Why must we guess?  Why must we prod and poke?  Why must we believe that another person has this awful disease of addiction?  Did Charlie Sheen not say anything funny yesterday?  Did Lindsay Lohan not send a floral amends to a jewelry store? Did nobody shoot their wife?  Find something else to speculate about…or give him a drug test if it really makes any difference to you.

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Filed under addiction, Current Events, Internet, Judaism, Sobriety