Monthly Archives: May 2011

T’Shuvah Means Redemption

By Jaron Zanerhaft

At some point in the midst of life’s successes, everyone must eventually fall. When you do, what’s the thing to do next?  With what
method do you move forward?

Sometimes, in order to keep moving forward, you need to move forward in a different direction.  By recognizing that the path you are on
does not lead to where you want to go, you commit the first step of T’Shuvah.  Sometimes it’s difficult, however, to know in which
direction to turn and how to proceed.

T’Shuvah is a complex concept and quite pervasive ‘round these parts. It’s what we are supposed to do, who we are supposed to represent to the outside world, and what we venture towards within ourselves.  But what does it mean?

Traditionally thought of as “return” or “repentance,” T’Shuvah is what we are commanded to engage in during the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  It’s the act of considering and accepting our misdeeds and the active attempt to both rectify our actions and return to holiness.

Different from other methods of forgiveness such as absolution, T’Shuvah is not something that you are granted but rather something you seek.  It is up to the person who committed a regret-worthy act to make amends to all he has harmed.  It’s about responsibility, and that’s not always easy.

Now, this is the difficult part.  This is where you change your life. To continue T’Shuvah, you must take the necessary measures to ensure that a hate of the same nature will not reoccur.

At Beit T’Shuvah, T’Shuvah claims a large portion of everyday actions and practices.  Groups, meetings, study sessions, and more involved projects here are all in some ways created for residents to engage in T’Shuvah for their own past.  This way, similar mistakes in the future may be prevented.  Here we learn that T’Shuvah is a way of life that drives a person to constantly excel and improve on his being.  By continually examining our lives for actions we might regret, we take strides in becoming integrated human beings who face truth and righteousness instead of deceit and shadows.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Family Wellness, Incarceration, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety, Temple, Torah, Uncategorized

10 Answers on Dating, Sex, Age, Gender, Religion, Faith, Sobriety, and Rules

By M. Alexander

This week, I have spent a lot of time speaking with Ilana Angel, writer of “Keeping the Faith”, The Jewish Journal’s most popular blog.  Ilana writes a lot about dating—she is a single, 45 year old mother.  I am a single, 22 year old recovering heroin addict.  We began to discuss dating, relationships, and sex—immediately realizing our many differences. She called me “Pig.”  I called her “Neurotic.”  We decided to each answer a series of dating-related questions—are we really so different?



MICHAEL: Sometimes I think, “Damn, I’m handsome, smart, and charming.  If she doesn’t fall for me, she’s probably dense and blind.”  Other times I think “What was she thinking when she agreed to go out with me?  She probably just wants a free dinner.  She probably feels bad for me.”

But I’m becoming more successful at clearing my mind before a date.  I usually stay busy until right before I have to leave, attempting to go into a date without anxiety.  I try not to judge myself or judge my date as either prettier than me, dumber than me, or more desperate than me.

If I go into the date without expectations and let things flow effortlessly, everything usually goes smoothly.  I can then be more honest about whether or not we have a connection and we can mutually decide whether we want to see each other again.

ILANA: I case the joint for emergency exits, make sure I have a girlfriend scheduled to call me 30 minutes in should I need an emergency exit, pray to God I have not made a bad decision and am about to meet someone unsafe, order a drink, pop a TicTac and hope for the best.


MICHAEL: I don’t have any pre-set guideline.  If the girl wants to wait 3 months, I’ll wait three months.  If the first date naturally leads to immediate sex, I am not going to throw her off of me.

ILANA:  I have waited and not waited and it does not change how I feel about myself, or the man I am with.  When I was young I was tormented if I slept with someone too soon, but now, in my 40’s, I am more forgiving of myself and allow myself to live and enjoy sex as part of my life.


MICHAEL: I like to think I’m pretty open-minded, but no pre-ops or post-ops.  And if she believes that she was a man in their past life? —I’m not sure what I’d do.  Convicted felons? No problem, as long as she’s interesting.

ILANA:  There are certainly things that I am not interested in at this stage of my life, but I would not categorize them as deal breakers becasuse they are simply not an option.  I only date men who are Jewish, but Jewish is not a deal breaker as much as it is a preference.

I also am not interested in dating a man with young children as my son is getting ready to leave the nest and I want to embrace the freedom.  Again, I would not date someone with really young kids so it’s a preference, not a deal breaker.


MICHAEL: I’d rather meet someone organically. I guess I’m old-school in that respect.  But I am not opposed to dating sites.  I just haven’t gotten to that point yet.  Maybe it is because I don’t want to vulnerably expose myself in a public forum.  No.  That can’t be the reason.  I’m fairly well-practiced in the art of public exposure.  I think I’m just too lazy and have too much false pride to set up a profile.

ILANA:  JDate is a hell train that I will never ride again, and online dating as a whole is a necessary evil.  It can be scary and dangerous, but so is any way you meet someone.  I don’t go to clubs, and I work from home, so I date online because my options are limited.  I have had enough success with it that I am able to continue.  I’ve become a little jaded, but remain hopeful.


MICHAEL:  It depends.  If I ask her out, it is my responsibility to pay.  She agreed to go out with me and I want to show my gratitude and treat her gallantly—I want her to know that I am a gentleman, but I also don’t want to seem like I am just trying to “win” her.

If she asks me out, it is a trickier situation—especially if she chooses the restaurant. I may not be able to afford it.  I’ll make sure that I have enough to cover the tab, but I think she should offer to pay her portion.  Then, I can tell her not to worry about it.  If she insists, I don’t stand in her way.  Instead, I say that I will buy ice cream/coffee after dinner—this stops the fight over the bill and guarantees a dating continuance.

After the first date, it is dependent upon more factors; it becomes more complicated.  Footing the bill is not the only way to show my chivalrous nature—holding the door, listening to what she says, and respecting her boundaries are more gentlemanly than picking up the tab.

ILANA:  If I invite a man out, I will pay.  Most men will not allow it, but I still offer.  If I am asked out, then the man will generally pay.  If asked to go dutch, I will happily pitch in.  Money is never really a discussion or issue when dating at my age.


MICHAEL: I don’t drink.  I am a recovering alcoholic.  But I don’t mind if my date orders something while we are out.  It truly doesn’t bother me.  If it did, I would tell her.  Last night, I went out with someone who ordered a vodka tonic.  I ordered a diet coke.  She asked why I am not drinking and I told her the truth, without trying to shy away or hide.

It didn’t seem to bother her. And if it did, c’est la vie.  It’s better to get it out in the open on the first date than the fifth.  But if you are going out with an alcoholic, I suggest that you respect their disease and don’t drink—at least on the first date.  It is just more respectful.

ILANA:  I am a very lightweight drinker.  Two cocktails and I do not have a clear ability to make the right decisions.  I generally stay away from drinking until I know the man, feel safe, and can relax a little.  On a first date one glass of wine is my limit and I will nurse it over 2 hours.  If I am on a date with someone who does not drink, then neither will I.


MICHAEL: I have a lot in common with many women who are much older than me, just as I have little in common with many women my age.  Maturity is much more important.  I would love to date a 35 year-old woman.  I would also date an 18 year old.  Age is not really an issue.

ILANA:  Yes.  I cannot relax with a man who is much younger than me, or one that is much older than me either.  I am really trying to loosen up on this issue.  I would hate to miss out on a great man because I have a hang up about him being too young or too old.


MICHAEL:  1.  Don’t take it too seriously: it’s a date, not a marriage.  2.  Don’t manipulate: It brings me back to my addiction and it never works in the long run.  3.  Be a good guy.  4.  Don’t make any more rules.

ILANA:  1.  Take it seriously, it could be your last first date.  2.  Trust my gut.  3.  Be a lady.  4.  Follow the rules.


MICHAEL: I don’t make much money.  If a woman judges me based upon the amount of money I spend, she is not someone I should be with.  We can eat good food in a pleasant atmosphere and do something fun afterward all for under $40 dollars.  If Rachel Ray can eat for under $40 a day, I can certainly charm someone without much money.  The best dates I’ve been on have been the cheapest.  I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not.  But when I spend more money, the date seems to be worse.  I don’t want to buy her, I want to charm her.

ILANA:  It does not matter, just have a good time.  If he can’t pay, I can.


MICHAEL:  Faith and religion do not come into play when I am casually dating somebody.  I can connect with an atheist just as easily as I can connect with a Jew. Any faith or religion is fine, just as long as she’s not radical or fundamentalist (though it might be fun to date a cult-leader for a couple weeks).  I haven’t ever had a serious relationship so I honestly can’t say whether religion or faith would become important.  I want her to have purpose and passion more than I want her to believe in God.

ILANA:  Faith and religion are important. That said, faith trumps religion.  I could not go out with someone who did not believe in God.  He must be Jewish, but he does not need to practice as I do, or have the same worldview, but he must have a belief in something greater than himself.

I feel a connection to Judaism, and am raising a young boy to be a man.  It is a tough job and if someone is going to be in my life, and have the blessing of knowing my son and being in his life, he should be able to share in our faith and help me to present Judaism to my son in a way that he embraces it.


Ilana and I are both searching for attraction, love, and connection—but the way we seek it is quite different.  I believe our differences are best summed up under Dating Rule Number 1.  My first dating rule is “Don’t take it too seriously.”  Ilana’s first dating rule is “Take it seriously.”

We are living in different worlds.

Ilana’s World: Lovelorn Fairy-tale Princess Seeks Beshert.

My World: Recovering Heroin Addict Tries To Live Life

Yes. Our worlds intersect.  But the overlapping section of the Venn Diagram is still a small space in comparison to the parts that are diametrically opposed. We are quite different, but since I’ve been spending time with Ilana Angel, I am trying to keep the faith.

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Filed under addiction, Dating, Gratitude, Sobriety, Temple

How Do You Help Someone Who Won’t Get Help?

By Ben Spielberg

I recently received a call from an old friend who used to be sober and is now using drugs again. He said that he wants help, but he doesn’t want to do anything about it. I offered him the option of treatment, I offered him meetings. He wants none of it.

After living in treatment for 9 months and still working at Beit T’Shuvah, I’ve become relatively desensitized to the standard woes of addiction—on a daily basis I am exposed to somebody who begs for help one day and relapses the next morning. However, when I talked to my old friend, I realized that he was going about his situation the exact same way I once had: he wanted to stop, but he didn’t want to do anything?

For the next few hours, I racked my brain trying to think of something I could say, some action I could take that would enlighten him and make him realize the error of his ways. I wanted to show him the path that I have chosen. As I continued to reflect, I even tried to figure out the point where my thought process changed—when did I actually start to trust Beit T’Shuvah? When did I realize that I actually need to do something?

This was, in fact, not a recognizable point. In fact, I think I got real lucky—something clicked after a few weeks in treatment, and that thing was not a palpable feeling or event that I went through. I just happened to stop fighting and start trying. But the question is, how do I communicate this to somebody else? What do you say to an addict or alcoholic who wants to stop emotionally, but isn’t willing to physically put in any action?

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Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Gratitude, Sobriety, Uncategorized

On Inspiration

By Alice Kofman

People from all walks of life feel inspiration, an emotional eruption of creativity. Most of us have felt it throughout our lives at one point or another; it is one of the greatest feelings in the world.  I used to feel inspired to create, to paint, to journal.  But for the last few years, I have been wrestling with a personal profound lack of inspiration.  No matter what I tried to do, I just couldn’t shake of this sense of feeling completely uncreative, a serious problem for a person who generally considers herself a creative individual.

So, when Ben asked me to write a blog for BTS Communications, my natural response was that I couldn’t do it because, at the moment, I had the creativity of a doorknob. There was no way out of writing it.  As I sat there thinking what I could possibly write about, I decided to start off with some research.  A chance encounter led me to find a see-through doorknob, a creative solution for knowing what is on the other side of the door before opening it.

A little doorknob shed light on the idea that inspiration is not about a specific situation or certain objects, but rather the way that we look at our everyday world.  It is about actively finding what is special and unique in everyday objects and moments.  We must actively look for inspiration so that we may encounter it along our daily path.

Realizing this was my moment of inspiration. It showed that even something as common and mundane as a doorknob might be creative and inspirational.  Maybe my problem wasn’t a lack of inspiration, but instead my failure to see it around me.  Inspiration may be found in anything; we just have to open our eyes to the possibilities.

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Can You Believe Somebody Had to Die For Us to Feel This Good?

By M. Alexander and Jaron Zanerhaft

Headline: Osama Bin Laden killed by US Special Forces in a mansion outside Islamabad, Pakistan

Reaction: Crowds gather outside The White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

Headline: Egyptian Special Forces killed when Sea of Reeds abruptly closes

Reaction: Miriam leads women in song of rejoice “Michamocha! Michamocha! Michamocha!”

I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;

but that the wicked turn from his way and live:

Ezekiel 33:10,11

Celebration outside of the White House

Are we taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, just as Miriam took pleasure in the slaughter of the Egyptians? Many interpretations of The Torah state that Miri am was not allowed into Israel because she celebrated the death of the Egyptians.  They enslaved us, but we should not celebrate their slaughter; instead, we should celebrate our freedom.

Instead of rejoicing at the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, what should we do?  As Jews, we believe that all men and women are children of God. T’Shuvah, not death, is the instrument we use to defeat evil. Our tradition teaches us that there is good even in the most wicked of us—the loss of a divine spark is always something to be mourned, even when the divine spark has consumed the lives of the many and contributed to the separation of humanity.

His head wasn’t pitted on a stick to be paraded around Washington D.C and New York City—he was cast into the sea
according to an Islamic tradition. His body was treated with respect out at sea by the forces who killed him, but the crowd in front of The White House looked like a soccer mob.

True, this man was not to be respected—he murdered the innocent and spread hate throughout the world. His actions
were atrocious, his words nothing short of evil.

The death of Osama Bin Laden is being celebrated throughout the free world, but we do not want to sink to the level of terrorists.  We need to say kaddish for the lives of the people he killed and remember the families he tore apart.  As Jews, as Americans, and as freedom fighters, we must take action to disenfranchise radical jihad and destroy Al Qaeda– but cheering and chanting when a man dies is not the path to freedom.

Instead, we should be the model for free societies, and for those who desire freedom throughout the world.  We should celebrate life, spread knowledge, and we should Tikkun Olam–repair the world.  Only then will fanatacism die.

How did you react to the news?

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