Monthly Archives: July 2011

Chai Five!: A History*

By Jaron Zanerhaft

Since the dawn of time, our ancestors believed in powers beyond the limits of our senses.  When Prehistoric Man found himself on the brink of self-awareness, he forged within the fires of his very soul a single gesture that contained the power to unite all people and maintain peace in the world.  And when the gesture was complete, Man named it… Chai Five! It was a blessing of unfathomable strength, a potent force of untold skill.  However, the power of Chai Five! proved too strong for early Man to wield, and the gesture was lost for many ages.  Throughout time, Chai Five! has appeared briefly, testing our species to see if we were ready for its mighty and awesome gift.

The first known Chai Five! to go wrong

In Biblical Egypt, Moses invoked Chai Five! on his 9th try to free the Hebrew slaves.  Unfortunately it backfired and a plague of darkness ensued.  Chai Five! next surfaced in Ancient Rome circa 435 A.D. when Emperor Valentinian III attempted to congratulate one of his Gladiators with a gesture greater than “thumbs up.”  But Mankind was still not ready, and Chai Five! collapsed much of the Coliseum into rubble.  Most recently, the Chai Five! was called upon by a young John Lennon who, in 1960, heeded the world’s outcry for a band to champion in an era of love.  Though initially successful, Chai Five! broke in 1969, leaving in its wake more crappy cover bands than the world had ever known.

Ancient Rome circa 435 A.D.

But now the time has come for Chai Five! to clap again!  At long last, we have reached the apex of anticipation.  The air has never been more ripe, the universe never more fertile for a new age.  Chai Five! has completed its incubation so that it may bequeath its jubilance upon us.  And of all the worthy hands by which to gesticulate Chai Five! into being, it has chosen two— yours and ours.  Yes, we cannot Chai Five! alone, so, believing that the time of Chai Five! is here, we have exposed our open palm to you.  You have but only to slap it with yours to bring into being paradise beyond the farthest borders of imagination.  The choice is yours— Will you Chai Five!?

John Lennon's almost successful Chai Five! attempt--unfortunately, the world was not yet ready

* No actual Chai Five!s were documented to have influenced the historical events contained within this blog.  It is purely the speculation and

opinion of the author that these occurrences are too radically similar to not have shared in common Chai Five!. 

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events, Education, Family Wellness, Gratitude, Sobriety, Spirituality, Uncategorized

TKO: Totally Knocking Out Addiction

Issue #24

By M. Alexander

Seven months ago, I started a weekly newsletter to be handed out during Shabbat services at Beit T’Shuvah.  I called it Tikkkun Olam, meaning “ to repair the world.”  We are now on the 25th issue.

It started much like my sobriety, an idea, unformed and shapeless.  I did not know whether it would last or it would die.  But when I started hitting the keys on the keyboard, when I started asking residents, parents, board members, and temple members to contribute—I knew that I would keep it going.  When I started awakening to all the harm I had caused while I was shooting heroin, when I started realizing that I could only repair my corner of the world if I remained sober—I knew I would keep it going.  I would put out an issue every week and I would stay sober.

Each issue has a theme pertinent to sobriety and pertinent to Judaism.  Tikkun Olam has featured the themes of passion, community, courage, humility, and expectations.

The first issue was an introduction.  It highlighted resident stories, a drash on the haftarah, and a creative writing piece.  I loved doing it.  I loved figuring out how to format the paper, I loved looking for relevant cartoons, I loved getting other people involved—and I didn’t do it myself.  I asked for help when I needed it.

Since then, there have been times that I haven’t loved what I’m doing.  I get frustrated, I get bored, I get depressed.

I have come to terms with many “isms” I never thought I had—workaholism, perfectionism, and pessimism.  Through all of the issues, I have produced, I have kept to my commitment, and I have helped it grow. I have watched my sobriety, once shapeless and unstable, grow along with Tikkun Olam.  I have watched parents cry after reading about an addict still going through the depths of addiction, I have seen residents awaken to their long lost passions for writing and for life.

I now send Tikkun Olam via email every week to those who would like to receive it.  If you would like a weekly copy, you would just like a single issue, or you would like to make a contribution—please email me at This week’s theme is Sarcasm.  Where does sarcasm come from? Is it insecurity? Is it a power struggle? When is sarcasm appropriate?  When is it harmful?  If you would like to make a contribution, please send me an email.  I would love to expand my base of writers, painters, and drawers.

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By M. Alexander

The rotation of our globe has stopped.  Progress is impossible.  All humans have been paralyzed by aggression and impatience.  Does this sound like the rapture, armageddon, the apocalypse, judgment day, or 2012?  It’s actually a description of the coming weekend. The fated days—July 16th and July 17th, 2011.  The location of this apocalyptic nightmare—Los Angeles.


This weekend has been dramatically dubbed “Carmageddon.”  Others have christened it the “Carpocalypse.”  The source of this lurid allusion—The 405 will be shut down between the 10 and the 101.

News sources have suggested that we should avoid canyon roads— Sepulveda Boulevard, Beverly Glen Boulevard, Benedict Canyon Drive, Coldwater Canyon Drive, Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard.  We should also avoid Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Cloverfield Boulevard and 4th and 5th streets. The Harbor Freeway, though 12 miles East of the epicenter, may also be treacherously gridlocked.  The point?  Avoid all streets.  Even the helicopter landing pads are expecting heavy traffic.

Basically, if you want to go over the hill, plan to arrive by Labor Day.  If you plan on going to a movie, make sure it’s a late-season Oscar contender.  Don’t go anywhere.  For anything.  At all.

Don’t drive. Don’t fly.  Just sit down, lie back, and microwave some hot pockets.  As addicts and as Angelenos, it’s difficult for us to do nothing—only our minds to occupy us.  Treat this as a learning experience.

For those of us in recovery, this weekend will challenge all the virtues we strive to attain.  Patience.  Love.  Kindness. Acceptance.  In AA, we attempt to “cease fighting anyone and everyone.”  On the road, we may have the urge to fight everybody and anybody.  Take a moment; realize it’s just one giant pileup.  Plaster the serenity prayer on your dashboard if you plan on defying my advice and getting into your boat to cross the River Styx.  And please, leave your golf clubs at home, lest you pull a  Johnny Drama  on the PCH.


Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events

The Power of Asking

By Jaron Zanerhaft

It's pretty powerful--the asking, not the picture

I once heard that all prayers can fit into three categories: Please, Thanks, and Wow.  When I see something that makes me feel awe, even if it is terrible, I’ll express to God my veneration.  When I find myself provided for or encounter a helping hand, my gratitude becomes like prayer.  However, it’s not always clear which situations are appropriate to pray for something.  How do you know when to ask?  If you have confidence in yourself, you will formulate a vision that you believe in.  But first, you must be able to compartmentalize the fear of rejection.

Too often our ideas of ourselves keep us from becoming the people that we can be or that we’d like to be.  When do you suffer, even slightly, from any type of dysmorphia—the discrepancy between who you are and who you think you are?  Clearly seeing who you are and what you have is the first step in harnessing the power of asking.

Even wanting to change a small, single, isolated aspect of your life is enough to start.  From there, you can let the detail bleed over into the rest of your life, like the first red rose in a black and white film lets vibrant colors bleed into the rest of the scene.

Remember, nothing you can ask for is too big, nothing unattainable, everything within reach. “Our mistake all too often is not that we seek too much from the Almighty but that we don’t have the sense to ask Him for enough,” says Rabbi Benjamin Blech in his article Insulting God.  “If God wants to say no, that’s up to Him. Your role is to make clear you believe in His power to accomplish anything, no matter how difficult.”  When we dream big, we show God that we have Faith.  The Faith needed to dream is the root of any successful asking process.

Regardless of results, we must always be vigilant, searching for the right opportunity for effective prayer. By asking, we create our own path, determining what we desire from our next steps. The answer may not come as we expect it, but it starts from within. We may never get the chance to grab that record contract, that book deal, or that lush investment opportunity, but as long as we keep in mind what we want and how we’d like to see our lives turn out, we’ll be ready for our chances— or better yet, our answers— when they arise.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Education, Judaism, Spirituality, Uncategorized