Author Archives: Josh Silver

Taking It From Bad To Worse


By Josh Silver

I remember being a kid and asking my parents why we had to fast on Yom Kippur.  It’s funny, I remember asking the question but I don’t remember the answers that they gave.  Perhaps it was something like, “Because that’s how we atone for our sins,” or even a simple, “Because that’s what Jews do.”  Whatever the answer is, I feel like I’m finally old enough to have formed my own opinion on it.  I think that we fast to make us focus.  I noticed the sensation while at Beit T’Shuvah’s services this past Wednesday.  When you’ve been fasting all day, your brain goes into a sort of slow down mode and you don’t really have the capacity to think about more than one thing at a time.  In my case, I ended up focusing more on these services than I had in a long time.

Beit T'Shuvah ShofarSitting there on the holiest day of the Jewish year, I realized something about myself—even though I had gotten sober and had been living a “good” life for the past year I still had things to atone for.

The distinction between “good” and “evil” is easy to make.  Even a six year old could give you some sort of definition for these two categories.  But I have begun to realize that “evil” deeds are not the most dangerous.  Evil deeds are ones that are so heinous that a mental flag gets thrown up when we are about to commit that particular act.  This makes them easier to avoid.  The most dangerous acts aren’t the ones where we have malicious thought involved; they’re the ones that require no thought at all.  In between “good” and “evil” is the third and most devious category—“bad.”

So this year no, I haven’t stolen any more or lied to my family or committed any unspeakable atrocities.  But that doesn’t mean I haven’t fallen short of living a “good” life.  It can be something as small as thoughtlessly excluding someone from your life to something as underhanded as sneaking out of services to have a cigarette.  All of our actions have ripples and they don’t have to “evil” for them to be worthy of T’Shuvah.

Yom Kippur may be over but as Rabbi Mark has been teaching us all year round, it is never too late to make T’Shuvah.  I ask you, the reader, to delve deep and ask yourself what every resident at Beit T’Shuvah must at some time ask themselves: What are the lies I tell myself? What are the things I’ve done because I thought, “nobody will notice” or “this isn’t important?”  I realize that these are tough questions but what better time than now to ask them?

Happy New Year Everybody.

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Filed under Beit T'Shuvah, Community, Current Events, Judaism, Spirituality, T'Shuvah, Temple

What the **** is Kugel?


By Josh Silver

Kugel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Usually reserved for those special Jewish holidays with the family, my mom does it all: noodle kugel, potato kugel, carrot kugel.  So last week after Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner with my family, I happily returned home with an extra large portion of left over noodle kugel (my favorite.)  As I was showing this noodily delight to a friend of mine he asked me, “What is kugel anyway?”

Noodle Kugel

Photo by smittenkitchen.com

I was completely stumped.  My mouth opened automatically as if my brain thought it knew what to say but then nothing came out.  How do you define something that takes so many different forms?  I tried describing the kugel before me as “sort of a sweet casserole that’s not really a casserole but is made with noodles and cream” but as soon as I said you could also make it out of potatoes, he was just as confused as I was.  That’s when I set out on a mission: to define kugel in all its forms.

I started where all Jews start when they have a question about food, by asking other Jews.  This may have been the wrong course of action because every person I asked had a different answer.  Not only did everyone have their own, individual mental picture of what kugel is based on the recipe their parents made, but all the conversations eventually devolved into people describing how their families’ kugel was better than everybody elses (the same thing happens when you bring up brisket so I don’t recommend it).

That’s when I turned to my trusty friend, the Internet:

Kugel (קוגל kugl,) is a baked Ashkenazi Jewish pudding or casserole, similar to a pie, most commonly made from egg noodles or potatoes, that at times made of zucchini, apples, spinach, broccoli, cranberry, or sweet potato.  It is usually served as a side dish on Shabbat and Yom Tov.

So there’s the easy definition, but what’s the real definition to you?  Doesn’t kugel mean something different for everyone?  It’s not just a food, but a word for the way that food makes you feel.  Let us know some of your kugel stories in the comments below.

I also found this great recipe online because let’s face it, I can’t just hand over my mother’s recipe to the world wide web.

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Filed under Education, Judaism, Uncategorized

40 Years With No Directions


Moses GPS

We are happy to announce that the Beit T’Shuvah blog will now feature a weekly cartoon.  The above image is the first of it’s kind, and these cartoons will cover many of the same topics that Beit T’Shuvah has been known for talking about (i.e. recovery, Judaism, spirituality, relationships, etc…).  Cartoons have long been one of the most expressive outlets for communicating an idea in an entertaining way, and we want this blog to be not only informative and spiritual, but fun to read.  All cartoons are hand-drawn by the new President of BTS Communications, Lon Levin, and will be written by BTS Comms dynamic Copy Department.

Hope you all enjoy and stay tuned for the next one!

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When I Was 13: A Memory of 9/11


By Josh Silver

For most people that were alive on this day 11 years ago, there will be few things in their life that are as memorable as where they were and what they were doing when those planes hit the towers.  Every generation has some event that shocks the world around us and virtually changes the way we live.  For some it was the assassination of JFK, for others the destruction of the Berlin Wall—for me it was a school day unlike any I had ever had in my young life.

Twin TowersThe first thing I noticed was the radio.  Our teacher wasn’t in the habit of using electronics to assist our education so I knew something was going up I just couldn’t fathom what it was.  It was a chilly morning but as I walked up to my first period class the mist had already started to break up and you could see sunlight poking through a faint eastern cloud.  As I neared the classroom door, the chatter became increasingly understandable until I heard one final line, “Oh my god, another plane has just hit the second tower.”   How could my young mind know in that moment that I would remember those words for years to come?

The USA had been attacked but who did it and why? By the end of first period rumors were already spreading throughout the school.  Every teacher seemed to have some little anecdote to keep us at ease.  Some people barely took notice of it.  Others simply wanted to know what the World Trade Center was and why the bad guys had decided to attack those buildings.  I learned a lot in that day.  I learned how fast a culture of fear can spread not just through a population of 8th graders but through an entire country.  I’m ashamed to say it, but by the end of that day I was sick of the story.  All I wanted was for the world to move on.  Yet isn’t it just like the world to do the exact opposite of what you ask for?

Remember this was a time when most of America had never heard of Osama Bin Laden, a time when I couldn’t find Iraq on a map to save my life, and a time when I didn’t really care about words like “terrorism” and “WMD.”  Back then you could bring as many water bottles as you wanted onto a plane and people didn’t cry when they heard the national anthem.  I’d never met anybody who’d died in an airplane and definitely didn’t know anyone who had died in military service.  It’s easy to see in one small moment of reflection how drastically the world can change in 11 years.

Now, on the 11th anniversary of that horrific morning, there is nothing I’d rather write about.  In fact there is one word that comes to mind when I think about this anniversary—hallelujah.  Admittedly it’s always been my favorite word from the Torah, maybe because I think it has more than just one meaning.  Even a child can understand that this is a solemn day, a day meant for remembrance of loved ones lost and of a war that we are still fighting.  But the value that constantly goes understated is that the USA remembers this day together and that should be celebrated.  It’s the sort of occasion that every American feels in their own, deeply personal way, yet in a time when our country is facing so many schisms and agendas, I say hallelujah that we still have this day to unify us all as Americans and as patriots.  Because today I get to remember my friend who died in Iraq (out of respect let’s just call him Scott), and I get to remember not just the catastrophic pain the nation felt when the towers fell but also the joy that we all shared a year ago when Osama Bin Laden was finally brought to justice.

So today, as the nation remembers our fallen civilians and soldiers take a moment to pause and think about how every other American is sharing this same moment of somberness.  You’ll probably hear speeches being made and see flags being waved and as you think back to where you were on this day 11 years ago maybe you can say your own tiny hallelujah, that for one sacred day our nation doesn’t squabble within its own borders and that at least today, on September 11th, we can all stand together as one United States of America.

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Filed under Current Events, Gratitude, Uncategorized

Can My Phone Keep Me Sober?


We are living in the modern age of sobriety.  No longer does sobriety mean having to trudge an hour in the snow, Big Book in hand, to get to a meeting.  No longer must people judge their sobriety date based off of the position of Jupiter.  For our time is the time of phone apps.   Apps that tell you where meetings are, give you daily reflections, and can even offer the entire Big Book in digitized form.

With so many options out there in Appland, it is clear to me that people in recovery need a way to pick through the duds and find the app that really speaks to them.  Below is a review of some of the really awesome apps out there for sober people—Enjoy!

Phone AppsDays Sober

This free app is really just keeping it simple.  Consisting of nothing more than a calendar that tells you how many days you have, it performs one simple function and performs it well.

AA Big Book—Georgia Sobriety

Considering all that this app has to offer, you wouldn’t expect it to be free but the nice folks at Georgia Sobriety have made it available without charge.  On top of daily reflections and a useful sobriety calculator, this app offers the first 164 pages of the Big Book broken down by chapter.  Altogether, this app is a nifty tool to be sober on the go.

One Day At A Time

Costing $1.99, this app markets itself as “the only Big Book app with Passage Highlighting.”  One can’t deny that this feature makes it effortless for people to find daily prayers and passages that stood out to them.  They even have frequently used prayers like the Serenity Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.  The application also offers a feature to keep your AA contacts separated in your phone, allowing for easy access to other people in recovery.  Topping it off with a sobriety counter, this app is meant to be the one stop shop for sobriety phone apps.

iPromises

Created by the famous Promises Recovery Center, this app is meant as a companion to the newly sober.  While many of its features are common in other applications, a sobriety counter and meeting directory, the thing that makes this app stand out is its trigger alerts.  The user simply enters in things that trigger them to drink or use and the app will periodically remind you of them to let you know if you are walking that dangerous line.

12 Steps Companion

Lots of the apps out there can tell you how many days sober you have.  This app calculates it to the minute.  More than just an improved sobriety calculator, this app also offers a complete Big Book and all of the numbers for local AA offices.  The only downside is the app costs $2.99.

Know of any other good ones? Tell us your favorite Sobriety App in the comments below.

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Remembering the LA Riots


20 years ago today our beloved City of Angels was in chaos.  20 years ago today we were classified as a disaster zone.  20 years ago today you couldn’t look outside without seeing the smoke or hearing the broken glass and shattered screams.  Some may have already forgotten it ever happened and to others it’s simply a blurb in a history text book but the truth is that the LA Riots of 1992 were a very real event that should not be forgotten.LA Riots

The scene in 1992 Los Angeles was one of heated racial tensions.  60% of the LAPD was white and minorities were facing heavy prejudices from law enforcement.  The spark that ignited the flame came after the beating of a black LA native named Rodney King.  The LAPD officers who were charged with having beaten Rodney, who gained national notoriety for what was done to him, were acquitted.   That acquittal drove the city into pandemonium.  The outcry started as a call for justice but eventually unraveled into a scene of greater depravity than had ever been seen in our country before.

LA RiotsStore windows were shattered, cars were attacked, fires were started, people were shot—and there was seemingly no one to stop the insanity.  The LAPD didn’t have enough man power to stem the riots and so the National Guard was finally called in.  After the initial 3 days of rioting the destruction had resulted in 55 people dead, 1,573 businesses destroyed, and a total cost of $1 billion dollars.   Two of the most memorable scenes from the LA riots were the assault and beating of Reginald Denny, a trucker who was just driving through the city, and the murder of an unarmed minority school girl named Latasha Harlins.  The thing that was most striking about the LA riots was that, due to video technology, the scenes of destruction and chaos were televised as never before.

In this year, the 20th anniversary of the riots, Rodney King has published his book, The Riot Within, to give his view on LA riots and the mind-set that led to them.

One of the promises of AA says that, “We shall not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”  This means that sometimes things must be learned the hard way and if we do make a mistake we should learn from it and do our best to never repeat it.  If we were to shut the door on our past, we might let it fade into obscurity.  By forgetting how horrible our mistakes were, we might lose the strength to continue on in sobriety.

The LA riots were a horrific tragedy in the history of Los Angeles.  The only way we can make sure that they never happen again is to honor those who were victims during the riots and to constantly be improving ourselves.

What do you remember about the LA Riots?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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2nd Mini Reveal: An Experiment In The Art Of Zen


We’ve hit another milestone in the journey that is Beit T’Shuvah’s Charity Design Project.  This past Sunday, a lot of words got thrown around—words like “thank you,” “I’m so happy,” and “this is amazing” came pouring from the lips of the astonished residents.  But the main word that could be taken from the day was “Zen.”  So many of the designers stated how they “were going for a feeling of Zen and tranquility,” and it’s safe to say they hit the nail on the head.

After weeks of hard work, it was a joyful and somewhat chaotic day.  Hoards of people crowded in Beit T’Shuvah’s hallways, all hoping to get the first glimpse at one of the rooms.  However, Heidi Bendetson and Rhonda Snyder, the two women coordinating the Charity Design Project, kept it all in order.  The most important thing was that the first people inside each room were the designers and the residents.

Below is a small sampling of pictures from the 2nd Charity Design Mini Reveal.

 

Zen Painting

Zen Graffiti in Room 219

Room 219

The Resident, The Painter, and The Designer

Room 215

The 3 Designers: Anat, Christina, and Debra with a grateful resident

The newly-designed room 215

Room 219

The resident of room 219 sits for a picture with his designer and Heidi and Rhonda

Room 108

The 'Charlie's Angels' Designers of room 108--Shelly, Debra, and Madeline

Room 108 Charity Design

The Tiffany Blue serenity of room 108

211

Room 211 offers a little piece of paradise.

For all of the photos from Sunday’s event, please visit Beit T’Shuvah’s Flickr page, and for before photos of all the rooms please visit the Designed From The Heart Facebook page.

Tell us what you thought about the rooms in the comments below.

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