Category Archives: Temple

Sacred Space: Our First Shabbos in the New Building


By Eliot Godwin

Steve Jobs said, “A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Our leader and CEO, Harriet Rossetto, didn’t know what she was supposed to do with her life. A small advertisement in the paper was the spark that ignited Beit T’Shuvah, our singular organization which has blossomed into a diverse and expansive community. Last Friday, the doors of our beautiful new sanctuary were opened for an incredibly moving service, the continued realization of a vision that has spanned four decades.

The building is bright and modern; its lofty, vaulted ceilings an ideal symbol of the freedom Beit T’Shuvah residents feel from the struggle of their addiction. Nearly 400 people attended and witnessed the Hachnasas Sefer Torah (moving of the Torah) before the service. Members of the board, along with several dedicated community members, performed the ceremony under the fresh lights and celebratory applause, and the night was off and running.

Rabbi Mark and Yeshaia opened the service, which was anything but usual. In an earnest sermon, Rabbi Yeshaia expressed the importance of how this is our synagogue; a holy place where we gather together to observe Shabbos and celebrate each other. Rabbi Mark echoed that sentiment in his delightful sermon, preceded by an extended gratitude in which he expressed how grateful he is to the board and everyone who helped create this new space. Atop that list was the lovely Joyce Brandman, who gave a heartfelt speech and thanked the community for inspiring her in so many ways. It was a generous gift from the Saul and Joyce Brandman Foundation that made this new building a reality.

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Several other board members contributed with gifts of their own to ensure the completion of the new campus. Dr. Bill Resnick and Annette Shapiro, who conveyed their excitement and gratitude, also acknowledged the entire board for their leadership and generosity. The event became transcendent, so many people giving so much gratitude; it was truly an awe-inspiring experience listening to generous, soulful people thanking the very people whom they’ve helped immeasurably.

Rabbis Matt and Shira also spoke from the bima, offering their take on why Beit T’Shuvah is truly a holy place unlike any other. New residents were welcomed in and families were recognized for their participation in a family weekend that serendipitously coincided with the grand opening. Sober birthday celebrants were overcome with emotion inspired by the occasion, their success made sweeter by the remarkable setting.

A Torah is considered pasul (void) if a single brushstroke is missing or out of place. This evening was a collection of individuals, unique brushstrokes who comprise something larger than themselves. Without each of them, the community is not whole. On this night, as we gathered outside for Kiddush (taking no risks with the new carpet!), holiness and wholeness was achieved. It was clearly a special night for an extraordinary community. As Harriet found years ago, what she wanted and what G-d wanted for her were one and the same. Someone just had to show it to her.

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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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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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The Big Lie–Elul #8


One of the traps we fall into is our feeling sad. While there is a great deal to be sad about: loss, death, disappointment, our own errors, the hurts of others, etc; we have to keep this sadness in proper measure. When sadness is out of proper measure, we descend into despair. Rabbi Nachman calls this type of sadness the worst sin. Sadness/despair allows us to be hopeless and become victims. This sadness and despair allows us to tolerate the darkness that we and others bring into the world. It gives reason to our inactivity, our passivity and our engaging in negativity. This is the sadness that says “nothing will change” “why bother” “I don’t matter”, etc. It allows us to stay stuck and believe that we are powerless and doomed!

THIS IS THE BIG LIE.  It allows us to look for the False Messiah. It allows us to follow the lies of the people who say they know the ONE answer. This lie forces us to engage in other lies. All of this because the darkness enables our worst places and fears to control us. We listen, hear and understand the world from a place of falsehoods and hopelessness, which allows our emotions and minds to override the Truth in our Souls. We leave God while believing those who tell us that the path of inconsolable despair is really the path to God if we only follow these false prophets. We leave God and our own best interests and follow those who use our despair to frighten us into following them as sheep, rather than hearing and following our “still small voice of God”.

Today, the inventory is:
What are the areas of life that I descend into despair?
Who is impacted/affected?
How are they impacted/affected?
What is my TShuvah?

What are the areas of life that I stay connected and hopeful?
Who is impacted/affected?
How are they affected/impacted?
How will I enhance these areas and use this path in the areas where I fall into despair?

Click here for Getting Clean During Elul #7

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Go With Your Gut–Elul #6


Continuing our “getting clean,” I want to talk about knowing ourselves better. This is the point of T’Shuvah.  T’Shuvah is the path to self-awareness and self-love. It may seem strange to use our “missing the marks” as the path to awareness but it is the truest form, I believe. In looking at our “missing the marks” as ways to fail forward, we can find new ways to repair old actions and have a plan to do things differently in the future. This takes our past “errors” and makes them into paths of growth.

 

Elul IntuitionOne of the areas that needs growth is our intuition. I believe what many of us call intuition is really our soul speaking to us. Intuition is called “gut instinct” by some of us. A little known fact is that we have as many nerve endings in our gut as we have in our brain. In fact, as I learned from Rabbi Jack Bloom, our gut has been called the second brain! Yet it is, at times, the smaller of the voices that we hear in our bodies. The process of T’Shuvah helps us to strengthen this voice. Ultimately, our goal is to have our soul/gut instinct/intuition be the arbiter of our actions. This happens when we allow our minds and emotions to have votes and no longer have veto power over our intuition/soul.

 

Rabbi Jonathon Omer-man taught me this way of knowing when and where my Intuition is right and how I can grow the areas where my intuition needs to grow.  On a sheet of paper make 4 squares. In the top left column heading is: when has my intuition been right and I have followed it. In the top right column the heading is: when has my intuition been wrong and I have followed it. In the bottom left column the heading is: when has my intuition been right and I haven’t followed it. In the bottom right column the heading is: when has my intuition been wrong and I haven’t followed it.

 

Filling these columns in will give you new ways to understand your decisions and how to enhance your intuition and grow your soul.

Click here for Getting Clean During Elul #5

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Getting Clean During Elul #2


T’Shuvah starts with being open to the possibility of change, the desire to change and the commitment to change. I begin each Elul with the prayer, Adonai, Adonai. This is found in Exodus after the Golden Calf incident. Many people think that this is a plea to God to remember to be compassionate and kind. I believe it is a plea to ourselves to have the commitment to truth, empathy and repair. I chant this prayer as a mantra for 5-10 minutes in order to put myself into a state of Grace so that I can be honest and truthful with myself. After I attain this state, I begin to write my Chesbon HaNefesh, my accounting of my soul. I have to see all of myself, good and not so good. I have to be willing to confront all of my being, inside and out. I do this using the prayer Ashamnu from the  Yom Kippur Liturgy. My way of using this prayer follows the Hasidic tradition of looking inside myself, I learned this from Rabbi Jonathon Omer-man and have adapted it in some ways.

The first word is Ashamnu, I am guilty. I ask myself, how have I “missed the mark” (a translation of the Hebrew word Het) by feelings of excessive guilt and worthlessness? I take a sheet of paper and make four columns like this:

       
       
       
       
       

 

 

The heading has Excessive guilt and worthlessness. The first column has the actions I take that personify this, the second column has who was impacted/affected and includes God and myself. The third column is how they were impacted/affected and the fourth column has what is the Tshuvah I need to make.

 

An example from this year for me is:

1)    I don’t finish writing projects I have started because I feel unworthy of having anything to say and who would want to read/use these anyway!

2)    The following entities are impacted; God, myself, my wife, my daughter, my congregants, the residents of Beit TShuvah, others in the world.

3)    God is impacted because I am not taking my place and using the gift of insight and wisdom that God has implanted in me. I am affected because I am letting the voice of my own negativity win. Everyone else is affected because they don’t get another way of understanding the teachings of the Tradition and they don’t get to see and hear all of me.

4)    My Tshuvah is to finish the projects, not worry about the results and live my place in the world a little more.

 

I hope you will join me on this journey and remind me to not give up and engage in discussions about my writings and thoughts.

Click here to read Getting Clean During Elul #1.

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From Tourist to Member to Belonging


By Bob Green
Ten years ago I found Beit T’Shuvah.  Most who come to Beit T’shuvah have drug addiction problems, alcohol or gambling issues. Some are, or have been in jail.  All have hit bottom. I had hit my bottom as well. I was dying inside, suffering from a broken heart.
In the previous years, life had been throwing increasing challenges my way. It started with the death of my mother. A year later, I saw my brother at her Shiva in New York. He looked awful, overweight, flushed. He never took care of himself. I remember, the last words I said to him was…”Gerry you look awful, you look like you are going to die.” He did die, three days later. I was shocked, hurt, angry. How dare he die after I yelled at him. I couldn’t grieve, I was so angry.
Bob GreenLater that year my father was killed in a car accident. This, after he took care of my mother for 10 years with her Alzheimer’s disease.
My wife and I bought and moved into a new home. I lost my job, had surgery, my wife and I were trying to have a baby and were unsuccessful. Then my father-in-law died.
I was hanging on by a thread when my wife left me the day before our 10 year anniversary. I was devastated. I thought we had been through the worst of what life could throw at us.  I was lost, I didn’t know what to do.
The next day the Jewish Journal arrived at our door. There was an ad in the Journal, a Temple named Beit T’shuvah was having a seminar about relationships and marriage. I had heard of Beit T’shuvah, but I wasn’t familiar with it. I decided to attend the seminar, it was that Sunday.
I remember walking into Beit T’Shuvah. It didn’t look like all the temples I had been to. I was married at the Wilshire Blvd. Temple. I had been to all the “Hollywood” temples, but Beit T’Shuvah was different. There were folding chairs.  I didn’t feel like I was walking into a house of G-d. What is this place?
I sat and listened. I was taken by the words of the Rabbi and Harriet. I had been to years of marriage therapy, but I had never heard the truth as was discussed by Rabbi and Harriet that day. I sat with tears In my eyes. I felt that they knew the answers that I couldn’t find. I needed to reach out to them.
When the seminar ended, I went up to Rabbi Mark and asked if he could help me. I said I was lost, that my wife had just left me and that I didn’t know what to do.  He looked up at me and said, “Where is your wife, why isn’t she here with you?” I said, “I don’t know, I guess she had something more important to do.” Rabbi looked me In the eye and said, “I guess this should answer most of your questions.”
It was like a brick hit me in the head. I looked up and said, “Wow, can I come see you, can you help me?”  He looked at me and said with his sympathetic voice, “Talk to Harriet, she’s the therapist.”
I went to Harriet and asked for her help. She said that I should come to see her the next day.  She didn’t know me, yet she reached out to me. The next day, we talked for over two hours. I was in tears and I told Harriet that I ruined my marriage because I smoked pot and I was an addict. Harriet laughed at me and said, “Bob you aren’t an addict, you are just a very unhappy man. I know addicts and believe me, you are no addict.”
Harriet and I spoke for two hours and she left me with four pieces of advice. She said grow up, stop smoking pot, read these books, and come to Beit T’Shuvah on Friday.
It has been 10 years and I keep coming back. My future blogs will talk more about my Beit T’Shuvah journey and how the temple has brought me back to my faith and welcomed me into the Beit T’Shuvah community.

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