Tag Archives: Judaism

Happy Birthday Rabbi Mark!!!


Today is Rabbi Mark’s birthday!  We didn’t want to let the day go by without acknowledging this special day.  For one more year, Mark Borovitz has added the edge and spice that defines Beit T’Shuvah and has found a way to teach the principles of Torah to even the most seemingly unteachable among us.  Feel free to leave him a birthday message on our Facebook page here.  Here’s hoping your day is enjoyable, Rabbi Mark, and that we may celebrate many more simcahs with you in the years to come!

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One Drop of Honey Sweeter Than The Last

By M. Alexander

During New Year’s celebrations—both Jewish and secular—we look back on the past year and make resolutions for the year to come.  We find the sweetness in our lives and we try to dilute the bitterness within us.

When we take time to remember what is sweet, we concentrate on what we often take for granted— our family, our friends, our health, our jobs, our home.  We may not have all of these things, but there is one thing that every single person who is reading this possesses—a life.  And life is the most precious gift that we have as we round the corner into the New Year. It may be that we don’t have the money we want, the job we deserve, or the spirit we think we should have accumulated—but more important than all these projections of ego is the fact that we are all alive, that we all have the power to enjoy La Dolce Vita, the sweetness of life.  We must hold onto the sweetness in our lives and be grateful for what we have if we hope to make it another year.

But the sweet does not exist without the bitter.  Where have we missed the mark in the last year?  Were we rude to our fathers, did we call our grandmothers, were we greedy, self-centered, dishonest, jealous, or manipulative?  Try to go through the months and the days, recalling individual events, asking yourself where you could have done better.  Where did you act in bitterness instead of sweetness?

Here’s hoping that as we recall the sweet along with the bitter, we are able to affect change in the days to come.  Let’s make this New Year one drop of honey sweeter than the last.

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Filed under addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events, Judaism, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety, Spirituality, Temple, Torah, Uncategorized

Doing T’Shuvah in the California Institution for Women

By Jessica Fishel

Jessica works at Beit T'Shuvah for the Partners in Prevention program, an informative and honest initiative designed to expose high schoolers to recovering addicts who have first-hand experience with drug, alcohol, and gambling abuse and eating disorders.


In August I decided to step out of my comfort zone and attend Shabbos services at the California Institution for Women in Corona, California. I knew that I would get a great deal out of the experience, even though I was unsure of what to expect, as I have never been to a prison. I was also unsure of how the women would accept me. I knew there would be many experiences I would be unable to relate to, but I am an open minded person and I wanted to help brighten the women’s days in any way possible. Once I entered the chapel I realized that, though I have never been to prison or been in the same situations as these women, we are all humans and in some sense have commonalities. I sat quietly, observed the dynamics of the women, and set aside all my judgments—I wanted to get as much out of this experience as possible. I immediately noticed that simple things, such as carrying the Torah, are enormous for the women, and with open minds and arms they offered me the honor to carry the Torah as well. I was extremely flattered. I have carried the Torah many times in synagogue, but this time it was different. It was an incredible experience; I was nearly brought to tears.  As the women kissed the Torah, it dawned on me that spirituality is one of the few things that has not been taken away from them in prison.

Spirituality is both something that every single person has the ability to find within themselves and something that cannot be taken away from anyone. Each woman who attended the Saturday morning services at CIW definitely valued spirituality. Not all of the women were Jewish, and though many had converted while behind bars, they all valued Judaism and their connection with a higher power regardless of the presence or absence of a definite image of G-d.  This was evident while we prayed, read Torah, and sat in a Jewish Twelve Step Group following the services. The topic of the group was “T’Shuvah” or repentance, and how it relates to the High Holy Days. To convey our message, we supplied the women with High Holy Day Repair Kits and T’Shuvah Cards. We had a conversation about the meaning and importance of T’Shuvah. I shared with the women that we are supposed to do T’Shuvah the day before we die (ultimately meaning every day because we do not know which day will be our last). The majority of the women related to this concept, and they were eager to learn more. In addition to learning about T’Shuvah, we had the women each share who they would like to give T’Shuvah to and why. The answers varied; some said respective family members, and others went as far as to say the people they harmed or stole from before they landed in prison. Each answer was unique and their remorse was genuine as they shared their answers. Aside from being able to share their answers and begin the repentance process, the women were extremely grateful for the High Holy Day Repair Kits and T’Shuvah Cards. I was unaware of how little material possessions these women have, and was moved by how grateful and excited they were to receive this gift.

Before this experience, I rarely took time to acknowledge how privileged I am. Now, I think about it daily. The greatest lesson I learned while I sat in CIW’s chapel is that I must always remember to live in gratitude and appreciate my freedom. All these women are willing to do T’Shuvah; however, for many of them they will never walk outside of the prison’s gates as free women, nor will many of the people they try to make an amends to accept their apologies. Regardless, they still understood the importance of making amends and will take advantage of the T’Shuvah cards. The women’s enthusiasm and passion for T’Shuvah reminded me that I must always remember the importance of atonement.  My day at CIW was extremely powerful and I plan on going back each month for Shabbos services, as well as for their High Holy Day services in October. I am EXTREMELY grateful to have had this eye opening experience and I am so excited to go back this month!

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A Message on Chai

By Jaron Zanerhaft

In the Jewish tradition, the number 18 is said to bring luck, happiness, and health through its mysterious, divine powers. In Gematria, the Jewish numerology, each letter of the Torah and Hebrew alphabet is given a numerical value. With the right combination of letters, any number can be calculated. This means that not just every letter, but every word as well has a number that corresponds to it. Many of these numbers are believed to have mystical powers contained within. Of these, the most well known and most powerful is the number 18, which corresponds with the Hebrew word Chai. Chai, which translates in English to Life, is spelled with two Hebrew letters— Chet and Yud. In Gematria, Chet = 8 and Yud = 10. Therefore, Chai = 18.

Chai Five!

Judaism holds life in the highest regard. Though we believe in an afterlife, we are taught to focus our efforts on improving our situation here on Earth. We believe that life on Earth is what we were created for, and therefore is the most important and noblest cause. The number 18 reminds us to be present for our lives and not to just watch them as if they were playing out on screens. Chai embodies fervor and awareness, letting us know that we can control our lives, we can determine our own directions, and we can improve the physical world around us. It is why, when Jews make a toast, they toast ‘To Life.’ So let’s raise our sparkling apple juices and make a toast to making this life on earth, the only one we’ve got, count. “L’Chaim!”

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Filed under 12-Steps, addiction, Beit T'Shuvah, Current Events, Education, Family Wellness, Gratitude, Internet, Judaism, Mark Borovitz, Sobriety, Spirituality, Temple, Torah, Uncategorized

Sam Rosenwald: Spiritual Warrior, Mentor, & Friend

RIP Sam Rosenwald

One of the great spiritual giants of our community died yesterday.  Sam Rosenwald was a man who lived with deep faith.  His respect for human dignity and love for people was evident in all of his interactions. With divinely inspired compassion, Sam cared for the widow, the poor, the stranger, and the orphan. He was smart and kind, passionate and loving. Sam was devoted to his wife, his children, his friends, and his community.

Though incredibly ambitious and philanthropic, Sam never sought nor needed recognition. We, the Jewish Community, and the greater city of Los Angeles, have all lost more than a man.  We have lost a true mensch, a tireless fighter for the best in and of all of us.

May he rest in peace.


–       Rabbi Mark

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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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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 Tikkunolam.bts@gmail.com. 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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