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How Things Worked Out

How Things Worked Out

The “Second Passover” from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic

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If any man of you, or of your future generations, shall be unclean . . . or be on a journey far off, he shall keep the Passover to G‑d on the fourteenth day of the second month . . . (Numbers 9:10–11)

On the date commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, it is a mitzvah to celebrate the holiday of Passover. When the Temple stood—may it be speedily rebuilt in our day—this celebration would entail bringing a special sacrifice on the day before Passover, the Paschal lamb. The Torah tells also of a “Second Passover” granted to a group of men unable to fulfill their obligation with the rest of the nation on the regularly appointed holiday. Because they were ritually impure, they were excluded from performing the sacrificial offering in honor of Passover. Aggrieved because of their missed opportunity to fulfill a commandment of G‑d, they approached Moses and asked that he somehow make an exception for them. G‑d spoke to Moses and told him to establish a makeup date, one month later, after they would have a chance to purify themselves. The “Second Passover” thus became a mitzvah, a commandment of the Torah, eternalized for all time.

Why didn’t G‑d just tell Moses about the “backup plan” when He told him about the regular Passover?But if the Second Passover was destined to become a commandment, why didn’t G‑d simply relate this commandment to Moses at the outset, as He did with all of the other commandments? Why didn’t G‑d just tell Moses about the “backup plan” when He told him about the regular Passover? Why did the people first have to ask for it?

The Second Passover represents the power of teshuvah (literally: “return”). By returning to G‑d, one has the power to retroactively transform past failings into veritable merits. For it is the penitent’s prior distance from G‑d that serves as the very springboard for his current heightened desire to cleave to Him. Ironically, had he not once been estranged from his G‑d, he would never have come to the kind of yearning for Him that he feels now. The darkest moments of his past, what were once his greatest liabilities, now become his greatest assets, the source of an intense motivation for re-found closeness with G‑d.

Such a condition, however—where past misdeeds become virtues—cannot be premeditated. G‑d’s rulebook could never prescribe failure to serve G‑d properly as a way to later become closer to Him. The opportunity to transform the past must come from the penitent himself. He must ask for it, and only then is it granted.

In recovery, we’ve found a new relationship with G‑d. We have an appreciation for His wisdom, love and guidance that we are quite sure could never have been possible had we not been forced to turn our lives over to Him as the only known treatment for a disease which is progressive, incurable and fatal. We did not become alcoholics in order that we could later discover G‑d in recovery. Nor is that something that we could ever have planned. It isn’t even something G‑d would have told us to do.

A certain chassid was once chided about the fact that the chassidim tend to make a big to-do about the Second Passover. “You celebrate a holiday established for impure people,” his detractors laughed. “No,” he answered, “not a holiday for impure people. A holiday for impure people who became pure.”

We could never have planned it. G‑d would never have advised it. But this is how things worked out.Some might think it odd when they hear an alcoholic in recovery say something like “Being an alcoholic is the greatest thing that ever happened to me.” Perhaps they think that recovery is meant only to make us more like normal people, to catch us up. But we do not have the dubious luxury enjoyed by “normal people” who decide how and when to let G‑d into their lives. Such is our fortune: that we must strive to join that happy lot for whom their very survival dictates that they give themselves entirely over to G‑d.

We could never have planned it. G‑d would never have advised it. But this is how things worked out. And this is what has made us closer to Him today.

Rabbi Ben A. is the most famous anonymous rabbi. Using his pen name, Ben A. draws from his personal experience in recovery to incorporate unique chassidic philosophy into the practice of the 12 Steps.
The idea of this article is based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Anonymous Jerusalem May 15, 2016

Gratitude I first became acquainted with your writings through the Chabad of Aventura South, of Miami weekly newsletter. Your insight into the application of the 12 steps and the Torah is a pleasure to read . Being a recovering alcoholic I am constantly seeing life "through a new set of glasses". Eyeglasses and drinking glasses. The improvement in the clarity and psychic change in me is nothing short of miraculous. I have always believed in HaShem as a kind and loving God. Forgiving and understanding the human condition and weaknesses. What sobriety is giving me is an enhanced conscious contact on a real daily, an hour to hour basis. The recognition that everything happens because of God's path for me is giving me immeasurable comfort and releases me from fear . I do not know if I would have connected with this level of spirituality to my creator if I had not become addicted to alcohol. The point is that I have gained this today. For that I am grateful. I am grateful to you for sharing . Reply

Anonymous June 4, 2015

Rav Anonymous, you write so beautifully about recovery. You have made me believe the Torah truly contains all!! G-d bless you in life and your recovery Reply

Mark Ohio, USA via jewish-discovery.com May 18, 2011

I know what you're talking about I'm new I'n AA and happy to be sober today! Reply

Anonymous plantation, fl May 27, 2010

So true! Thank you for posting these articles... I always am thankful for this because it brought me closer to G-d... as strange is it may sound, hitting bottom saved my life! Thanks again! -R Reply

Anonymous Bellevue, WA May 27, 2010

Greatful recovering Alcoholic There is a saying in AA that says, "Look at your past, but do not Stare at it"...
That has been the pain I brought my son and husband with my disease. Since my recovery started almost 5 years ago, I have come so close to Hashem. I was never sure if I have been forgiven for my transgressions until now.
Thank you for this...I am so humbly grateful to Chabad.org for all it's teachings and to Rabbi Ben A. for his wisdom, and for the power of teshuvah. Reply

Anonymous Montclair, NJ April 27, 2010

how things worked out No coincidences. Saw my first sponsor for the first time in years today, both of us starting over... again. And it's Pesach Sheni. Being far from G-d, (using) felt like an untethered space flight, heading nowhere, meaning nothing. I don'''t look forward to the detoxing, but in sobriety, I can reach out for G-d's hand, and I am once again connected. Reply

anne agoura, CA,SA April 4, 2010

recovering in Al-Anon Having been brought up in a house of alcoholics I fortunately discovered Al-Anon
4 years ago. And how it has strengthened my relationship with G-d is unbelievable.
Last Yom Kippur I comitted myself to becoming Kosher...a mitzvah I could never have achieved otherwise. My sponsor, who is not Jewish, appreciates all the chabad.org "daily doses" I e-mail to her. Reply

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