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Recovery Blog

Right Place - Right Time

November 22, 2008

During my last trip to the Holy Land, I was traveling in a taxi. After a while, I started a conversation:

Me: So... how long to Hertzelia?

Driver: Right after Tel Aviv.

Me: and...

Driver: We are approaching Tel Aviv right now.

Me: So another five minutes? Great! We are going to be on time.

Driver: Not so fast! What if there is traffic around Tel Aviv?

Me: Looking at my watch, and realizing it's a perfect time for traffic. What if there is traffic?

Driver: Who knows, maybe 15 minutes, maybe a half hour.

Me: Realizing that there is a good chance this trip will be longer than anticipated, I take a deep breath. I guess we will be at the right place at the right time. Do I really believe that?

Driver: How do you know? You're a prophet?

Me: Aha! I got you there! Feels important, and delivers the next line with a deep voice: Because we are aaaaalways at the right place at the right time. Pause for effect. More pause for more effect.You know it says in Kaballah... Looks in horror as we come to a complete stop and starts regretting sounding so confident. Is that what you meant with hitting traffic?

Driver: Kinda. I thought we would hit it a little later; it looks a little worse than I thought. But as you said, we're aaaaalways at the right place at the right time... What are you nervous about?

Me: mumbles to himself: That will teach you... loud for the driver: Yeah, right place, right time. I'm in no rush; take your time.

Driver: Taking his time for the next 45 minutes. Will do, prophet.

Change That We Must Act Upon

November 15, 2008

Did you wake up on November 5th with a sense of change?

Politics aside, I did wake with a good feeling the day after the election. I felt a sense of excitement in the air. I was at the bank and heard people saying that they felt excited, proud and ready for change!

What expectations we have of the President-elect, are yet to be proven. Wall Street continues its roller coaster; Palestinians from Gaza are sending rockets on innocent Israelis, and the Russians want missiles in Poland. I guess not all of those guys are looking for a positive change.

But I, for one, felt the need to implement changes I have wanted for awhile. I would like to share my thoughts on a three-step plan for change (maybe Mr. Obama will take note).

I went on a jog that morning. That’s something I have not done in quite some time. I started my day with changes that I have wanted to implement at work for a while. Whenever I got distracted and heard that voice inside saying: "Oh, leave that in the car; you will take it out another time," I went ahead and did it then and there!

You see Step One in change is about seizing the moment, not a promise and hope. It is about doing something NOW, not just strategizing. How do we capture this wind of change in our own lives?

Change is a difficult thing to accomplish; there are myriad volumes of psychotherapy and psychoanalysis books where writers and doctors try to preach how to change a habit and how to overcome an addiction. There are books on coaching, and quick-fix methods how to lose weight, how to be more motivated and how to be a better person. Truly these are life-long challenges in man’s pursuit of growth, improvement, fulfillment and happiness. But how do we change? How do we be the person we always wanted to be?

The holy Rabbi Zushe of Anipoli, a 17th century Chassidic Master, was quoted as saying: "When I go up to heaven, the heavenly courts won't ask me: ‘Tell us Zushe why were you not like Abraham? Why were you not like Moses or King David?’ They will say: ‘Zushe, why were you not Zushe?’"

So, Step Two is to stop measuring up against the successes or failures of others; rather be honest with where you are at and where you want to be.

And finally, Step Three: Too often we think that change means an addition to our lives. We think that change is about meeting a new face, going on a new diet, getting a new brand of makeup, a new car or a new toy.

Real change comes from within. Real change is looking in the mirror and saying to ourselves as G‑d said to Adam after sinning in the Garden of Eden: Ayekah - Where are you? G‑d knew where Adam was. G‑d meant: Where are you making progress? What are you doing in this world?

To inspire this tangible change, we need to get in touch and start communicating with ourselves, about our insides, our inner being and faculties—our inner emotions.

We need to learn how to find ourselves—touching the part of us that is so often hidden deep within ourselves and hardly exposed. That inner self is what we call the Neshamah, the soul. We get in touch with that part of ourselves when we pray, when we sit down for a Shabbat dinner and when we learn some Torah.

Identity crisis strikes us all, and temptations drive us from the path of truth. Let's learn to say no to the negative inclinations and influences. Let's do more than we are expected to accomplish. Let's take on another Mitzvah—let's do another kind deed.

This is the change that we should believe in—change from within. And may G‑d, in turn, grant us the change He promised us so long ago, a change that heralds the coming of Mashiach.

Selflessly Selfish

November 9, 2008

I often hear people say that AA and other Twelve Step-based fellowships are selfish programs. I agree that the Twelve Steps are about taking care of one’s self. But taking care of one’s self doesn't necessarily mean that we are selfish.

A man once went into a private audience with the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. "Rebbe, please help me! I need a blessing for my health. I also need a blessing for Parnassa (livelihood). And I also want to have a better relationship with G‑d. Please bless me, Rebbe." Rabbi Schneur Zalman responded: "You list the many things you need. What about the things that you are needed for?"

We should definitely focus on ourselves, if we want to achieve spiritual growth. But we don't have to be selfish about it. Instead of seeking to get more, we should look for ways to be useful to G‑d and to others. Instead of looking out for ways to expand our presence in the world, we have to look for how to be of service to G‑d's plan for His world.

"Our real purpose is to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to G‑d and the people about us." - Big Book of AA, page 77

We need to learn to be selflessly selfish.


Contact your local Recovery Rabbi and join a Jewish Recovery Community:
Boca Raton, FL
Rabbi Meir Kessler
Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Mendel Cohen
Milwaukee, WI
Rabbi Shais Taub
Montreal, Canada
Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger
New York, NY
Rabbi Yaakov Bankahalter
Reading, PA
Rabbi Yosef Lipsker
West Bloomfield, MI
Rabbi Yisrael Pinson
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