"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." - Step Four

Working on Step Four at this time of year is highly appropriate, as we are busy trying to focus ourselves and our energies. Let us spend a few minutes analyzing and meditating on the words "searching" and "fearless" in Step Four.


On the evening before Passover, we search our homes by the light of a candle for all chametz, leavened bread. Chametz may not be consumed on Passover, and so we remove it from our homes. The story is told about the Alter Rebbe - Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, whose search for chametz lasted the entire night — even though he had only one room.

After completing his search, the Alter Rebbe offered a mystical interpretation of the words of the Mishnah, the source of this tradition: "On the eve of the fourteenth, we search for chametz by the light of a candle," He interpreted it as follows: Thirteen is numerically equivalent to the word echad — "one." Oneness is identified with the knowledge of G‑d. On this level, there is no need to search — because it is all perfect.

Fourteen refers to our emotional attributes, the seven attributes of the animal soul and the seven attributes of the G‑dly soul. When we look at our own emotions, a search is needed. The search must be "by the light of a candle," a reference to the soul. As it is said: "The candle of G‑d is the soul of man." This internal search must encompass one's entire being, just as the actual search for chametz must probe into even the "holes and cracks" of one's home.

In other words, the Alter Rebbe spent hours searching within his own character. How relevant to our recovery!

How often do we get caught up with I? I need this, or I need that. When we consider ourselves as our own god, we leave no room for improvement. In fact, in our eyes there is nothing wrong with us. This idea can lead us down the negative path, to take that drink: I am my own god and, therefore invincible. We know where that will lead us. And, my friends, it is only our soul, our light, that can make that ultimate and true search.

Also, as we search for our character defects, we also find our unique and blessed character-traits. These need rigorous work and refinement, to be really useful to us. When we achieve that, then the search process is real. Then we are at peace with ourselves.


When the holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, was only five years old, his father Rabbi Eliezer died. The last words his father said to him were, "Yisrael, my son, you have a very holy soul; don't fear anything but G‑d."

Fear is okay when it is G‑dly. Constructive fear can only stem from our relationship with G‑d. It is G‑d’s way of keeping us straight and guiding our conscience. When fear comes from our own insecurity, it is selfish, dishonest and ignores our flaws. Before we start an internal search, we must rid ourselves from that fear, and embrace the fear of G‑d.

May we all be blessed with peace of mind and peace of heart and health in this coming year.