The 12 Step Program to a Better Life

The Twelve Torah Passages and Jewish Theology

Forty years ago, in the summer of 1976, the Rebbe identified 12 Torah passages he believed should be the first Torah ideas taught to all Jewish children. The Rebbe’s inspired view was that these passages together form the bedrock of Torah theology, especially relevant in today’s day and age. He maintained that it was very important to equip Jewish children with the spiritual strength needed to face the current challenges by ensuring that they internalized and memorize these 12 passages. But what is the significance of these passages and why were they chosen? Join Rabbi Mendel Kaplan as he explores each passage and uncovers layers of rich meaning behind these pithy statements.

Claiming Our Jewish Inheritance
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 1, "Torah Tzivah"
The twelve Torah passages (known as the 12 Pesukim) present the Torah’s fundamental ideas empowering us with the spiritual strength needed to face the current challenges in life. The first step is the verse “Torah Tzivah” (“The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the congregation of Jacob”). Discover how this passage offers relevancy of our timeless Torah tradition today!
Our Foundational Faith
Audio | 1:02:55
Our Foundational Faith
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 2, "Shema Yisrael"
The twelve Torah passages (known as the 12 Pesukim) present the Torah’s fundamental ideas empowering us with the spiritual strength needed to face the current challenges in life. The second step is the verse “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear, O Israel: G d is our L rd, G d is one”). Discover how this key passage expresses our deep connection and loyalty to G-d, and testifies to the ultimate presence of the divine in this world!
Soaring Souls in Flight to Freedom
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 3, "Bechol Dor"
The third passage is “In every generation one must look upon himself as if he personally had gone out of Egypt.” This enigmatic quote from the Talmud is about observing the Passover Seder and seems to be a far cry from an overarching principle of Judaism. Yet as the layers are peeled away and the deeper meaning and relevance of our Exodus from Egypt is revealed, this Rabbinic teaching emerges as the most magnificent and meaningful description of dynamic Jewish life imaginable! Discover how its profound mystical message of transcending personal constraints richly encapsulates the essence of Yiddishkeit!
Why Everyone Deserves a Slice of Heaven
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 4, "Kol Yisrael"
The fourth passage is lifted from a Mishnah in Tractate Sanhedrin: All Israel have a share in the World to Come; as stated (by the Isaiah) “and Your people are all righteous. They shall inherit the land forever. They are the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, in which I take pride.” Learn how a seemingly obscure Mishna lifted from Judaism’s criminal justice laws became an important principle in Judaism. After all, aren’t we taught not to serve G-d to receive rewards?
Yes, You Can!
Audio | 1:06:58
Yes, You Can!
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 5, "Ki-Karov"
Step five is based on the biblical maxim “It is within your close reach to follow the Torah in speech, feeling and deed.” The operating principle is that living a life of Yiddishkeit successfully is not beyond our reach. Find out how you can achieve the seemingly impossible—as we unlock the empowering secrets behind the sacred, timeless words uttered by Moses on the very last day of his life on earth, and unleash the force of spiritual energy encoded into our soul DNA .
You Mean the World to Him!
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 6, "VeHinei"
Step six is the passage: “G d stands over him, and the whole earth is full of His glory and He searches his mind and heart [to see] if he is serving Him as is fitting.” We often think of G d as the all-knowing and all-powerful Creator of the universe. However, this passage from the Chabad classic, Tanya, emphasizes that Hashem is profoundly concerned for every individual, and furthermore, he’s actually depending on us! G d surveys our innermost thoughts and feeling, because our serving Him properly is of paramount importance. This inspiring thought should naturally fill us with Yirat Shomayim (Awe of Hashem).
The Global Change We Believe In!
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 7, "Bereishit"
Step seven is the verse that opens the Torah itself: “Bereishit (In the beginning) G-d created the heavens and the earth.” It certainly sounds very important and biblical, yet what exactly is the relevant message? And, perhaps more critically, how does the narration of creation serve as a key component in our shared Jewish journey; comprising the next level in 12 Steps to a Better Life? Discover how this Torah passage about the origins of the material universe, is actually a remarkably empowering Jewish mission statement. See just how it informs our destiny, ultimately serving as a guidepost for life!
How You Can Be G-d’s Lamplighter!
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 8, "Veshinantam"
The eighth step is based the verse “And you shall teach the Torah...and you should speak…when you are at home and when you travel, before you lie down…and when you wake up.” Discover, how we are not only instructed to study Torah, but rather to view every moment of life as a teachable opportunity; potentially impactful on a global scale. See how every casual encounter or situation may become transformative. Learn how you can elevate our world, accelerating universal redemption. Regardless of circumstances, we are each empowered to transcend the challenges and bring about a world of difference!
The Secret to Guaranteed Success
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 9, "Yagaati"
The ninth step is built on a Talmudic passage linking sincere efforts and success. Surprisingly though, it goes far beyond statistical corollary; essentially guaranteeing success if appropriate effort is invested. This seems totally unreasonable – as we all know of hard work that did not translate into success (and vice versa!). Discover the true secret behind this incredible guarantee for success in life, and learn how you can ensure true fulfillment!
Is it Really All About Love?
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 10, "VeAhavta"
The tenth step focuses on Rabbi Akiva’s statement: “Loving your fellow as yourself is a great principle of the Torah.” But if the principal of loving others is so important why wouldn’t the 12 steps begin with it? And if we are invoking the teachings of our Sages, shouldn’t we have better quoted Hillel who said that this is actually the entire Torah?! See how this really isn’t saying the expected and why it subtly conveys a surprising message that redirects your sacred mandate to make the world a better place and entirely reframes the notion of personal achievement and self-fulfillment.
Your Mission Is Inevitable
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 11, "VeZeh"
After delineating our extraordinary Jewish privilege, power and potential, we were shown how the world is ripe with holy possibilities – awaiting actualization through our efforts. But what if I'm prepared to serve G-d personally, but prefer to opt out of universal rehabilitation – leaving that instead for others? Enter step number 11: “the ultimate purpose of your creation and the creation of the entire universe was solely to create a dwelling place for G-d in this world.” This step clarifies how avoiding the very purpose of one's existence simply can't be wholesome, satisfying, or right!
Happiness Is Serious!
The Twelve Steps: Lesson 12, "Yismach"
The final step focuses on joy. Judaism teaches we are inherently capable of transforming the universe—and the world is intrinsically preordained for it. However it can only be achieved if we serve G-d in perpetual happiness, which seems like mission impossible—can we always be happy? We are told: rejoice in your life’s mission. Find happiness in the notion that by dint of your very Jewishness, regardless of background or affiliation, you bring joy to G-d on high by making this world a better place… Now isn't that something to be happy about?
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