A close friend of mine is an addict. He had tried medication, therapy and much more. Nothing worked. He lost his family and his health. He almost lost his life—a number of times. He finally found recovery through a 12-step program. In his words, “I found G‑d. Since then, my life has never been better.”

In this week’s Torah portion we discuss the laws of a muad, an animal with an established track record of violence. This distinction is earned by having perpetrated a destructive act three consecutive times.

(Once an animal is an established muad, the owner has to pay the full price of the damage caused—as opposed to a tam, an ordinary animal, for which he must cover half of the loss.)

Once established as a muad, can an animal become tamed, or does it keep its muad status forever?

The answer is that even animals can “repent” and revert to tam status. The sages of the Talmud1 offer a number of methods through which the animal’s slate can be wiped clean. One way is for it to be purchased by a new owner. When “under new management,” we once again assume that it is tame, and is no longer viewed as a menace.2

The Rebbe3 explains that we each have an inner animal, known in chassidic parlance as the animal soul. Left untended, it can become “wild.” How can we bring it under control? There are a number of steps that a person must take to subdue his baser side. And, like the case of the unruly and destructive animal, chief among them is that he must transfer ownership—in this case, by bringing it under G‑d’s control and submitting himself to His will.

How does that work?

My friend, the addict, explained that the key to recovery was realizing he was powerless—G‑d is in control. Once he had relinquished control to a higher power, he was able to begin recovery.