Message From Rabbi Gold

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COME MEET WITH KAYLA SHIP OF KESHET ISRAEL TOURS, LEARN ABOUT OUR FORTHCOMING TRIP
Wed. Nov. 29 at 7 pm.
COME TO ISRAEL JULY 4 – 17,
Itinerary & Costs

http://www.keshetisrael.co.il/groups/6129

PARSHAT TOLDOT
ADDICTION

“Esau said to Jacob, give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished, which is why he was named Edom.”  (Genesis 25:30)

Imagine being so hungry that you are willing to give up your birthright for a bowl of lentil soup.  That is what Esau does at the beginning of this week’s portion.  Esau was a hunter, and a man who lived by his appetites.  He comes home from the hunt and sees his brother Jacob, a man of the tent, cooking a red dish.  Tradition teaches it was a bowl of lentil soup.   Esau begs his brother to give him the soup, so Jacob demands his birthright in exchange.  Esau answers, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is my birthright to me.”  Esau was a man who could not control his appetite for food.

The Bible is filled with characters who could not control their appetites.  Last week I wrote my message about Laban, Jacob’s uncle who could not control his appetite for money.  Noah could not control his appetite for wine, planting a vineyard and getting drunk immediately after leaving the ark.  King David, spotting Bathsheba bathing on a roof, could not control his appetite for sex.  He took Bathsheba, a married woman into his household, and when she became pregnant, he arranged to have her husband killed.  How relevant today when on a daily basis we read of powerful men such as movie producer Harvey Weinstein accused of sexual misconduct and rape.

We have a name for the inability to control one’s appetite whether for food, for money, for alcohol, or for sex.  We call it addiction.  It is a severe problem today, which is becoming more severe in the Jewish community.  All addictions can be tragic, but today perhaps the most painful is opioid and other drug addictions.  At least four times in the last two years I have conducted or attended funerals for young people who overdosed.

Last week I went to a program on drug addiction at Boca Raton Synagogue, an Orthodox synagogue in my neighborhood.   It was sponsored by a family I know who lost their daughter, a beautiful young woman, to addiction.  An Orthodox rabbi and a social worker came in from New York to speak, both of whom have dedicated their lives to working with addicts, particularly among Orthodox Jews.  But their words applied to all communities, Jewish and non-Jewish, facing addiction issues.

The social worker tried to explain to a room full of people not suffering from addiction what addiction is like.  Suppose at the end of the program we served cookies in the back.  An average person might take one cookie, might take two or even three.   But after eating a few cookies, they would know that they ate their fill.  An addict would take a whole tray of cookies, and would desire the last one on the tray as much as the first one.  I spoke to someone who told me about her former addition to cigarettes.  She mentioned how, even when she was smoking one cigarette, she was thinking about where to get the next one.  The cravings are that deep.

Both the rabbi and the social worker mentioned that addiction is not a moral issue.  An addict is not a sinner.  Blaming an addict for their addiction is like blaming a cancer patient for their cancer.  Nonetheless, addiction is a real issue that requires treatment.  In the Jewish community, there exists a strong feeling that it is a shanda – an embarrassment, to have someone with an addiction in one’s family.   In the Orthodox world, it can lead to difficulties arranging a shiduch – a marriage partner.   Denial, both by the addict him or herself and the family, is one of the biggest difficulties preventing proper treatment of addiction.

Our tradition teaches that we humans have appetites; we call these appetites the yetzer hara – the evil inclination.  The rabbis said that we need those appetites.  Without them nobody would build a house, marry, have children, or conduct business (Genesis Raba 9:7).  But some people lose control of their appetites.   We need to treat addiction as a problem that can be solved.

Adult Education 2017-2018

RAP WITH THE RABBI – THE STORY OF JUDAISM

Nov. 19 – Cult and Prophecy – The First Temple Period
Dec. 17 – Exile and Redemption – The Second Temple Period
Jan. 21 – Midrash and Mishna – The Judaism of the Rabbis
Feb. 25 – Athens and Jerusalem – The Judaism of the Philosophers
Mar. 11 – Ein Sof and the Sefirot – The Judaism of the Mystic
Apr. 15 – The Age of Enlightenment – A Challenge to Judaism
May 6 – The Holocaust and Zionism – Judaism in Our Own Age

BIBLE AND EVERYTHING ELSE – A weekly open-ended discussion at the office of attorney Ken Rubin, 9900 W. Sample Rd. Suite 404, Coral Springs, every Wed. 12:15 – 1:15 pm.  (We will resume November 15.)

Visit my website at www.rabbigold.com.  (My website includes my 2017 High Holiday sermons as well as every past weekly message.)

May you and your family have a  joyous, restful Shabbat.