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October 25, 2014 / 1 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘pain’

German state of Berlin Declares Circumcision, Not Brit Milah, Legal

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Berlin became the first of Germany’s 16 states to declare circumcision legal, following a Cologne court ruling in June that non-medical circumcisions on children amounted to a criminal offense, according to the German news agency DPA. National legislation is pending to legalize circumcision.

But, the state of Berlin has authorized only doctors, and not mohels, to perform circumcisions; the national legislation could authorize mohels. The state also required that parents be informed of the procedure’s medical risks before consenting, and that doctors do everything possible during the procedure to reduce pain and limit bleeding.

June’s court ruling has led many doctors to stop performing circumcisions in order to avoid being prosecuted. Two rabbis have had complaints brought against them based on the ruling, though one complaint was dropped last week.

The World’s Greatest Joy

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Jews who have become religious, ba’ale t’shuva, describe t’shuva as the most joyous experience in their lives. Very often, a gleam of happiness shines in their eyes. Their speech is filled with an excited ring, as if they have discovered a secret treasure. Even people who have tasted all of life’s secular pleasures insist that the experience of t’shuva is the world’s greatest joy.

What is the reason for this? What is the source of this joy? Rabbi Kook writes:

T’shuva is the healthiest feeling possible. A healthy soul in a healthy body must necessarily bring about the great joy of t’shuva, and the soul consequently feels the greatest natural pleasure (Orot HaT’shuva, 5:1).

First, it is important to note the connection which Rabbi Kook makes between t’shuva and health. As we previously learned in our blog about the Olympics, a healthy body is an important foundation of t’shuva. Contrary to the picture of the penitent as a gloomy, frail, bent-over recluse who shuns the world, the true baal t’shuva is healthy, happy, robust, and bursting with life.

When a person rids himself of bad habits, like overeating and cigarette smoking, his health is improved. Without these harming elements, he is stronger and more vibrant. So too, when one rids oneself of bad moral habits and base character traits, his spiritual health is improved. Without these negative influences, his soul is free to receive the flow of Divine energy and light which fills the universe. When he is both physically and spiritually healthy, his capability to experience the Divine is greatly enhanced. It is this “meeting with God” that brings the influx of joy that every baal t’shuva feels. When the unhealthy walls which had separated him from God are eliminated from his life, he stands ready for life’s greatest discovery — the discovery that God and the spiritual world are real. Suddenly, God’s love and kindness surround him. All his sins are forgiven. Instead of darkness, there is light all around him and a pool of endless love.

Rabbi Kook writes:

 In measure with every ugly thing which a person eliminates from his soul when he inwardly longs for the light of t’shuva, he immediately discovers worlds filled with exalted illumination inside his soul. Every transgression removed is like the removal of a blindfold from the eye, and an entire horizon of vision is revealed, the light of unending expanses of heaven and earth, and all that they contain (Ibid, 5:2).

The new spiritual horizons which the baal t’shuva discovers give him a feeling of freedom, as if he were soaring through air. This new-found freedom comes when the walls blocking God’s light have been razed. The baal t’shuva is freed from the bad habits and passions which had enslaved him in the past. He escapes from a web of wrongdoing. The lack of godliness which had pervaded his actions, his thoughts, and his being, is erased. Freed from his darkness, he can experience the wonders of God.

The steadfast will to always remain with the same beliefs to support the vanities of transgression into which a person has fallen, whether in deeds or in thoughts, is a sickness caused by an oppressive slavery that does not allow t’shuva’s light of freedom to shine in its full strength. For it is t’shuva which aspires to the original, true freedom — Divine freedom, which is free of all bondage (Ibid, 5:5).

Once again, we may be startled. People often think that in discovering God, one is restricting one’s freedom, not expanding it. If one recognizes his Creator, he also has to recognize His laws. For a person who thinks this way, religion is perceived as a yoke of responsibility and bondage. But Rabbi Kook tells us the opposite. The discovery of God is the ultimate freedom. Finally, a person is liberated from beliefs that he held on to in order to justify his errant lifestyle. Finally, he is freed from cycles of behavior which he could not control. Like a criminal who decides to go straight, he can now put his life in line with God’s will for the world. This is the greatest freedom!

Often people are afraid to set out on a course of t’shuva because they associate repentance with pain. While pain is a part of the t’shuva process, the hardships of t’shuva are quickly erased by the joy which the baal t’shuva discovers.

T’shuva does not come to make life bitter, but to make it more pleasant. The happy satisfaction with life that comes with t’shuva is derived from the waves of bitterness which cling to a person during the initial stages of t’shuva. However, this is the highest, creative valor, to recognize and understand that pleasantness evolves out of bitterness, life out of the clutches of death, eternal pleasures out of sickness and pain. As this everlasting knowledge grows and becomes more clear in the mind, in the emotions, in the person’s physical and spiritual natures, the person becomes a new being. With a courageous spirit, he transmits a new life force to all of his surroundings. He spreads the good news to all of his generation, and to all generations to be, that there is joy for the righteous, and that a joyous salvation is certain to come. ‘The humble also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poorest among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel (Ibid, 16:6).

We will explore the connection between t’shuva and pain in more detail in further blogs. Here, it is important to note that the pain a person feels when he confronts his sins and his unholy past, is only a temporary phase of t’shuva. It resembles the pain of surgery, when a disease must be cut out of the body. The uprooting of sin brings healing and joy in its wake, but the initial amputation is painful. It is difficult to give up the familiar, even if it be an evil habit. When a person understands this and opens himself up to change, he comes to be filled with a courageous new spirit and joy. His sins are forgiven. His life is renewed, and the world seems to be renewed with him.  Immediately, he wants to share his good fortune with everyone. He tells his parents with a gleam in his eyes, as if he has met the right girl. With unbounded enthusiasm, he phones his brother long distance to turn him on to the great secret which he has discovered. He is so hopped up on t’shuva, he wants the whole world to know. “Hey everybody, listen to me. You want to be happy? You want to be high? Get with it. Don’t do drugs. Do t’shuva!”

T’Shuva and Finding Happiness

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva encompasses man’s physical being, his moral life, religious life, and his highest, most ideal intellectual endeavor. T’shuva is man’s path to wellbeing, to physical and emotional health, as well as his path to the deep self-discovery which connects him to God.

T’shuva can happen suddenly, in a burst of illumination which wondrously transforms life’s darkness to light, or it can evolve over time, gradually returning the body, psyche, and soul to the true Divine path of existence.

Rabbi Kook explains that t’shuva appears in two different penitential forms: t’shuva over a specific sin or sins; and a general, all-encompassing t’shuva which completely transforms a person’s whole being and life.

If general t’shuva can be compared to a complete car overhaul, where the entire motor is removed and replaced, then specific t’shuva is like a tune-up of engine parts, a spark plug here, a cable there, new brake fluid, oil and anti-freeze.

Specific t’shuva is commonly referred to as penitence. It is the t’shuva familiar to everyone, whereby a person sins, feels guilty, and decides to redress his wrongdoing. Rabbi Kook believes in the basic goodness of man. In his natural, moral, pristine state, man is a happy, healthy creature. When a man sins, his natural state is altered, and the difference causes him pain. Sin causes a distortion. It creates a barrier between man and his natural pure essence and source. Most essentially, sin damages man’s connection to God.

The feeling which results, whether we call it anxiety, pain, darkness, guilt, sickness, or remorse, impels the sinner to correct his wrongdoing, in order to return to the proper course of living. The sorrow which stems from transgression acts as an atonement, and the sinner is cleansed. Returned to his original state of wellbeing, the melancholy and darkness of sin is replaced by the joy and light of the renewed connection to goodness and God.

“There is a type of t’shuva which focuses on a specific sin, or many specific sins. The individual confronts his wrongdoing directly, regrets it, and feels sorry that he was ensnared in the trap of transgression. Then his soul climbs and ascends until he is freed from sinful bondage. He feels in his midst a holy freedom which brings comfort to his weary soul. His healing proceeds; the glimmers of light of a merciful sun, shining with Divine forgiveness, send him their rays, and, together with his broken heart and feelings of depression, a feeling of inner happiness graces his life…” (Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

There are times in everyone’s life when a person decides to change a particular habit, to improve a trait, or to right some outstanding wrong. He is not looking to change his whole life. Generally he is content, but he senses a need to remedy a specific failing. If a person realizes that he is stingy, he may decide that he wants to be more charitable. Or he may feel a pressing need to return a tennis racket which he stole. In the same light, a religious person may realize that his prayers lack enthusiasm and proper concentration. So he sets out to pray with more fervor. In these cases, his t’shuva deals with a specific life problem which he sets out to correct.

A person whose soul is sensitive to moral wrongdoing will feel remorse for his sins. The remorse weighs down on him, and he longs to break free from its shackles. The longing to redress his wrongdoing works like a force to shatter the darkness, opening a window of light. This light of t’shuva is a stream of Divine mercy. It is as if God reaches out and accepts the penitent’s remorse. The sin is forgiven. The path back to God has been cleared. Instead of darkness and gloom, happiness envelops the soul.

“He experiences this (happiness) at the same time that his heart remains shattered, and his spirit feels lowly and sad. In fact, this melancholy feeling suits him in his situation, adding to his inner spiritual gladness and his sense of true wholeness. He feels himself coming closer to the Source of life, to the living God, who had been so distant from him a short time before. His longing spirit jubilantly remembers its former inner pain, and, filled with emotions of gratitude, it raises its voice in song and praise: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all of His goodness; He forgives all thy iniquities, heals all thy diseases; redeems thy life from the pit; adorns thee with love and compassion; and satiates thy old age with good, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord performs righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed’” (Tehillim, 103: 2-6. Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

The person who sins and feels remorse senses its cleansing power. He recognizes his pain as an atonement, and this brings him relief. Almost miraculously, the clouds of his transgression are lifted, and the light of t’shuva fills his being with joy. He senses that it is G-d who has freed him, and his heart abounds with gratitude and song.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Dear Readers,

Last week in this space a woman who is a wife, mother and doting grandmother opened up and bared her soul, sharing the anguish she has lived with for the better part of her life — ever since a man more than twice her age, entrusted as a guide and mentor of teenage girls, took advantage of her naiveté to feed his perversion.

Those who may question how an eighteen-year old could have been so naïve might take into account that over 40 years ago we lived in a far more innocent time when such despicable behavior, on the part of a leader no less, would have been unthinkable.

For that matter, even in this day and age of unrestrained immorality, 18-year old girls raised in sheltered frum communities are doubtlessly more vulnerable to exploitation than their more savvy counterparts.

Dear Older, Wiser and Scarred:

Rather than chastise yourself over your gullibility, you have every reason and right to stand tall and proud; you picked yourself up and embarked on a virtuous path of building a bayis ne’eman with dignity — despite the searing pain and devastation that could have kept you down, had you allowed your agony to overpower you.

Left unsaid but gleaned from your well-presented narrative is that the love and support of a sympathetic spouse and caring family have made your life more than simply bearable. That and your emunah in Hashem have kept you going…

At this point, I take the liberty to address another sensitive issue subtly alluded to in last week’s column: “I went from heartache to my first bout with depression.”

Those of you who are abreast of current events can hardly have missed the screaming headlines of a tragedy that befell a Kennedy daughter-in-law just a few months back. When the 52-year old mother of four children committed suicide by hanging, her estranged husband and sister-in-law — in a shameless attempt to deflect culpability from where it really belonged, went to great lengths to publicly blame the distraught woman’s ills on her history of “periodic depression.”

“She had a wonderful life with brilliant children, a successful career as a designer, and deep and abiding friendships with people across the globe…” gushed the sister-in-law, aka her best friend. It was the demons she battled and her struggles with depression that did her in and robbed her children of their mother. Or so the Kennedys would have us believe.

The sordid details they conveniently omitted: The poor woman was tormented as well as humiliated by her estranged husband’s flaunting of his relationship with a younger woman as he sought to wrest custody of his children from their devoted mom on the basis of her being an “unfit” mother; he had left her broke and drowning in debt, unable to pay for even barest necessities; she was on the verge of losing the roof over her head, the house she had built and made into a home where she had lovingly raised their children…etc., etc.

The mental cruelty and emotional abuse that Mary Richardson Kennedy was made to endure by the father of her children would have been enough to push a perfectly healthy woman to the brink of despair. This is not to infer that mental depression does not exist; unfortunately it is an illness that afflicts millions, but it can be treated with medication and psychotherapy — and the value of a supportive, understanding and loving spouse in the picture is inestimable.

In point of fact, there are people predisposed to mental illness who will evade its symptoms altogether by living the life of Riley (a carefree and stress-free existence). On the other hand, a pressured lifestyle and / or stress resulting from physical illness or emotional upheavals have been known to trigger depression.

Getting back to where we were… whereas feeling compassion for another’s heartbreak speaks well of us, the heart-tugging chronicle of Older, Wiser and Scarred was meant to do more than move us to tears — it was meant to awaken us to the dangers of complacency, to shake us up to the reality that sick people sometimes integrate well into our inner circles where we believe our innocents to be in the hands of trustworthy care, and to motivate us to do everything we can to ensure that our children ­– yes, even our 18-year olds – are taught to be wary of anyone attempting in any way by any means to violate their innocence.

Road To Recovery

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Dear Brocha,

Hi, I’m not sure how writing to an advice column can help, but I feel so alone and have nowhere to turn. My 25-year-old daughter is addicted to prescription pain killers (Percocet), and so far she doesn’t seem to want help or even acknowledge that she has a problem. About two years ago she was in a horrible car accident. She was given pain medication, yet continued taking it long after the doctors stopped prescribing it for her. She keeps going from doctor to doctor telling them of fictitious aches and pains, convincing them to prescribe various pain medications. There are some months where she can go to more than 10 doctors! She has also called Hatzolah and had herself admitted to the hospital. Why, you ask? Evidently, after being admitted she is then able to get the “stronger stuff” by I.V., while continuing to take the pills she brings with her.

When I try to reason with her, we end up arguing and I have to walk away. I fear for her life. She has a 4-year-old daughter, my granddaughter, who I’m currently responsible for. While I appreciate having my granddaughter around, I am well aware that she would be better off having two healthy parents. As a result of my daughter’s addiction, she and her husband have separated. While I can’t blame him, it’s extremely difficult to explain all of this to my granddaughter.

In the back of my mind, I also fear for my granddaughter’s wellbeing. She will sometimes call me Mommy when we are out in the park or the pizza shop, and I understand it is because I am filling that role in her life. She is a sensitive child and will never do that in front of her mother, yet it hurts me to see her in this position.

My daughter’s history of abusing pills has seen many ups and downs. About a year ago, she was in a treatment facility. However, she relapsed this past Pesach. She blames it on her siblings coming for Yom Tovwith all their children, which she says stressed her out and she needed to take the pills to cope. I so badly want to help her, and protect my granddaughter at the same time. I try to give my daughter a stress free life – I pay the bills, take her daughter to school, etc. yet it seems that once she starts popping those pills, there is no stopping her.

Alone and helpless

Dear Alone and helpless,

Welcome! Please know that you are not alone! There are many people who suffer from the disease of addiction. It does not discriminate and continues to afflict people from all socioeconomic circles. This disease kills, and those afflicted will face the choice of either death, jail or institution – unless they seek recovery. What we must realize is that it is a disease, and those afflicted by this disease need help and treatment to stop.

I recall the time I finally acknowledged that my first husband was an addict. My initial instinct was to “fix” him and his addiction. I tried canceling all of his online prescription orders and flushed whatever I found of his pills down the toilet. Yet as the whirlwind continued, I was becoming sicker. I learned later on that by fixing all the obstacles that came our way as a result of his using I wasn’t allowing him to hit “rock bottom,” and see how the addiction was affecting his life and ours.

For example, he once had a car accident and sideswiped a neighbor’s car. The neighbor approached me and I told her that I would pay for it, and she should not bother him. I did this in order to save him from the embarrassment. In reality, I was enabling him to avoid dealing with the consequences of his addiction. At that point I thought I was protecting him from stress, which I thought was the catalyst for his using. However, I was helping him use by shielding him from the consequences of his actions.

After a couple of years of this ensuing madness, I was at my wits end and realized that nothing I was doing was stopping or even curtailing the active addiction. I was not a good treatment center. Someone suggested that I go meet with Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky. I went, and poured my heart out to him.

The Greatest Gift You Could Leave Your Family

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Do you ever read those heartrending flyers that appear in your mailbox, telling you terrible stories of how a family was left totally financially bereft when one parent died or became permanently disabled? Each story is a tragedy in itself. A parent died in dreadful circumstances, maybe from an accident or due to a serious illness, and now the remaining spouse and children are left broke, with no means of financial support. It must be truly very painful for each family to have to rely on the mercy of the public to be able to survive.

Of course, the stories are not only about the financial disaster that is left behind. The strains of getting over such a bereavement, caring for a large family all alone, and maybe dealing with the trauma of a sudden, unexpected death or injury all have their effects on a family. Many of these effects are unavoidable and inevitable, but there are some parts of these stories that could be alleviated to a certain extent.

No one ever knows what is going to happen in life. When you get married, for example, you hope that the marriage will last, that both of you will always be healthy and able to support your children for as long as necessary, and that no one will ever be the victim of a serious accident or disability. However talented we may be, prophecy is not a common talent, and the future remains an open book. While you can’t plan the future, there are certain measures that you can take that will alleviate the effects of a possible disaster.

I can never stress more the importance of taking out life insurance, especially if you are supporting a spouse and children. Although it may not cover all of your bills, the payout from a life insurance policy can at least provide some kind of income until the family can work through this difficult time and start to rebuild.

Obviously, a tragedy will always remain a tragedy, and the grief and pain that a family suffers can never be diminished. However, if there is food on the table and a roof over everyone’s heads, it can make the healing process easier.

Call your financial planner or insurance agent today, to find out the best kind of life insurance that you can take out for your family. It is better to spend the money on a plan and never have to use it, than to be left in the aftermath of a tragedy to survive on the goodwill of public charity.

Road To Recovery

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Dear Readers,

I do not regret the past, nor do I wish to shut the door on it. I am now able to understand, feel serenity and know peace. No matter how far down the road I have traveled, I now see how my experiences can benefit others. This is part of the Al-Anon/Nar-anon 12 promises that can be achieved by everyone who “works it.” But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning:

I had a loved one who was addicted to pain killers, and his disease changed the course of my life forever. My name is Brocha, and I am a grateful member of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.

About 10 years ago, my first husband a”h was badly injured in a fire. He was in extreme pain all the time and his doctors prescribed various painkillers. However, because he did not have a proper pain-management program and did end up suffering from a myriad of emotional issues, he continued using painkillers for longer than was necessary. So much so, that he developed a chemical dependency to the drugs and could not live without them. Unfortunately, he was not alone. There is a rapidly growing network of frum people who have become addicted to prescription medication.

Obtaining these pills is relatively simple; they are readily available in our shuls, breakfast shops and via private people. My husband used – and used a lot. He was involved in a number of car accidents and was seen at times walking in the streets without wearing proper clothing. He developed seizures and many other medical conditions. Ultimately, those drugs robbed him and us of his core personality.

Although I was living with him at the time, I spent most of the first year of his addiction in utter denial. I associated his behaviors with depression and continuously attempted to cheer him up. I went so far as to hide any difficulties I was having at work or with our children in order to protect him from things I felt were contributing to his depression. He went to doctors for seizures – they medicated him. He went to doctors for insomnia – they medicated him. He went to doctors for stomach issues – they medicated him. He went to doctors for depression – they medicated him…the list went on and on. You see everyone was treating the symptoms and not the underlying problem. Addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such!

After about a year of my making up excuses for his behavior, a close friend sat me down and broke the news: My husband was an addict. I have to say I experienced a plethora of emotions – the greatest of which was relief that now all of his ailments had a central name… ADDICTION! I hoped that once the illness was defined, it would be easy to cure. In the end, all an addict has to do is stop using… right? At the same time, I was also terribly ashamed and embarrassed. In our community, addiction is still a dirty word. Although I was distraught, I was also sure I would combat this successfully. I asked all of his friends to stop ordering pills for him – he had convinced several friends to place online orders for him, and they had done so without realizing that more than a dozen other people were already placing orders. I began monitoring his computer usage and e-mail addresses and began canceling his on-line orders. I believed that if he had no access to these drugs he would be cured! I went from being naïve to downright foolish, yet my heart was always in the right place.

One night, while both high and depressed, he wanted to commit suicide. I hid his car keys, because I understood what he intended to do. He became so mad and increasingly violent to the point where he couldn’t control himself. That is when it became clear to me that I could not control his addiction, and began looking for help. I contacted an organization that works with both the addict and family members. They met with us and said that we both needed immediate help – my husband for the addiction and myself for what I was going through as a result of the addiction. Addiction is a family disease that affects everyone involved, and I needed to go to Nar-Anon and learn about my part of the disease.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/battling-addictions/road-to-recovery/2012/08/10/

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