Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam

Rabbi Shais Taub

Emotional Sobriety: Rabbi Taub Shares His teachings on Recovery from Addictions

by Rhonda Spivak, March 15, 2013


Rabbi Shais Taub delivered an inspiring and at times very humourous talk on Jewish spirituality and recovery from addictions  last month before at a well  attended dinner dedicated to the memory of Hart Peikoff  z”l. Taub's talk here was sponsered by the Jewish Child and Family Services, Chabad and JACS [Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others].


The New York Times has written about Taub, who has authored the best selling book "God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction" in which he discusses how ancient Jewish principles relate to the Twelve-Step treatment programs. As the Times writes,
"Without any formal training in addiction treatment, Rabbi Taub entered the field experientially in 2006, leading a weekly group at a Chabad House in Milwaukee for Jewish men in recovery. Through the efforts he was struck by how many of the men had become observant in the course of getting clean and sober. He considered that turns of events no coincidence.
"In the next several years, as he began to conduct research into addiction treatment, Rabbi Taub made a surprising and affirming discovery. It was a 1961 letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. In it, Jung, the legendary psychiatrist, directly recommended “union with God” as essential to recovery.
In his talk in Winnipeg, Rabbi Taub opened with the story of a man who would only fly if he had the aisle seat. He would call and confirm 3 months in advance, one month in advance, and then two weeks in advance. The day before the fight he’d drive to the ticket agent and check that he had the aisle seat. After the flight, his friend picks him up and asks him why he looks agitated. He explained to his friend that after all his efforts to insure he had the aisle seat, when he got on the flight he learned that his seat, 23C, was not in fact the aisle seat. His friend asked him why if it was so important to him, why he didn’t ask the person in the aisle seat to trade with him ? He replied, “Don’t you think I thought of that? There was no one sitting in the aisle seat.”
Rabbi Taub’s point was that people are faced with difficulties and challenges all the time, and the only thing that is in their power to control, is their own reaction. "My reaction is my emotional business,” Taub said.
“If you look at all the dysfunctional relationships in your life, the common denominator is that you were in all of these relationships.”
As Taub said, emotional sobriety is about “identifying the areas where we are wasting our energies trying to change the unchangeable versus doing what we have to do to change ourselves.”
The concept of emotional sobriety means “getting through reality” and “enduring pain in our lives” without “having to check out”, “self stimulate” or “self medicate.”
Taub explained that a person who has faith can understand that “we each have a unique mission or purpose or which God put us on earth.”
He defined the difference between Faith and Fantasy. “Fantasy is the idea I cling to in order to avoid reality. Faith is the idea I cling to in order to face reality.”
He also explained the difference between pain and suffering as follows:
“Pain is a response to real stimuli but suffering is after the fact, where I attribute to myself some sort of victimhood.”
Faith, according to Taub, enables a person to face life’s pain, and say that they were put on this earth for a unique purpose and say that “I don’t want some other life,  I want the life God gave me, and I can face reality without having to check out.”
According to Taub, people with addictions need to find inner faith, take charge of their lives, accept personal responsibility to make necessary changes in their lives, so that “they can face reality without having to check out.”
Faith enables a person to understand that “Every moment is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”
One memorable part of Taub’s talk was when he spoke about the literary fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea, written by Hans Christian Anderson, about a young woman whose royal identity is established by a test of her physical sensitivity.   The young woman can’t sleep because she feels a small pea under the bottom of the pile of mattresses she is sleeping on. Taub said that the young woman, the princess-to be really just a “kvetch,” and “neurotic.”
“She made herself so sensitive that anything in the world can set her off,” he said.

According to Taub, she needed more emotional sobriety, the ability not to not to overreact to the physical stimuli around her, so that she could fall asleep even with the pea under her mattress.

As the  New York Times has  written of Rabbi Taub’s thesis, "Addiction, he argues, is less a chemical dependency or a mental illness than the consequence of an individual’s absence from God and of the psychic pain that absence inflicts.

“The substance isn’t the addict’s problem,” Rabbi Taub put it at one point in his talk. “The substance is the addict’s best attempt at a solution.” The only true solution, he went on, is “a personal God experience,” a spiritual breakthrough that supplies “the deep-seated need for union with God.”

In saying overtly what the recovery movement often leaves deliberately ambiguous — the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous refer to a “Higher Power” without defining it — Rabbi Taub has become a phenomenon. Even as he is anchored within the Hasidic world, he has transcended it, first by reaching unaffiliated and secular Jews and then, most unexpectedly, by finding an eager audience among Christians.

Before Taub spoke, there was a tasty kosher dinner prepared by gourmet Chef Matthew Rothman.
After Taub spoke, a member of JACS ( a self- help Jewish 12 step support group for recovering alcoholics and addicts)spoke. JACS meets every Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. 1077 Grant Avenue, downstairs, [ contact JACS at 204 478-9591]. The JACS members poke about being “clean” and “sober” and how JACS turns to Jewish spirituality and Hashem, “for the tools” to help with recovery. He spoke of how Hart Peikoff z’l will be missed.
<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • RBC
  • Titi Tijani
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • PC Party
  • Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
  • Orthodox Union
  • Karyn and Mel Lazareck
  • Booke + Partners
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Jim Muir
  • Daniel Friedman and Rob Dalgleish
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Munroe Dental Centre
  • Cavalier Candies
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Viscont Gort
  • Safeway Tuxedo
  • Karyn & Mel Lazareck
  • MCW Consultants Ltd.
  • Red River Coop
  • Winnipeg Beach Home Building Centre
  • John Wishnowski
  • John Bucklaschuk
  • Tyler Bucklaschuk
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • Nick's Inn
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bob and Shirley Freedman
  • Elaine and Ian Goldstine
  • Josef Ryan
  • Western Scrap Metals Inc.
  • CdnVISA Immigration Consultants
  • Simmonds and Associates
  • Doheny Securities Limited
  • Canada Awakening Ministries
  • Fair Service
  • Dr. Marshall Stitz
  • Shindico
  • Astroid Management Limited
  • Piston Ring
  • Commercial Pool
  • Robin Shapiro Photography
  • Broadway Law Group
  • Sorrento's
  • Roseman Corp
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Equitable Solutions
  • CVA Systems
  • Chochy's
  • Amalgamated Drywall
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Renew Mobility
  • Abe and Toni Berenhaut
  • Grant Kurian Trucking
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.