Visiting rabbi shares how t’shuvah is Judaism’s key to spiritual transformation
June 19, 2012 | Rebeca Kuropatwa - Prairies Correspondent
WINNIPEG – Rabbi Mark Borovitz, senior rabbi and spiritual director of Beit T’Shuvah, a residential Jewish addictions treatment centre in Los Angeles, knows first-hand about destructive behaviours and spiritual transformation.
In 2004, he authored the book, The Holy Thief, sharing his journey “from conman to rabbi.” That same year, he was one of seven people invited to a roundtable discussion with President George W. Bush about faith and recovery.
Rabbi Borovitz was in town June 6 and 7 to share his journey and insight with the community in various forums – addressing Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS) staff, professionals, and audiences, Gray Academy of Jewish Education (GAJE) Grades 8-11 students and administration, Shaarey Zedek and Etz Chayim audiences, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, and members of JCFS’ Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others (JACS).
At last week’s JCFS annual general meeting at the JCC Berney Theatre, the rabbi talked to 130 attendees about T’Shuvah – Judaism’s Answer to the Myth of Perfection.
Also at the meeting, outgoing president Heather Leonoff passed the gavel over to incoming president, Bruce Caplan.
“The sages of the Kabbalah say that t’shuvah was put into the world before the world was created, because G-d knew that we would make mistakes and would need a way back,” Borovitz told attendees.
“So, why is t’shuvah so important?” he asked. “Reb Mayer said, in the Talmud, that for one person’s t’shuvah the entire world stands. Every Yom Kippur we pray and beat our chests...but the problem is that most people don’t know what real t’shuvah is – what it means and how it changes your life.
“I’m a recovering alcoholic and an ex-convict. A lot of people will talk about the genetic part of alcoholism and all these other things, but, I have to tell you – I made a choice to escape, because I didn’t feel like I was good enough. And every time I made a mistake, it just confirmed the fact that I wasn’t good enough. This made me worse and worse and wanting more and more to escape.
“Our tradition teaches – 36 times it says in the Torah – to take care of the poor, the stranger, the widow and the orphan. And, you know what? There is nothing else mentioned that much.
“We need addiction services now, because addiction is the Egypt of our time. Addiction isn’t just about drugs, alcohol or gambling. It’s about needing to escape. And, I needed to escape because I felt imperfect. But, guess what. I am, I am imperfect – that’s why t’shuvah was created.
“T’shuvah saved my life. Being a Ba’al T’Shuvah isn’t about being ultra-religious. It’s about returning, repentance, repairing and new responses.
“My job is to look inside myself, to do a chesbon hanefesh (an accounting of my soul). What you start to notice doing this is the good things and I didn’t realize before this that I had good things.
“I challenge you to write down every day what you did well and what you didn’t do well, who was impacted, how they were impacted, and how are you going to repair it. Do that and I guarantee that your life will be so much better.”