Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Judaism and Discipline



[without discipline, nothing is possible]

I think that we all recognize that self-discipline is something crucial for a successful life. The question is, however, how to obtain it.

A recent article in the New York Times points out that religious people are on the average more disciplined than secular people.

I have also noticed that people who suffer from severe addiction disorders, such as alcohol and drugs, are seldom if ever able to recover unless they seriously embrace monotheism. The Twelve Steps meetings have basically reinvented church while rehab centers have reinvented the monastery. Among Orthodox Jews, addiction disorders are very rare. I am aware of only two Sabbath observant residential rehabilitation facilities in the United States - Chabad Residential Treatment Center For Men in Los Angeles, California and Yatzkan Center in Brooklyn, NY for addicted teenage boys age 14-17. Both these centers seem to be very small and serve non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox. When I called, Chabad told me that they have 35 beds and accept non-Jewish patients as well. Over 1.46 million drivers were arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. This is an arrest rate of 1 for every 139 licensed drivers in the United States. I am not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated, although proportionally it should be about 1,000 annually.

I personally have found that Judaism is a hugely effective tool for maintaining self-control – for doing in practice what I know mentally is the best thing. For example, making vows can be very powerful. Each week I can read a list of vows along the lines of:

The following fast days will be obligatory only if I definitely and knowingly require myself to observe them, and I am aware that I am required to observe them an hour after having fulfilled the conditions needed to require the fast.

I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly unblock any webpage from ContentProtect software I will be required to fast 1 day during this month of --------- or next month of -----------.

Conversely, I believe that people who leave Orthodoxy generally have a very low level of self control and self discipline. Yossi, the main subject of Hella Winston’s book Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels, is 25 years old. He is divorced, has no children, no job, no secular education, he drinks heavily and he lives with his grandmother. I have so far yet to come across someone who has left Orthodoxy in recent years and afterwards achieved the “American Dream” of a good job, a house, a car and a stable family life.

32 comments:

Child Ish Behavior said...

You may be correct that there is a correlation between religiosity and self discipline. However, correlation doesn't necessarily imply causation. There is no way to prove one way or another which comes first, people being more religious because they are disciplined by nature, or people who are more disciplined becoming more religious.

While it may be true that "I believe that people who leave Orthodoxy generally have a very low level of self control and self discipline" it is possible that this is their nature. The people who stay may be more disciplined by nature.

The article that says " out that religious people are on the average more disciplined than secular people" may be very true but very meaningless.

jewish philosopher said...

The fact that monotheism is used as a treatment for addiction seems to indicate that it creates self control, it does not merely indicate that it's already there.

Child Ish Behavior said...

There have been Jews arrested for drunk driving. And a possible reason for there being a less percentage than the whole population is because Jews drink on Shabbos when they are halachikally prohibited from driving. You have to have your eyes closed not to have heard about the drinking problems in the Jewish community.

Monotheism does not cure addictions. There are plenty of drunks in the Jewish community. Just smell the breaths of the next person that asks you for money. Or don't, for your own safety. You can make it seem like these people are not in the category of Amitecha, but you would be wrong.

jewish philosopher said...

"There have been Jews arrested for drunk driving."

Name one.

"Jews drink on Shabbos"

Alcoholics and drug addicts use every day.

"Monotheism does not cure addictions."

AA says it does. See step 2.

Anonymous said...

Your claim that no Orthodox Jew has ever been arrested for drunk driving is beyond absurd and contrary to the evidence. As an attorney in an Orthodox community i can tell you that I have personally represented Orthodox Jews that have been arrested for driving while intoxicated. Furthermore, I should mention that I have contact with numerous Orthodox Jews that are mired in drug and alcohol addiction. NO, I won't mention their names to you....wouldn't that be loshon harah anyways?!? I am actually a bit shocked that you would even dispute the existence of serious and pervasive substance abuse problems in the Orthodox community. How much more out of touch can you get?!?

jewish philosopher said...

An anonymous blogger who claims with no evidence that certain unnamed Orthodox Jews were arrested for driving while under the influence – that really refutes this post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

You don't get out much, do you?

jewish philosopher said...

Oh, I get out a lot.

I know a little about anti-Semitism too, for example Matthew 23:27 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.”

J.D. said...

Try this one out:

"Traces of cocaine were found in the body of a renowned ultra-Orthodox philanthropist who was killed in a car accident six months ago, according to an investigation carried out by British police."

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009831.html

jewish philosopher said...

I am still not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated.

J.D. said...

Let's try this again:

Ryan Karben, Orthodox Jewish legislator, was arrested for driving under the influence.

http://www.wcbs880.com/pages/1585415.php?

jewish philosopher said...

Congratulations. That's one left wing modern Orthodox Jew out of a community of hundreds of thousands of people. And incidentally, he was convicted of "driving while impaired" not driving while intoxicated.

Izgad said...

"I am aware of only two Sabbath observant residential rehabilitation facilities in the United States - Chabad Residential Treatment Center For Men in Los Angeles, California and Yatzkan Center in Brooklyn, NY for addicted teenage boys age 14-19. Both these centers seem to be very small and serve non-Orthodox as well as Orthodox."

My father has been involved with the issue of drugs and alcohol in the frum community for over twenty years. One of the major issues that he has recently been focusing on is that there are very few things open for frum people in recovery. So right now the problem with the frum community is not just that we have addicts it is also that we do not have kosher establishments for them to go to.
I would suggest you check out JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Person and Significant Others)http://www.jacsweb.org/ Unfortunately there are lots of frum people in this program.
Here is a nice Newsweek article to look at as well
http://www.newsweek.com/id/150497

jewish philosopher said...

I've seen that Newsweek article and the driver mentioned there was clearly not Orthodox since he was driving on Saturday morning. And how many Orthodox people are in JACS?

Child Ish Behavior said...

So basically lets redefine what you are saying, in order to be considered orthodox you have to not have a drug problem. If you have a drug problem, you are obviously not orthodox. And any examples that are brought to show that there are orthodox drug addicts are wrong because by virtue of them being drug addicts they are no longer considered orthodox. Taken that way I can't really argue with you, can I?

jewish philosopher said...

Well, actually what I am saying is that Orthodox Judaism helps people develop self discipline. I would define Orthodox Judaism as being, at a minimum, believing in God, observing the Jewish Sabbath and dietary laws and belonging to an Orthodox synagogue.

Incidentally, working the 12 steps, including "We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity" is part of the JACS program.

M.D. said...

Funny you should talk about religious self control, since there seem to be so many overweight chareidim. This is especially apparent in Israel, where the chilinom are far fitter than your average American.

jewish philosopher said...

Actually, that's not true in America or in Israel either as far as I remember and I lived there from 1977 to 1986.

I can tell you that as far as smoking goes, in America in general it's about 20%, among Orthodox Jews it appears to me to be about 5% at most, perhaps more like 2%.

BlackEyedP said...

About monothiesm being used to treat addictions (and thiesm in general)

Really, it just means that people who are so mentally weak that they cannot keep recreation (drinking, etc) in check are also so weak that they must adopt religion in order to have something to "lean on". Most people, without knowledge of something greater than themselves, something that has mandated they act a certain way cannot find meaning in their own lives. Most people cannot bear the knowledge that there is nothing more than this life we lead today. No magic man behind the curtain who is going to save you from your own hell. No fluffy white clouds of heaven where you will go after you suffering ends. Someone of sound mind who didnt need to be coddled out of fear of the unknown would not need religion to treat an addiction. One would merely need to detox and desire a change of lifestyle. Same goes for all the non-addicted religious people out there. They must have the crutch of religion in order to feel safe. I'd say take the blinders off. It's wonderful to live in a world where you dont tell fairytales to yourself everyday in order to exist with meaning.

The Whistleblower said...

"I am not aware of any Orthodox Jew ever having been arrested for driving while intoxicated..."
Does it occur to you that maybe they are just afraid of the whole community gossiping about them? Think about what will be the discussion in the 'mikvah' for the next few months if someone in your community were arrested for DWI.
The same is true for the low divorce rate amongs Chassidic Jews. I personally know tens of families that, if not the pressure of 'what's everyone gonna say', they would've been divorced looong ago.
This topic gives me so much to write about. I'll have to write my own post regarding this issue.

jewish philosopher said...

P, so you understand addiction disorders better than the thousands of professionals working in that field. If so, I don't know why you're hiding as a secretary in Colorado. You should at least write a book and go on Oprah.

Whistle, I agree that living in a community of good people does create peer pressure to be good. I don't see any problem with that.

Anonymous said...

BlackEyedP:

Are you saying that there are no Atheists who are drug addicts or alcoholics? Arch-atheist confesses to drinking enough booze everyday to "kill a mule." Maybe if he wasn't an atheist, he'd have a chance at overcoming his problem.

Izgad said...

Jewish Philosopher

My father is a Rav with a beard, peyos and smicha from Torah Vodaath so he should be a good source even by your standards. I do not have numbers from him, but my impression is that there are quite a few frum people in JACS. If you want I can put you in touch with him.

Anonymous said...

"I have so far yet to come across someone who has left Orthodoxy in recent years and afterwards achieved the “American Dream” of a good job, a house, a car and a stable family life."

There are countless such people. Doubtless, you will tell me to name one, so I'll name (for example) Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz. (If you then say that he got a divorce, I'll say that was years ago, and he has since remarried happily. I need not remind you that you have also divorced.)

jewish philosopher said...

" my impression is that there are quite a few frum people in JACS"

My impression, from all the above comments, is that the Orthodox Jewish community, which includes about 2 million people world wide, probably has a drug and alcohol problem which is equal to about one average American high school with 2 thousand students. I'll buy that. If true, I don't think that contradicts this post.

"There are countless such people."

By "recent years" I meant in the past 50 years. I realize that in earlier eras, when being an Orthodox Jew was a huge financial handicap and discrimination was openly allowed against Jews, things were different. People may have left to get a good job.

BlackEyedP said...

No, what I am saying is that weak people fall prey to the hazards of abusing substances, just the same as weak people fall prey to religion as their crutch. I see them one and the same - a person unable to hold him/herself up on their own. They must have a greater "god" to lean on.

JP - How do I know when Im just a lowly Secretary in Colorado? Well, I was a wild child and Ive been there myself...however I didnt need the 12 steps or a god to get me out of it. i found the strength within myself.

jewish philosopher said...

I think you'll find that all major rehab facilities use monontheism to cure addiction disorders; although it's called "working the 12 steps" to make it sound a little less offensive. I also think you'll find few if any well documented cases of addicts recovering without monotheism.

So your point is - there are some people who have a great deal of self discipline while being atheists. Maybe, but those seem to be the rare exception, not the rule. You know there were some Nazis who were nice people - take Oskar Schindler. But that wasn't the norm.

About you being a wild child, I'm not sure what you mean. I can tell you that many criminals do tend to sort of "cool off" with middle age. We all slow down a bit.

Fettered Wolf said...

"I have so far yet to come across someone who has left Orthodoxy in recent years and afterwards achieved the “American Dream” of a good job, a house, a car and a stable family life."

Hey JP, I left Orthodoxy, own a car and a 2 family home- I use the second unit to help out my family, I am engaged to be married, and I'm currently finishing up my PhD in a lucrative field at the top university in the US in this field. Even though I'm on a grad student stipend, my fiancee and I have a combined income of over 100k.
Of course, you don't have to believe some random person on the internets, but I'm sure you can check my IP address and see what university I'm talking about. And I know plenty of others like me. You'll never admit that you're full of bs, and probably "moderate" this comment so other people who come across this blog post won't read about the successful people who left Orthodoxy- apparently you love to focus on failure. Well, when you focus on failure that's what you get.

FULL OF FAIL.

jewish philosopher said...

OK, that's interesting, however of course you could actually be a twelve year old for all I know.

Fettered Wolf said...

I would hope that if I was indeed a 12 year old, my internet time would be monitored and supervised and I wouldn't be posting comments on the blog of a 50 year old man.
You may think that all non-religious liberals have no morals, ethics, or self control, but none of my friends who are parents would dream of letting their children unsupervised on the internet. I hope you don't let your children online without supervision!

jewish philosopher said...

What's wrong with the blog of a 50 year old man?

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