Thursday, November 10, 2011
Orthodox Jewish alcoholics are rare, however they do exist. Some attend regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous in an effort to recover. Does Orthodox Judaism permit this, however?
My opinion is no, it does not. AA is a religion unto itself and to join AA means joining another religion, in addition to observing Judaism.
Here is my basis for saying so.
Alcoholics Anonymous is based on a document called the Big Book. AA members will tell you that if you wish to become and remain sober, then you must follow the teachings of the Big Book. If you do so, you are guaranteed to lead a life of sobriety; if you do not you are guaranteed to suffer and eventually die prematurely.
This belief is not based on science. Scientific research indicates that AA may be helpful, especially in conjunction with professional treatment, for many people who are addicted to alcohol, but it is not a unique, guaranteed cure.
Rather this is based on the belief that Bill Wilson wrote the Big Book with divine guidance. In other words, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous must accept that Bill Wilson was a prophet. This belief permeates all AA meetings and all advice from AA "sponsors" (spiritual guides). The Big Book cannot under any circumstances be questioned, amended or improved upon with the implication that it is infallible holy scripture. In AA to think critically is prohibited because "your best thinking got you here" (see slogan 389)
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 11a) states that Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi were the last prophets. Furthermore, Maimonides stated that the spirit of prophecy only rests upon the wise man who is distinguished by great wisdom and strong moral character, whose passions never overcome him in anything whatsoever, but who by his rational faculty always has his passions under control, and possesses a broad and sedate mind. Therefore, in my humble opinion, the idea that Mr Wilson, who apparently was not even a very nice person, was a prophet is ludicrous and even heretical.
Joining Alcoholics Anonymous involves accepting a false prophet. It is very similar seemingly to a Jew joining a mosque (Muslims also abstain from alcohol, incidentally).
If a Jew sadly has succumbed to the habit of habitual heavy drinking, I would urge him to wholeheartedly, enthusiastically commit himself to Judaism.
We don't need a Higher Power. We have God.
We don't need Bill Wilson. We have Moses.
We don't need the Twelve Steps. We have the Ten Commandments.
We don't need the Big Book. We have the Talmud.
We don't need meetings. We have a synagogue.
We don't need a sponsor. We have a rabbi.
In addition, making vows along the following lines may be helpful.
I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly and deliberately purchase any beverage containing alcohol, I will be required to fast 2 days sometime during this month of ------ or next month of -------.
I hereby accept upon myself that if later this week or next week I knowingly and deliberately consume any beverage containing alcohol, I will be required to fast 2 days sometime during this month of ------ or next month of -----.
If the drunkard is not helped by this, then sadly AA would probably work no better.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 6:26 PM