Parashat Shemini

Alcoholism And The Nation Priests

The priestly prohibition against excessive drinking reminds us to support those in our community challenged by alcoholism.

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Once upon a time, Jews found it hard to believe that there were any Jewish alcoholics. Denial was a natural, conventional response to the suggestion that Jews might also be susceptible to alcoholism or other addictions. Now, we know better, and yet still many Jews feel ashamed to admit that they or members of their family suffer from chemical dependency.

All of us can help in this regard. Without erring by becoming co-dependent or unwittingly cooperating with unhealthy patterns, we can and should offer support. We can open our synagogues and JCCs to 12-step programs--which assist people in their recovery from a wide range of addictions (including gambling, overeating, and sex) as well as their families, and are often located in churches--and JACS meetings. We can reach out with compassion and concern, as individuals and as communities. And we can work to raise awareness about addiction in the Jewish community

Many of us take our sobriety for granted, yet there are many men and women who have to work very hard at being healthy and sober each and every day of their lives. Shouldn't we consider it holy work to help them achieve their goal?

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Carl M. Perkins

Carl Perkins is the rabbi of Temple Aliyah in Needham, Massachusetts.