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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

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Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

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Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

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Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

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Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

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The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

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Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

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The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Jan. 29, 2007 / 10 Shevat, 5767

Addiction: An obstacle before the blind

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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I'm helping an alcoholic support her habit


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I run errands for neighbors for a living. One neighbor sends me to the liquor store. Since she's an alcoholic I'd like to stop, but I know she will just find another errand boy. What should I do?


A: Addiction is a major source of concern, and contemporary rabbis have found a number of profound ways of understanding it in the light of Jewish tradition. In this column I will outline and apply one approach, and next week an additional, complementary view.


All agree that we have an obligation to help keep others from destructive and self-destructive behavior, including harmful addictions such as alcoholism. Jewish tradition asserts that we are merely caretakers of our bodies, not their owners, and therefore we are obligated to give them proper care and maintenance so that they can fulfill their appointed task of carrying out G-d's revealed will. A famous story tells how Hillel the Elder, one of the greatest sages in Jewish history, considered proper care of the body to be a great mitzvah (religious duty) :


All your actions should be for the sake of Heaven, like Hillel. Once Hillel was going about, they asked him, "Where are you going?" [He replied:] "I'm going to do a mitzvah". "What mitzvah, Hillel?" "I'm going to the bathroom". "What, is that a mitzvah?" He said to them, "Yes, to keep the body from ruin". [Another time they asked:] "Where are you going, Hillel?" "I'm going to do a mitzvah". "What mitzvah, Hillel?" "I'm going to the bath house". "What, is that a mitzvah?" He said "Yes, to clean the body. I will prove it, for even the statues of kings in the public square, the caretaker gets a salary and admiration for keeping them clean. We, who are created in the image and the likeness [of the Almighty], as it is written 'For in the image of G-d He made man (Gen. 9:6), so much the more'." (1)


The Torah commands us, "Don't place a stumbling block before the blind" (Leviticus 19:14). Our tradition is that this verse forbids encouraging or enabling someone to act improperly. The example the Talmud provides is extending a glass of wine to a Nazirite, someone who has sworn not to drink wine. (2) (See Numbers, chapter 6.) The truth is that this example itself hints at a connection to addiction, because the vow of a Nazirite is not an ordinary one. Many commentaries explain that this vow is appropriate for someone who loses control of their behavior when they drink. Rashi explains that grammatical root of the word "nazir" is a word meaning "abstention". So the prohibition to encourage someone's addiction is not just "one more" example of the general rule against enabling impropriety, rather it is closely related to the example chosen by the Talmud.


However, this Torah prohibition is limited to someone who actually enables the wrongdoing. The Talmud gives the example of a nazir who is on one side of the river where there is no wine, and someone from across the river extends him a cup. But if there are plenty of the other people who would give the nazir a cup of wine if you did not, you would not be guilty of this transgression.


An additional consideration here is that an addiction is a syndrome. The "obstacle" is not a single cup of wine or a single pill, etc. but rather the overall phenomenon. I'm not an expert in addiction treatments, but to the best of my knowledge some therapies involve immediate cessation of the behavior ("cold turkey") while others involve gradually diminishing the dose. So it is not appropriate to view each individual drink as a separate transgression you are abetting.


According to your letter, you are not enabling this woman to keep up her habit since she can find other individuals to buy liquor. If it is no more difficult for her to use others, then you are not actually providing an "obstacle to the blind". Your question should be: To what extent can you make a constructive contribution to helping this woman with her problem? Jewish law and tradition would take a practical and not an ideological approach. A blanket prohibition, without limiting availability of substitutes, will not accomplish much.


It may be that your best contribution is indeed to stop working for her. If your service is worth a lot to her and having to work through someone else is giving her second thoughts about drinking, then your refusal to deliver drinks will tend to reduce her dependence on drink.


Conversely, it may be that your best contribution would be to continue working for this neighbor. It's not a good feeling to be delivering liquor to an alcoholic, but perhaps your ongoing connection will enable you to influence her purchases, encouraging her perhaps to buy fewer drinks or beverages with less alcohol in them.


Given every person's obligation to take good care of the Divine form expressed in our bodies, it is certainly an ethical obligation to avoid destructive addictions and to help others do so. However, an unyielding refusal to run errands to the liquor store may not be the best way of achieving this goal. What you need to do is to make a realistic evaluation whether such a refusal will be a constructive step in helping your customer overcome her abuse problem. Discussing the issue with a professional with expertise in understanding addiction will help you make the right decision.


SOURCES: (1) Avos deRabbi Nosson chapter 30. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Avodah Zarah 6b

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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