The First Members of AA

In this week’s Torah portion (Devarim), Moshe rebukes the Jewish people. The Ohr Hachaim points out several strategies Moshe used in his reprimand. 1) He waited until they reached the borders of Israel when they were more relaxed, less burdened with traveling, and more likely to heed Moshe’s words. 2) It was carried out in front of the entire congregation, removing individual shame and a person’s tendency to become defensive. 3) Moshe didn’t admonish them all at once, but rather over a period of 36 days. 4) He encouraged them to take an accounting of their own deeds, as reproach from oneself is more powerful than 100 lashes. 5) He implored them to develop humility. 6) Moshe encouraged the Jews to constantly contemplate the day of their death. 7) He encouraged them to improve, but not dwell on their past mistakes. 8) Moshe spoke of the need for a pure heart, without hate or jealousy. 9) He imbued within them the need for constant Torah involvement. Finally, 10) He taught them to not chase after wealth, but rather to fulfill God’s mission.



Sound familiar?

Interestingly, many of Moshe’s lessons are the same guiding principles and steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and its derivatives. 1) Timing is everything. If you push treatment when a person is not ready, it won’t work. 2) Meetings are carried out in large confidential groups, where people openly discuss their faults. This allows newcomers to feel less shame and be able to admit their own deficiencies. 3) Change doesn’t happen over night. “The big book” emphasizes the need to meet a person where they are and let them drive the pace of change. 4) AA recognizes that people are most likely to be successful when the desire comes from within. 5)  Steps 1 and 2 of AA is realizing that we are powerless over addiction and only a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. 6) The founder of AA describes how his great motivator in trying this new approach was the realization of his imminent death without a different strategy. 7) Steps 8 and 9 deal with taking an inventory of past wrongdoings and rectifying them when possible, but then moving on. 8) The 6th and 7th steps are recognizing our shortcomings and asking God to remove all defects of character. 9) The 11th step is frequent meditation and prayer to God for the knowledge of his will and the power to carry that out. 10) The 12th step is to busy oneself with passing on this newfound wisdom and helping other’s improve their live’s as you have.


3400 years old, but still the best strategies

Alcoholics Anonymous, developed in the 1930’s, has positively changed the lives of millions of people throughout the world. It is by far the most efficacious treatment for alcoholism as well as virtually every other addiction. Amazingly, these brilliant principles were taught by Moshe thousands of years before anyone ever heard of AA.

Ariel Mintz, MD
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