WE WERE SLAVES
The Answer is simple and we keep it simple.
1. We weren't just overdoing things a little, we were slaves! And we were powerless.
It took the power of the Omnipotent Almighty to extract us from there. Which he
did with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. So severely were we addicted to
our own slavery and shame that if Hashem had not taken our forbearers out of
Egypt then we would still be hopelessly enmeshed in that sickness and slavery.
We, ourselves and our children would be without Recovery. And such is the
nature of this disease that we must constantly treat it by talking about it. It doesn't
matter whether we are clever, intuitive, experienced or whether we know the
whole program backwards, whether we can recite the Big Book by heart. We are
still commanded to share with others our Recovery. And the more meetings we
attend the more praiseworthy we will be.
2. The metaphor of the strong hand and the outstretched arm refers to the substance
or activity to which we were addicted. The strong hand as explained later at
greater length, is the cessation of using or acting out our addiction. This is the first
and most difficult step to take.
3. The outstretched arm refers to the gradual separation and the distance we put
between ourselves and the paraphernalia of addiction. The putting away of
people, places, and things.
MAASEH - A STORY
The five Rabbis mentioned in this story were all in Recovery.
Rabbi Eliezer was wont to say,
"Live and let live," Don't be too quick to anger," "Stay sober today before you die" and
"Bask in the glow of the wise but beware lest you get too close and burn yourself".
He, of course, had trouble in all these aspects of his personality. He argued with his
friends, tried to impress his will upon them, stubbornly refused to accept the majority
ruling, rationalized his disrespect of them and ended up excommunicated by them, totally
Rabbi Yehoshua was wont to say, "Self-will run riot, the tendency to misanthropy, isolation and depression will kill a
He knew whereof he spoke. Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria was wont to say,
"One who talks the talk without walking the walk is like a big tree with lots of leaves but
no roots. The first strong wind to blow will uproot it and throw it on it's face. He who
walks the walk more than he talks the talk is like a tree with few leaves but lots of roots.
All the ill winds in the universe won't move it from it's place. (But it doesn't provide
Rabbi Akiva was a recovering Jew hater. Up to the age of 40 his anger at religious Jews
was murderous and fanatical. It was the unconditional love of his friend, later his wife
Rachel, which restored him to sanity, and the patience of his gentle teacher Nachum IshGamzu
which turned this bellicose, belligerent ignoramus into an intellectual giant.
He retained his tendency to militancy all his life, allowed his vision to be clouded by his desires,
made political blunders, 24,000 of his disciples died of 'disrespect', and he was arrested,
imprisoned and martyred by the Romans.
Rabbi Tarphon was an obsessive compulsive with a tendency to get bogged down in
detail and minutiae. Once at night on a dangerous stretch of road frequented by footpads
and cutthroats, he lay on the ground in order to recite the Sh'ma according to the ruling of
Shammai. Boasting of the danger he had braved, his friends told him he needed help.
They warned him that what he was doing was not religious but compulsive and if he died
he wouldn't be a martyr, just another O.D. [overdose]. He was wont to say, "You aren't
responsible for the results but you must put in the foot work. You don't even have to
finish what you're doing, just don't stop".
These then are the Rabbis who sat all night talking about the EXODUS and their own
Recovery. Careful examination of the text reveals a superfluous word.
Instead of saying "all that night" it could have read "all night" the Hebrew word for 'that'
means Him, each spoke for himself, and so they passed the whole night away until their
disciples came and said, "Surely, Rabbis, by now you're all cured? Enough already".
REB ELAZAR BEN AZARIA
Rabbi Elazar said, "I am like seventy years old". Various reasons are proposed to explain
the way he looked. He was after all only 16 or 18 years old at the time he is quoted in this
Mishna. Rambam (Maimonedes) suggests Reb Elazar destroyed his physical health with
compulsive study of the Torah. Grueling stretches of non-stop study, indifferent nutrition,
appalling conditions, insufficient rest and recreation...all of which accelerated the aging
Others claim it was a miracle! When he was appointed to head the Academy at this early
age, he was granted instant distinction as all his hair turned white overnight.
Or perhaps it was simply his response to being loaded with heavy responsibilities at such
a young age. Whatever the reason, Reb Elazar said, "Even though I look the way I do I
couldn't convince the sages that talking about the Recovery from Egypt is mandatory at
night as well as during the day. When Ben Zoma introduced his exegesis of the verse,
etc.” We of course avoid projecting our legislation onto post-Messianic era. We take one day
at a time, one night at a time and so the ruling has been accepted. We say the Sh'ma at
night, according to Ben Zoma.
In this paragraph we bless and thank Hashem, but we refer to Him as "HAMAKOM" i.e.
"The PLACE". Hashem is the Lord of People, Places and Things.
First, we bless Him for being there when we need Him and giving us somewhere
else to be instead of that place Egypt.
Second, we bless Him for being Hashem and giving us Himself instead of those
people and gods of the Egyptians.
Third, we bless Him for giving us what we need to replace all the destructive
addictive things in our lives, we thank Him for giving us the Torah, our program
to live by on a daily basis. And then again, we thank Him for being Him.
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