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Community is essential, to Judaism and recovery

Four glasses of passover wine and matzah.

Image by iStock

In the Passover seder we are asked by the haggadah to treat ourselves “as if” we came out of Egypt — not just to tell the story but also to to experience the journey from slavery to freedom ourselves. We think that the hard part is sitting through many hours of storytelling (with family!), but that’s not it. The real question is: How do I make this real? How do I experience this story “as if” I were a slave in Egypt coming out to freedom?

I have been sober in Alcoholics Anonymous for over 40 years. The idea that AA meetings are not what they were just a few weeks ago is getting a lot of press. Can meetings move, temporarily, to Zoom, and still leave AA as an incarnation that both sustains its members as well as offers recovery to a newcomer? Will the newcomers be able to find us? And will they be able to recover from the inside of their own home?

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We are told in the book Alcoholics Anonymous A) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives. B) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism. C) That God could and would if He were sought. If that is the case, the physical proximity that makes meetings both special and the reason they can’t meet isn’t the game-changer that some people fear.

Similar questions are being asked of the Seder. Can we make meaningful an experience that is totally different than we expected it to be? A holiday that we usually celebrate with generations of family, as well as layers of friends? Last year we had over 30 people in our home for the seder; this year it will be our immediate family of six, and many friends will be at a seder for one. But the challenge remains the same, even if it looks totally different than ever before: Am I transitioning from slavery to freedom?

I write this piece anonymously (against my editor’s wishes) because the 11th tradition of AA states “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.” A suggestion at best. And not one that I fully understand. But one that I will certainly follow. But not only because of that explicit instruction. In the 12th tradition, AA talks about the idea that “Anonymity helps protect the group and keep the focus on principles rather than personalities.” So the who of who I am is unimportant.

Today I come to bring a message of hope both to my small community of AA members as well my larger community of Jews — but also to a much larger community of our Christian friends who will also celebrate freedom, redemption and rebirth this weekend, in the comfort of their own homes, mostly alone. Spiritual connection and rebirth work just fine on Zoom, or even without Zoom, with just our breath and our acknowledgement of connection.


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