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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Habit or Addiction?

Daf Yomi Yevamos 46

One evening during Sukkos, we held a successful event called SUC (Scotch un Cigars) in the SUCCAH.  It was well-attended (adults-only, of course) and we heard a fantastic shiur (Torah talk) from Rabbi Yonatan Ghermezian.   During the event, I noticed that one of our regulars, Freddie, was missing.  I later inquired as to his absence.
“Rabbi,” he tells me, “after forty years of chain-smoking, I finally quit.  I can’t go anywhere near that stuff.”

Rabbi Hiya bar Aba was visiting Gabla.  He saw wine belonging to Jews that was being mixed with water by non-Jews and then drunk by the Jews.  He came and reported the matter to Rabbi Yochanan, who said to him, “Go out and proclaim that their wine is forbidden as idolatrous libation wine.”  Rashi asks: Why should we forbid this wine?  The gentiles did not handle it directly.  It was merely the force of the water they were pouring that mixed the wine up! 

The Gemara explains: Just like we tell the nazir (one who has vowed to abstain from wine), “Go away, go away!  Go around, go around!  Do not come close to the vineyard!” similarly, these Gablans who were lax in their observance required additional protection from potential sin.  Therefore, even such a practice was condemned.

If you suffer from an addiction, it’s not enough to just avoid that matter itself.  You need to set up safeguards so that it’s not possible to get anywhere near your object of desire.   We tell the nazir, don’t even enter a vineyard, and Freddie was right for avoiding a gathering of smokers.   To everyone else, it was an innocent puff, but to Freddie it was the devil himself wrapping his fingers around his throat.

Addictions come in many forms.  If you have a junk food addiction, stop bringing the rubbish into your home.  That way it won’t be there when you go looking at eleven o’clock at night.  If you have an internet addiction, you need to literally pull the plug at certain hours of the day, so that it’s way too much effort to turn that computer back on.  If you are a compulsive shopper, avoid the mall completely.

The problem, of course, is that most people with addictions won’t admit it.  The first and biggest step of the 12-step program is to admit you have a problem.  Only then can you start making fences to avoid coming into contact with temptation.  How do you know if you have a problem?  Look around and see if your life and the lives of your loved ones are being adversely affected by your behaviour.  Realize that we all have shortcomings that we need to work on and start avoiding the temptation that is leading you down the path to your habit.


Addiction sounds way bigger than most people would admit to.  Many, however, will admit to having a bad habit.  It’s time to mend your bad habits.  Take it one day at a time and most importantly, set up fences so that you don’t come anywhere near temptation!