Jewish beliefs about God: recovery from addiction for Jews

A few passages from the new book “God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction”…and thoughts about how to apply Jewish beliefs about God to addiction and alcohol recovery. Rabbi Taub clarifies Jewish beliefs about God here.

2
minute read

The Necessity of Personal Experience

There’s a popular phrase in recovery, which comes from the original program literature—“God of our understanding,” or “God as we understood Him.”…

“The phrase ‘as we understood Him’ makes no reference to the understanding of the infinite. What it does mean is the necessity of personal experience.”

In other words, when we talk about the “God of our understanding,” we are not really speaking of God but of our relationship with Him. We do not just believe in some abstract way that there is a God somewhere. We know God, even though He is fundamentally unknowable, because He has touched our lives.

Mine or My Father’s?

After God split the sea for the Jews coming out of Egypt, Moses led the people in a song of praise in which it is stated: “This is my God, and I will glorify Him; the God of my father, and I will exalt Him” (Exodus 15:2). What is the difference between “my God” and “the God of my father”?

“The God of my father” (or mother, for that matter) means that which others have taught me about God. It is a relationship with God that I have been born into. I learn about it by being educated by and about the people who came before me. “My God” means that which I have discovered by myself. It describes my personal relationship with God based on my direct experience of His active role in my life. It is what I know about Him because of what has happened to me.

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Both are indispensable. Both complement and complete each other.

But which does the verse mention first?

Although it would seem that the normal progression would be that one first learns about God from others and then later develops a personal relationship with Him, the opposite order is given in Moses and the Israelites’ song. First “this is my God” and then “God of my father.”

The basis to recovery is that we first and foremost discover this personal “God of our understanding,” which is really a God of our own experience.

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This does not mean, Heaven forbid, that God is a subjective notion or that He is limited to my impressions of Him. God is God; my beliefs do not change the Reality of what He is. What it means is that the Power that we can rely upon for our recovery is One who has made Himself known to us personally—not unlike the way in which God made Himself known to those for whom He split the sea. Recovery is a personal redemption from a personal Egypt, brought about by a personal God.

And what about the “God of my father”? Where does He come in?

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About the author
Rabbi Shais Taub is one of today's most respected young scholars of Jewish spirituality and practice. National Public Radio called him "an expert in Jewish mysticism and the Twelve Steps." He is the author of God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction.
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