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Noahide Review of “G-d of Our Understanding” and the 12 Steps

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Endorsing the 12 Steps as not specific to a particular religion

Many chr’stian denominations gave the 12 Steps their blessing not too long after Alcoholics Anonymous was formed. The first Orthodox Jewish endorsement of the 12 Steps was made in the mid-1990s by Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski, who is not only a highly respected rabbi of the Chernobil chasidic dynasty, but also a renown psychiatrist specializing in substance abuse,[3] so he certainly had the credentials to make the endorsement.

Rabbi Taub is critical of the many Jewish communities that have not been very open to hosting 12 Step meetings in their synagogues and study halls, instead of directing that criticism to the 12 Step programs themselves. He comments that it took Orthodox Jewish groups many years before they endorsed the 12 Steps, compared to chr’stian denominations. He does however identify a factor that can explain this, which is that there have been very few Orthodox rabbis with the secular academic and medical credentials that need to be applied in order to make a rabbinical ruling concerning the acceptability and the efficacy of the 12 Steps.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a tradition of accepting endorsements from clergy, although it is not affiliated with any religion, sect or creed. On page 574 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, 3rd Edition, Appendix V, the first line says, “Clergymen of practically every denomination have given A.A. their blessing,” and it then presents representative endorsement statements from chr’stian clergymen.

However, when I called Alcoholics Anonymous Headquarters in New York, NY, and told one of them that I was hired by a religious scholar to write a book review and possible endorsement of the 12 Steps for a religious denomination (Noahides), the woman said, “We don’t have any religious affiliation. We don’t want your blessing.” When I called back to AA weeks later and spoke with another woman, I quoted the above statement from Appendix V of the Big Book and repeated what I had previously been told by an AA representative. The second woman denied that the previous woman had said that.

This left me with the impression if a chr’stian denomination gives its endorsement to AA, somehow that means more to some AA representatives than if I want to give AA my endorsement, as a Noahide with a present constituency of perhaps only about 100,000 Noahides worldwide who are not chr’stians. But that was not expressed as the opinion of AA as a whole; it was just one person who works at the AA headquarters. She obviously misunderstood, because if AA receives an endorsement from a member of a clergy or a religious scholar, that does not imply any kind of affiliation.

Several of the spiritual practices that the 12 Steps recommend, which often are not thought of as being “Jewish,” are in fact very in-line with Judaism. Since we Noahides share the Jewish faith in Torah, and we take on much of the spirituality of traditional Jews, it is therefore important to examine whether these practices are compatible with the Torah.

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