Every person recovering from an addiction knows the importance of numbers. One day at a time; the 12 steps and 12 traditions; the days of abstinence; the hours until my next meeting.
The Torah teaches us the mystical and mysterious values of many numbers. They dominate the eternal cycle of Jewish life: the 5 Books of the Torah, the 6 days of the week, the 8 days that precede a brit, the 9 months of pregnancy, the 12 tribes. The list is endless.
We are now marking the Nine Days, an incredibly painful and soul-searching time when we recall the horror and destruction of both the first and second Batei Mikdash by enemies determined to destroy the glory of our faith. The Chosen People had done wrong and brought horrible decrees upon themselves, and as a result, the walls of the Holy of Holies came crashing down. Ravaged and assaulted the Jewish refugees, now enslaved and shackled, were sent to the four corners of the earth. They would eventually rise and develop strong Jewish communities wherever they settled.
As recovering addicts, we know the power of community. When we say the Serenity Prayer with fervor and faith, we understand that though wounded, we are not destroyed. With the help of our AA, NA, OA, GA or any other group, we can endure the unthinkable, weep at the pain, and slowly learn to stand again, not alone, but leaning on our Higher Power and on our friends.
There can be no teshuvah until we do Step Four: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. When we as Jews admitted our lives had become unmanageable, when we turned our faces heavenward, we began our historic first steps to recovery.
These Nine Days before Tisha B’Av encourage inner thought and reflection. It is by seeking a closer relationship with God that we can grow closer to that ever-increasing source of forgiveness and love.
In the pain of our addictions, we often forget that we are worthy of unconditional love. We were created in the image of a God of compassion and kindness. That very fact makes us special. Among the many messages of the upcoming fast of Tisha B’Av is that God, like a good parent, loves us even when we lose our way and choose the wrong path.