4 Cheshvan 5781 / Thursday, October 22, 2020 | Torah Reading: Noach
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Asher, from a young age, fell into an abyss of pornography that not only threatened to devastate his life, but also the lives of everyone close to him...


Asher, whose name means "blessed" or "fortunate," was born into a religious family. His parents were sad people and so Asher also grew up feeling sad most of the time. When he was 14, Asher turned to pornography to distract him from his sadness. He became addicted to pornography and eventually to illicit relationships with women.
When Asher was 19, he married Leah whose name means "to be tired." Asher had hoped that he would change once he was married, but he nevertheless continued having affairs. Leah knew that her husband wasn't loyal to her and became very depressed. As usual Asher had spent the whole night having "fun" at a bar. He staggered into the house at dawn - but Leah was no longer there - she left a short note - her lifeless body was lying on the bed.
Asher wanted to hurt himself too for what he had done.  He signed himself into a psychiatric hospital. While in the hospital, Asher got involved in a 12-step program for his addiction. Asher had a "spiritual awakening" in the 12-step program and he continued in the program after being released from the hospital. Asher's lustful behavior stopped.
Moshe, was Asher's sponsor in the program. Moshe had been sober for more than twenty years.  Moshe was also born into a religious family, but like many religious Jews in the program, he put the program before everything in his life. Moshe told Asher all about how he had stayed sober and set down the rules for their relationship. Moshe explained to Asher that although he had been sober for many years that he was still too sick to deal with someone challenging his opinions. He also told Asher that due to his illness he would have no tolerance for any disagreements that Asher might have about how he sponsored him. If Asher wanted to continue to be sponsored by Moshe, he would need to refrain from expressing any disagreements with Moshe. Moshe explained that Asher too would be in danger of acting out if he didn't do the same thing with others. Moshe told Asher that he must accept that there was no cure for his addiction.
Moshe's main way of coping with interpersonal conflict was to say, "I'm sorry but I'm still too sick to deal with this now and politely end the conversation. Moshe's wife understood that because her husband was such a sick man, that she had to back off whenever he said this so she would not cause Moshe to lose his sobriety. After 20 years of this type of sobriety, Moshe and his wife were a model recovery couple.
Asher met Tikvah in the program and they got married. Her name means "hope." Like Moshe, Asher became very active in the program attending many meetings. Asher stayed sober for 14 years by modeling himself after Moshe his sponsor. Asher's relationship with Tikvah and his children had always been distant. They walked on "egg shells" in his presence. Asher's observance of Jewish rituals had also cooled off during this time. 
Asher began to travel with his secretary. Tikvah didn't like this but she never challenged her husband. When she discovered that Asher was sending and receiving romantic emails from his secretary, Tikvah didn't know what to do. Finally she confronted him and he admitted that he was wrong and tried to make amends.
Asher had a boat. He spent time on the boat when he needed space from his family. Sometimes Asher slept on his boat. One night Asher's son went down to the boat and caught his father with his secretary in the act. Asher rushed home and cried and begged his wife Tikvah to forgive him but Tikva needed time away from her husband in order to sort out her life.
Tikva had lost faith in her husband and the program he had attended. She began her own search and discovered the books of Rabbi Shalom Arush. She was especially comforted by Woman's Wisdom. With assistance, Tikvah began to implement what she was learning about emuna. Finally she met with her husband and clearly spelled out her conditions for continuing their marriage.
A student of Rabbi Arush was in town. One of Tikvah's friends connected her with the student. The student came to spend Shabbos with Asher and Tikva. He brought great joy and inspiration to them both. Asher said that in all of his life he never tasted a Shabbos as sweet as that one. Asher began his return to Hashem. He accepted help and has been sober for three years. Asher no longer uses his addiction as an excuse to systematically put his needs before the needs of his wife. He has found his own capacity to love and show gratitude to Tikva for giving him another chance. Asher knows that he must speak to Hashem about his past behavior every day and beg Hashem to keep him clean. Asher also knows that he must be very vigilant in following Rabbi Arush's guidelines for personal holiness and continue to reach out for help when he needs it.


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