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Elul 22

The mouse [that steals a morsel of food] is not the thief, but rather the hole [through which the mouse escapes] is the thief. (Gittin 45a)

In this picturesque statement, the Talmud explains that the hole in the wall is the culprit, because without a breach in the wall, the mouse would not be able to steal the food.

In the treatment of alcoholism, there is a concept called "enabling." "Enablers" are the people who essentially make it possible for the alcoholic to continue drinking. By analogy, although oxygen does not cause a fire, it is impossible for fire to burn in its absence, so one extinguishes a blaze by dousing it with water or smothering it, to prevent oxygen from reaching it. Similarly, an alcoholic could not continue to drink very long in the absence of enablers. It is sometimes more difficult to convince people to stop their enabling than the alcoholic to stop drinking.

We claim that we are intolerant of crime and injustice, but the fact is that these exist only because we do tolerate them.

For example, many arguments are given for protecting the rights of those who violate the law, but the price we pay for this is that we allow these violations to continue.

In every society, community, or family, there may be enablers. Sometimes those who are most vehement in their condemnation are actually the enablers. We should do careful soul-searching to see whether we may not actually be enabling behavior of which we disapprove.

Today I shall...

try to stop "enabling" those things that I know to be wrong.

With stories and insights, Rabbi Twerski's new book Twerski on Machzor makes Rosh Hashanah prayers more meaningful. Click here to order...

May 21, 2009

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