How to Discern between Being Addicted and Attracted to a Substance

            October 2013    
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Attraction and Attachment

By Larry Fine

In Judaism, there is a concept known as a 'baal tia'vah', this is a negative description of a person with an uncontrollable appetite, normally given over to people who are extremely fat and can not control their appetites. It can be used also to describe any person who is driven into seeking the pleasures of the physical world whether sex, alcohol or any other worldly desire.

How one can evaluate precisely who are 'baal tia'vahs' may be difficult to describe, but a short Chassidic story gives us a much better explanation than an intellectual discussion.

The following is the story:

One there was a very wealthy man who lived the life of luxury in his very lavish mansion. Each evening, for the supper meal, he ate only the best and choicest dishes; his favorite was roast goose marinated in wine sauce. He was to have a few guests for dinner this particular evening but at the last minute they were forced to cancel and the wealthy man was just about to be seated alone for dinner when a poor beggar came to the door.

The servant was in the kitchen busy with the meal preparations and the wealthy man answered the door himself. Standing at his doorstep was an obviously extremely poor man who judged by his clothing was very down on his luck.

"Please," the poor beggar entreated, "I have hardly eaten in the past three days. I am starving and weak. Could you give me a coin or a morsel of food?"

The wealthy man looked at this clearly unfortunate man so totally in need. "I am about to dine alone this evening. Perhaps you will be good enough to join me?"

The beggar could not believe his luck and readily accepted the wealthy man's invitation with such disbelief that he should find himself sitting down in a affluent man's dinner table and sharing his fare. In a short moment the butler brought out the roast goose in wine sauce with many delicious side dishes. The delicious fragrance of this dish was overwhelming. The beggar's eyes were almost popping out from their sockets and his mouth began to salivate to the point that drool began to come out of his mouth uncontrollably; he had never seen, much less tasted, such a wonderful assortment of tasty foods before in his life. Until now he subsisted on dry bread and water.

The wealthy man on the other hand exhibited no outward signs of interest in the food being served as this was his regular fare for the evening and ate with the utmost restrain.

At this point the Chassidic rebbe asked his pupils, "tell me, of the two men described in the story, who is the bigger 'baal tia'vah'? Who is the man the most connected to the food? The rich man or the poor beggar?"

The Chassidim began to debate between themselves. Obviously the poor man reacted much stronger to the sight and smell of the food, and perhaps it was he, the poor beggar that was the 'baal tia'vah'. But on the other hand, the wealthy man was the one who wanted to have this delectable dish. Perhaps he was the bigger 'baal tia'vah'?

Finally they turned to their rebbe and asked him to tell them the correct answer.

The rebbe began to explain to them...



from the October 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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