How to Discern between Being Addicted and Attracted to a Substance

            October 2013    
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Attraction and Attachment

By Larry Fine


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

The rebbe began to explain to them "Certainly it would appear that the poor man is attracted to the food more than the rich man, but this is not the way one sees who is a 'baal tia'vah'. The measure of a 'baal tia'vah' is when the desire is denied; how much will the person suffer.

"The poor man never had such tasty food and naturally he was much moved by just the sight and smell of it, but if he was denied it, it would not affect him much since he has no particular attachment to this type of food. The wealthy man, on the other hand, if denied his roast goose in wine sauce would miss it very much and even suffer. Therefore, it is the wealthy man who is the 'baal tia'vah'."

Now to understand this, we must first comprehend why is the definition of a 'baal tia'vah' given in the negative sense - being denied the food, and not in the positive sense - being attracted to the food. Normally we would think that a person who is greatly attracted to a food over that of the average person would be a 'baal tia'vah'. But no, that is not the way of measurement. It is in the denial of the person's desire that shows the extent of the attachment of the object to the person.

It is normal for a person to be drawn towards a beautiful or desirable object. G-d created us with this inside of us. This is called attraction to an object, but we can live without it.

It is not the attraction to an object that determines if a person is a 'baal tia'vah' but rather the attachment to it that has grown inside of the person. It is the attachment that is the undesirable trait that we all wish to do without. It is the attachment that draws a person to seek out this object because with out it he feels pain.

Like a drug addict, an alcoholic, and all the rest of people who become attached to something, a 'baal tia'vah' has an unhealthy attachment to food, drink, sex or drugs. A healthy person has an attraction to things but in its denial does not suffer. Like a fat person who must lose weight yet can not bear to give up the chocolate chip cookies (or other foods that are causing the over weight problem) because inside when he/she tries to refrain from the food the person suffers. This is the sign of the 'baal tia'vah'.

Let us hope and pray that we never become so attached to food or the like and are able to enjoy what G-d has given us to enjoy with out becoming attached so much to it that in its denial we suffer.


from the October 2013 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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