Hebrew Voices #25 – A Sober Purim in Jerusalem (Rebroadcast)

A-Sober-Purim-in-Jerusalem600x521In this episode of Hebrew Voices, A Sober Purim in Jerusalem, Nehemia visits with Rabbi "Big" Mike Gondelman to learn about the Jewish approach to treating alcoholism. The conversation opens with profound insights into the character of the Persian King Ahasuerus whose alcohol-driven binges nearly resulted in the total annihilation of the Jewish People. After hearing this interview, you will never look at Purim, alcoholism, or Alcoholics Anonymous the same way again.

Download A Sober Purim in Jerusalem

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The Hidden Meaning of Purim


Guest Bio: Rabbi "Big" Mike Gondelman is the Founder and Director of the The Jerusalem Sober House, a “12-step based recovery program” in Israel, appropriate for Jews of all backgrounds. Big Mike holds a Certified Addictions and Substance Abuse Professional (CASAP) international certification from the IC&RC and a Bachelors Degree in Judaic Studies from Ohr Somaech Yeshiva. His experience includes running group therapy sessions, individual counseling, drug testing, assessments and crisis intervention at some of the most well known Yeshivas in Jerusalem. In addition to this, he also spent many years on the streets of Jerusalem volunteering his time working with at-risk youth. Big Mike came to Israel from New York in 2001 and currently lives in Jerusalem with his wife and four children.

15 thoughts on “Hebrew Voices #25 – A Sober Purim in Jerusalem (Rebroadcast)

  1. I very much appreciate your interviews, always some wonderful Jewish people who are doing wonderful amazing things for other. Is the best of Israel; is her people. I will join Jerusalem Sober House, with just good clean fun Pure Joy needs no substance abuse!

    Chag Semach to Everyone!

  2. You claim “After hearing this interview, you will never look at Purim, alcoholism, or Alcoholics Anonymous the same way again.”

    If we can simplify those nouns by using ONLY the term ‘alcohol,’ this can’t be further from the truth. In terms of the Tanakh, I’ve yet to find anything that actually promotes drinking or points to it’s benefits. At best, you can make the case that God tolerates it, but that’s not the same as instituting the practice, attesting to it’s benefits or endorsing it.

    As a side note, God reluctantly allowed A WHOLE LOT concerning His people including the anointing of a physical king, the institution of a split kingdom, and the rule of Solomon, who succumbed to the idolatry of his strange wives BIG TIME. I can’t imagine anyone claiming that these examples were manifestations of God’s desire and plan for his people–rather, they ran counter to God’s promises.

    With all that is presented in the Tanakh, the use of alcohol fits the same bill. It’s just one more thing, practice, addiction, diversion (in short, IDOL) that separates one from God. The need for ANYTHING other than God to make one’s life complete is by definition a spiritual deficiency, as the video implies.

  3. Is it possible “touch a dead thing” means having a wrong answer? – to which there is a second pesach.

    just thinking out loud

  4. Awesome interview, Nehemia. I was working on my Addictions counselor internship before I got a chance to teach EFL, so I have already sent an inquiry as to whether or not they need a new intern &: > SO GREAT to hear that this is going on in Jerusalem!!!

  5. See also: Keith Miller “Sin: Overcoming the Ultimate Deadly Addiction.” Miller says that if you treat a disease like a sin, there will be no recovery; if you treat a sin like a disease, there will be recovery.

  6. Great interview. Thanks for your work Big Mike

    I can relate to the blackout drunk. Years ago I had a drinking problem that just got worse with time. Eventually there came a point where within a two week period I drank so much I passed out, unable to recall anything. One night I had my bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label opened with no glass to pour it in, I was getting ready to be whiskey bent drunk.

    But I guess I had what you could say was a moment of clarity. I don’t know if anyone can relate when say this. But I heard words as clear as day which said “if you drink you will not wake-up again”. Boy oh boy was I sore afraid, I feared for my life realizing for the first time I was basically preparing to comit suicide if I drank this.

    I picked up the bottle smelled the whiskey and it was awful. I wanted too, heck back then a bottle of Blue Label was 120 dollars! But those words haunted me. I gave up and dropped to my knees pleading to God. What happened next was weird, I sensed relief, as if it was suddenly over, I stopped crying. Then this incredible fear hit me again I thought something was inside the room with me, looking at me and it was mighty angry.

    Silly me, I ran, searched for my bible blew the dust off of it and just opened it. I came right to Proverbs 3 comforted I had the sweetest nights sleep I ever had in my life. Though the journey of knowing who God is and his Torah took a much longer.

    Now over the years since, I have on rare occasion had a beer in a social atmosphere. But I just don’t see alcohol as a temptation or blame the circumstances in my life as an excuse for a ‘need’ to drink like I did before. My view on alcohol has completely changed, its just not something I want or need to do anymore nor do I feel that I should when one is offered.

    In the military I was taught the only thing which determines if one succeeds or gives up is a conscience decision. Its always been up to me. There is no doubt in my military mind though that I needed help to realize that and how I was destroying myself by drinking like I was. Hearing in my ear “drink this and you will not wake-up again ” was enough to motivate me.

    Btw, I emptied that bottle into the toilet and flushed it down.

  7. Mr. Methodist does not speak for all Christians and all Christianity. Some Christians do smoke and drink; depends on one’s religious dogma. It is best obviously for health not to.

  8. Nehemia; I have appreciated all your Torah programs and hope you continue. I find what Israel and Jewish people need to get out to the world is more real life interviews like this one. Ugly politics, wars, fights always get the news attenton – we all need to hear of a wonderful transformation in a persons life, like Big Mike, and Sober House. Good loving family cures many ills. G-d Bless Many US ills are due to broken down families. HaShem meant for us to be in bible lead family; not necessarily religion.


    it is not clear to me as to who assembled the books of the bible….and I know a lot of pain staking effort was made in it’s

    assembly……nevertheless…I would like to throw a wrench into the machinery…..

    I once heard that during its assembly it was discovered that there were enemies present during it’s assembly….called jesuits….which brought to question the many books assembled within it….as a result….many books that were

    once included in the bible were kicked out…

    but later when the dead sea scrolls were discovered….they found that every book in the torah…was present in the dead sea

    scrolls…except for one book..and that book was the book of esther….strangely after reexamining the book of esther….it is a

    very strange book unlike any other book….it never mentions god….or any of his commandments…or the prophets….neither is

    there any reference to it by any of the prophets or even the new testament…..but instead it seems to get the reader to focus on

    a woman particularly a queen and her power and influence…so as to cause worship of the character……whose name resembles that

    of easter….ishtar…ishtarte….

    as well the way it is written is written like someone who is trying to give an aura pretentiousness….trying to make it sound as

    if some higher power wrote it….but by simply reading it….it has become clear that this book is no way genuine….it is also

    clear to me that when the other books were kicked out of the original cannon…..they overlooked this book…my conclusion is that

    this book does not belong in the cannon…as well…what is also very strange is that now there are other strange observances born

    out from this book….that also have no bearing or references to the torah whatsoever….these odd traditions and observances are

    never mentioned in the original 5 books of moses….again it has become very clear to me that this book should have never been

    included in the cannon….and niether should any of the offspring traditional observances from this book be observed…..

    this book and any of its observances are totally irrelevant to me…and should never be considered part of any conversation unless

    the truth of it’s origin is being questioned….otherwise I see no reason to even mention the validity of this book………

    perhaps you could look further into this book and tell me what you think…..

  10. Thank you so much for putting this episode up. Alcoholism and drug addiction are topics which continue to have a huge stigma in the Jewish community. Few synagogues open their doors to 12 step fellowships. Wine is such a integral part of our culture and there is a sadly persistent myth that addiction is “not Jewish” …the idea of “The shikkur (drunkard) is a goy” followed us out of the shtetl and into American life even though addiction is present even in orthodox communities.

    I encourage any Jew struggling with addiction to please get involved with Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous as soon as you can. You can’t do it alone and you don’t have to. With G-ds help it is possible to recover. Please check out my website that details my own recovery with Heroin addiction http://shikkur-yid.blogspot.com/

    • Thank you, Emannuel, for sharing your blog. May HaShem bring each of my beloved ones out of addiction in their own unique way, and may He bless you uniquely this week!

  11. Many main stream Christian groups such as Baptist are not aware that the non- drinking goes back to Carrie Nation and American Prohibition period.Where as before they would engage in drinking.

  12. Programs like this always work best with those who have the desire to stop whatever their doing, drugs or alcohol. Twisting a persons arm doesn’t have lasting results.

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