Rabbi Shais Taub follows in the tradition of Rabbi Abraham Twerski in applying Jewish spiritual and Hasidic concepts to the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse. There is little doubt in the substance abuse treatment community that the twelve-step approach, which involves a spiritual component, contributes to long term recovery in a significant number of cases. George Vaillant, at Harvard, considered one of the foremost authorities on recovery from alcohol abuse, has documented this in landmark longitudinal studies. The reader approaching God of Our Understanding will need to be open to Rabbi Taub’s analysis and application of the twelve-step method from a Hasidic perspective. Unfortunately, his style and approach is much more dependent on the abundant use of religious terms and sources than Rabbi Twerski’s well-known and accessible works. The result is that the secular clinician and all those with a more materialistic and biologically-based conception of addiction will be easily put off by this book. Rabbi Taub’s new book will thus be welcomed by a limited readership of spiritually inclined counselors and clergy seeking a religious explanation of the need on the part of so many for substances that bring relief from the pain of existence but, so often, at a very heavy price. For readers seeking an authentic, scholarly Lubavitch perspective on addiction, God of Our Understanding will be a valuable reference. Appendix , glossary of rabbinic sources.
Steven A. Luel, Ph.D., is associate professor of education and psychology at Touro College, New York. He is a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice. He is co-editor (with Paul Marcus) of Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Holocaust: Selected Essays.