Jewish Press 2017
Dear Harvey (or Dustin or Richard or Woody or Brett or Matt or the next one. ..)
For years, you, the Holllywood elite, have been telling us wonderful stories through film, television, comedy, and even the written word. Yet lately, your stories are more of a nightmare. Please allow me to tell you a different story that is far more relevant, considering your current circumstances. I want to tell you the story of why you’re here.
According to Jewish belief, were put here for one reason: to attain closeness to God. We accomplish this role viz a viz His commandments, and in doing this, according to the Ramchal, “This is the highest level of happiness man can ever achieve.” But what does that really mean? Can’t I reach bliss with the Maharishi like the Beatles and attain spiritual heights? Or how about transcendental meditation? Unfortunately, finding inner peace and becoming one with the universe, while important for ones well being, have little to do with developing ones spiritual growth.
From the Jewish standpoint, the message has always been clear. Before we were born, we were free spirits, with no physical wants or desires, much like angels, all yearning to be close with God. But we were like children who never earned anything. So God gave us a gift, a chance to really grow and become closer to God. But how do we become closer to our creator? By utilizing the single most powerful and unique gift God endowed man with: Free Will.
With all of His creation, God simply said, “it was good.” Yet when He formed man, He went a step further, referring to his newest creation as “ VERY good.” He added something that took creation to the next level: man could now choose to forge his own destiny viz a viz free choice. He could literally go from making decisions based purely on animalistic instincts like a dog, to a free thinking human making decisions based on logic, reason, and integrity. This free choice is our rason d’etre, our reason for living. To choose between right and wrong. In fact, this gift was so powerful that it literally had to come from God himself. By breathing the breath of life into man, God gave us the power to create and the power to destroy. Because that free choice is the only way for man to really take the challenge and be tested. Because angels are automatons. They have no choice, and therefore, can’t grow. They have no desire to steal, cheat, lie, or manipulate. An angel cannot appreciate the challenges that a beautiful woman poses to a powerful man. But man can rise and choose to act with dignity and respect towards others, remain humble, selfless, and honest throughout all of life’s challenges. The choice is ours.
So where did you guys go wrong? Well the easiest answer is to say, you couldn’t handle the power and choose poorly. But let’s go deeper.
When a person is blessed with wealth and power, the challenge is to remain humble and centered and to know that he has been given a gift. Certainly, there are better actors, directors, and writers than you, but God allowed you to shine. There are many smarter and certainly harder working people than you who have paid their dues, but God allowed you to have success and power where people clamor to be in your mere presence. They offer you free dinners, pay you top dollar for a simple appearance, and fawn all over you because you have the power to make or break careers. In time, you really believe that like G-d, you can do whatever you want. But you’re not G-d. And that’s where the problems begin.
You stopped orbiting God and what he wanted. Instead, you began having the world orbit you. And once you became the center of your world, it was your desires and wants that preceded all others. That is how you were able to force yourself against the will of another person. That is how you could degrade women and cause them a lifetime of pain, just to satisfy your own sick momentary pleasure.
Perhaps the great scholar, the Vilna Gaon, z”l, said it best. He explained that the physical world can be broken down into a series of zeros. Yet no matter how many zeros you acquire, the total value will always equal zero. Yet when you place the number 1 (GOD) (Hear O Israel The Lord is Our God, The Lord in ONE, ) before all of those zeros, the number becomes exponentially greater. It matters not what you do so long as God is at the forefront of all that you do. He doesn’t require man to stop his world and kneel and worship him 24 hours a day. But he does want us to remember that life is a test and that the only way to elevate ourselves is to keep God, (1) at the front of all of those zeros.
When you keep God in front of you, it is clear that your power as a big Hollywood player only exists because God allows it to be. Who do you think gave you the ability to remember all of those lines? To get all of those roles? To be attractive to all who meet you? It was GOD. He created you with all of these unique gifts and he’s testing you to see just how far you’ll go with the power you prayed for. It is when we believe that it is our own talent, our own clever machinations, and our own hard work that has made us powerful and rich, that problems arise. And the only way to avoid that pitfall is to stay centered and realize who is running the show. We must remember to put God in front of all of those zeros.