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September 28, 2016 / 25 Elul, 5776
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Oscar Who?

My friends, if you want to save your souls, don’t watch the Oscars. If you want to be a holy Jew, you have to work on it.

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I noticed on the internet that the Oscar Awards ceremony is coming up in another few weeks in L.A., and my heart did not jump a bit. I felt no excitement whatever. Not even a small palpitation, or a droplet of sweat on my palm. I couldn’t care in the least. I have no idea what movies have been nominated, or what actors, and I couldn’t care less.

That’s the incredible power of t’shuva, of repentance, of giving up the lie of foreign cultures and returning to our roots. Every cell in my body has changed since becoming religious and moving to Israel. A spiritual overhaul of prayer, Torah study, tears of atonement, and thousands of dunks in the mikvah, has transformed me into a different person, with totally different thoughts, dreams, and aspirations than I had when I was trying to be an American success story in L.A., trying to be as rich, and handsome, and famous, and gentile as all of the Hollywood stars who will flock to the Oscars to be seen on television by the millions.

Thank God, thank God, thank God. Halleluyah that I left Hollywood for Israel. “He has raised me out of the dunghill to sit me with the princes of His people.”

My friends, if you want to save your souls, don’t watch the Oscars. If you want to be a holy Jew, you have to work on it. You can’t have the best of both worlds, as the Modern Orthodox like to believe. Holiness and impurity don’t go together. All of those actresses may look lovely in their sparkling, low-cut gowns, but do you really want to frizzle your brain? When you pollute your eyes with things you shouldn’t see, the soul which is housed in your brain gets polluted as well. When that happens, your spiritual radar gets covered with mud, and, for example, the Land of Israel, becomes just a nice place to visit, like a Disneyland for Jews, and you think you can be just as serious a Jew in Beverly Hills, or Monsey, as you can be in Jerusalem or Hevron.

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and forbidden images, whether we want to face up to it or not, pollute a Jew’s soul with a terrible impurity.

In his book, “Kuntres HaAvodah,” Rebbe Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch, one of the early great rabbis of the Chabad Hassidic movement, writes the following:

“Everyone who is concerned about his soul, not to pollute it, God forbid, should guard over his eyes. And if this is difficult for him, he should endeavor to restrain himself with all of his strength and might. He must take to heart that this matter is instrumental to the well-being of his soul. If he does not guard himself in this matter, then all of his Divine service is accounted as nothing, and all of his achievements are as naught, and his service of God will fall lower and lower….

“Behold, there are people who are far from actually committing evil deeds, God forbid, but their hearts pull them to look and stare at women. They gaze with a seemingly cold detachment, and they do not feel any immediate excitement when they look, but the reason for their being attracted is because they experience an inner pleasure…. This gazing, even with seeming detachment, creates an impression and a great stain on the soul, which will not go away without arousing some actual evil in its wake, God forbid….

“Thus, it is every man’s duty to control himself and to guard over the things he sees. In so doing, he will save himself from evil, and his service of God will find favor. He will bring salvation to his soul, and he will rise higher and higher.” (“Kuntres HaAvodah,” Ch. 2. For an English translation and commentary, see the book, “Love Like Fire and Water,” Moznaim Publishing Corp)

The Nation of Israel is called upon to be a holy Nation. Just as we have to be careful what we eat, we have to be careful what we see. A Jew who prides himself on enjoying the best of both worlds is fooling himself. He may have a good time at the movies, but in doing so, he darkens the light of his soul, whether he feels it or not. So take it from someone who’s been there. When Oscar night arrives, don’t bother to watch. Do your brain a favor and study Torah instead.

Tzvi Fishman

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. His recent movie "Stories of Rebbe Nachman" The DVD of the movie is available online.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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