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Photo from the movie, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman,” Yehuda Barkan as the unhappy king

An old friend and hevruta from the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva in Jerusalem was dumbfounded when he heard that I had made a 90-minute long, feature film based on four stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, starring Yehuda Barkan. “Why Rebbe Nachman?” he asked me, as if I had betrayed the sacred fold and committed some horrible transgression by not having made a film about Rabbi Kook instead. First off, I told him that I liked the fairy tale-like fables of Rebbe Nachman. Secondly, I reminded him that Rabbi Kook would often study the writings of Rebbe Nachman with guests during his Suedat Shleeshi meal on Shabbat, and that Rabbi Kook patterned his book “Midot HaRiyah” in an alphabetical fashion after Rebbe Nachman’s “Sefer HaMidot.”

In directing the movie, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman,” I let the stories speak for themselves, without adding any commentary, just as Rebbe Nachman tended to do. Sometimes, after finishing a tale, he would reveal a few hints about their deeper meanings, and occasionally, Rebbe Natan adds his own thoughts, based on ideas he learned from his teacher. Rebbe Nachman said that most people told stories to put children to sleep, but sensing that his students were having trouble understanding his Torah classes, he began to tell stories to wake them up. Since all of us need to be woken up, in one way or another, when I decided to make a movie, I chose the fun and inspiring stories of Rebbe Nachman, which have the power to bring people closer to G-d.


The first tale in the film is the famous little story, “The Indyk,” or “The Turkey Prince,” which tells about the son of a king who suddenly started to gobble and act like a turkey. The teenage prince throws off his regal clothes and climbs down under the table, where he begins to eat the crumbs on the floor. Of course, his father, the king, is crestfallen. He summons all of the wise men in his kingdom to heal the boy, but all of them fail, until a Jewish sage appears and restores the youth to his senses by getting down under the table himself, acting like a turkey, until he wins the boy’s trust. Patiently, stage after stage, the Jewish sage explains to the prince that he can wear a shirt and still be a turkey. Likewise, the sage assures him that he can wear pants and still be a turkey. He continues in this fashion until the youth returns to sitting at the royal table – once again acting like the son of the king.

Yehuda Barkan gives an award-winning performance as the king. My son, Amichai, acts more like a turkey than a real turkey, and the Jewish sage is played by my old Hollywood friend, Rabbi Daniel Dayan. A reincarnation ago, I was teaching screenwriting at the Film School at New York University when Daniel, fresh off the airplane from Israel, rented a room in the apartment where I was living. That year, I am embarrassed to say, I was his guide to the bohemian life of Manhattan. He moved out to Hollywood before me, and when I arrived in the city of Lost Angels (Los Angeles), he welcomed me to live in his Fairfax apartment. For both of us, it was a time of being “under the table,” behaving like primitive turkeys. He was trying to become a star actor, and I a successful Hollywood screenwriter. In my life, he was the Jewish sage who woke me up to my true identity with the question he asked me one day on a California beach, “Why don’t you know anything about Judaism?” It was true. As a totally secular Jew, I had studied a wide range of subjects – philosophy, science, psychology, literature, sociology, and the arts, but absolutely nothing about my roots. As the writer, Sholom Aleichem, was won’t to say, “To make a long story short,” his question sent me on a spiritual quest that led me to the Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem and true happiness. When the “asimone” dropped for Daniel, after coming across a booklet of Rebbe Nachman’s “Tikun HaKlali” in L.A., he headed straight for Uman and Tzfat, where he lives today, spending his nights in the Kollel of Rebbe Shimon in Meron. Today, he is a serious Torah scholar and a konown figure in the Breslov world. Naturally, when I decided to make the movie, “Stories of Rebbe Nachman,” Daniel was the first person I called. Yehuda Barkan, a baal tshuva himself, was the second. They both immediately agreed to be a part of the project, making a movie that would wake people up and bring joy to Am Yisrael.

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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.