Photo Credit:
Fishman on the set of “Stories of Rebbe Nachman” with Yehuda Barkan (seated) and old Hollywood friend, Daniel Dayan

This is what we have been waiting for – movies that are kosher and pure, and meant for the service of Hashem. Indeed, Hashem has granted Rabbi Tzvi Fishman a great creative gift which enabled him to be a successful screenwriter in Hollywood, where he earned large sums of money, but he grew disgusted with the crass, bohemian lifestyle which surrounded him there, and became a baal tshuva, dedicating many years to Torah study with great devotion.

At the beginning of his Torah study, he approached me and confessed that after having spent a full year learning in the Machon Meir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, he was beginning to feel an inner need to write once again, explaining that his creative juices were smoldering within him like a dam ready to burst. I told him that he was still unripe, at the very beginning of his learning, and that he should continue to study for as long as he could, so that his writing would be much deeper and holier when he once again picked up the pen. I told him that just as the Children of Israel left Egypt with great wealth, he had left Hollywood with the wealth of knowing how to write in a dramatic fashion and how to make movies. This was a gift he must certainly use, but I encouraged him to first explore the wide and pleasant vistas of Torah, especially the teachings of Rabbi Kook, which are so crucial to understanding our era of Redemption, advising him to write a little something each week, so that he wouldn’t forget the craft.


Indeed the great creative gift of writing and making movies which he received from the Master of the World, he returned to his Maker, “For everything is from You, and You have been given what is Yours.”

Hollywood was ever ready to welcome him back gladly, but he refused to make non-kosher films. Literature needs to be kosher, and even more so, movies. After making Aliyah to Israel and learning with persistence and joy, he wrote many books and novels on a variety of Jewish themes, and now he has returned to filmmaking, producing and directing kosher movies, with kosher content, kosher dialogue, kosher music, without a single actress, not even a small girl – everything modest, everything pure, everything clean. And from here, we shall go forth to serve our G-d.

He chose several stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “The Worldly Son and the Simpleton,” “The Turkey Prince,” “The Treasure under the Bridge,” and “A Matter of Trust.” Rabbi Tzvi Fishman is not a Breslov Hasid himself, but Rebbe Nachman is a treasure of the entire Nation of Israel, and it is widely known that his stories inspire people with the awe of Heaven and yearnings for tshuva.

Here, with the filming of these stories, we have an example how movies can be kosher, and also compelling, visually pleasing, and professionally made.

In his classic, “Orot,” Rabbi Kook emphasizes the vital role of literature in bringing redemption to the world, and his words can certainly be applied to movie making in an age when so many souls are glued to big and small screens throughout the day. “Literature will be sanctified, and writers will also sanctify themselves, and the world will rise up and recognize the great and gentle power of literature that will raise up the spiritual foundation of the world in all of its exaltation” (Orot,” Orot HaTechiyah, 37).

Rabbi Kook continues, explaining that even the most secular and unholy literature will be purified in the great light of the Redemption: “This spirit of impurity, along with all of the cultural pollutions, will disappear from the world, and writing will be sanctified. Every writer will come to know the exaltedness and holiness in his work, and will not dip his pen without first purifying his soul and sanctifying his thoughts. Before each artistic creation, there will surely be thoughts of tshuva and deep feelings of penitence. Then the creation will emerge pure, the spirit of Hashem shall rest on it, and the spirit of the entire Nation will be blessed by it.”

For Israel to return to its true Torah culture, all writers, not only writers from Hollywood, must become baale tshuva. As Rabbi Kook writes:

“Out of the worldly, too, will emerge the holy, and out of the brazen liberalism will also emerge the beloved yoke of the Torah. Golden chains will be woven and will arise out of the poetry of free thinkers, and a luminous penitence will also arise from the secular literature. This will be the great wonder of the vision of redemption (“Orot HaT’shuva,” 17:3).

Therefore, we extend a big “yasher koach” to Rabbi Fishman. “Chazak v”amatz!” “Be strong with increasing valor.” Finally, we forgive him that the movie is in English – with Hebrew subtitles, of course. He made the film in English in order to reach out to the English-speaking Jews of America, so many of whom have lost nearly all connection to Judaism. Nonetheless, even someone who doesn’t understand English very well, like yours truly, a simple person in Israel, understands everything. And from here, as we have said, we shall begin to serve our G-d.

*{Rabbi Fishman will be in NY June 8-10. For interviews and to arrange screenings of the film, contact: [email protected]}


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Rav Shlomo Aviner is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim. You can read Rav Aviner's blog at: