20 Tishrei 5782 / Sunday, September 26, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
 
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Turnaround    

Turnaround



Someone told him that his life until now was an uninterrupted course of mistakes, contrary to the will of God. He understood that he had to turn it around...

 



Translated by Esther Cameron

 
Part 2 of “The Greatest Director of All”
 
He had not yet completely lost faith in gurus. Along with a friend by the name of Daniel Dayan, he finally registered for a weekend course with a famous guru from India who taught with the help of a translator and had his students go into the Jacuzzi after each lesson. As Tzvi and Daniel bathed in the bubbling Jacuzzi after a lecture on exalted topics, Tzvi suggested to Daniel that they visit the guru in his private Jacuzzi in order to find out what he was really like. Tzvi approached up to the guru, who was dabbling in the water by himself, and said to him: "I have a question!"
 
The guru tried to make a joke of it: "There are many questions! There are many questions! The fifty-dollar question, the hundred-dollar question, and the two-hundred-dollar question!..."
 
Tzvi began to ask questions. When the guru answered one question Tzvi asked another. When that was answered he asked still another, and so on, as in a game of ping-pong. As the discussion went on and on and became sharper and sharper, the patience of the smiling guru began to wear thin, till he finally lost his temper: "Just as you do not accept what I say, so this stupid world does not accept what I say! The world needs leaders like Hitler and Stalin, heroes and spiritual giants!"
 
While the guru was in a rage, there was a power outage, and the Jacuzzi stopped bubbling. Realizing that the guru was crazy and that his spiritual search had not yet reached its goal, Tzvi turned to Daniel and said to him: "Who's next?..."
 
And then Daniel, who came from a traditional family, asked him: "Tell me, why don't you know anything about Judaism?"
 
The question burst inside Tzvi's head like an atom bomb. He had studied most of the Western psychological methods and had tasted the Eastern sects, he had gone on a long spiritual journey from the West to the East, but he had completely skipped Judaism. He took leave of Daniel and thought to himself that really he did not know anything about Judaism. But as an expert on the theory of Freud, he remembered Freud’s assertion that if someone runs away from something, that means that he is afraid of it, and only by meeting it face to face will he be able to free himself from fear and go on.
 
He had tried almost everything. The time had come to give the Torah of Israel a chance. He understood that he had to stop looking at Judaism with the head of a Hollywood filmmaker. He had to take off his own head and put on the head of the patriarchs, of Moses our teacher and King David, so as to understand everything from within. He bought himself a copy of the five books of Moses and took it to the beach. Opening the book at the beginning, he read: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"
 
Tzvi clutched his head: "Wow! There is a God and I didn’t know!" After reading about the wonderful act of creation, he went on to read about Avraham our father and the other patriarchs, about the tribes and Moses our teacher, about the giving of the Torah and God’s promise to bring the people Israel to the land of Israel. Tzvi knew nothing at all about the land of Israel. He was a complete ignoramus, cut off. He had just barely heard about the Six Days War, but nothing beyond that. The city where he lived, Los Angeles, was full of Jews, and he thought in astonishment: if the Creator wants the Jews to be in the land of Israel, what are they doing here?
 
These matters began to penetrate into his soul. He bought a book on the fundamentals of Judaism and read that there is a custom called tashlikh on Rosh Hashanah, whereby the Jews go to the bank of a river or other body of water, shake out their pockets, and thus symbolically cast away all their sins.
 
He went down to the beach with the cortisone pills which he was sick of, in order to do tashlikh with them. At that point he had already lost 50 pounds and a lot of blood and felt that he was really going to die. It was suicidal of him to throw away the medicine. He clutched all the pills in his hand, and with what little strength he had he flung them into the water and said to the infinite sky and ocean: "Master of the universe, I am sorry that I didn't pay attention to You until today... Please receive these pills as if they were my sins, and heal me Yourself!..."
 
That night he had a dream. He saw himself going into a clothing store. Inside the store there was an inner door, and he went through it into a room that was full of Hebrew books like a beit midrash. He felt a kind of peacefulness. True, he did not know how to read Hebrew, but he wanted very much to stay in that room. The proprietor of the clothing store was about to close the store and asked Tzvi to leave. Tzvi begged to be allowed to stay five more minutes, and the proprietor agreed.
 
Suddenly Tzvi saw another door that led still farther in, and he went through it into a third room. It was empty except that on the floor stood a huge black box that looked like something out of a Woody Allen movie. Tzvi knew that these were the head tefillin, because once as a child he had seen his grandfather's tefillin in a drawer somewhere. And then he heard a voice calling in English: "This is the answer! You must cleave to God!"
 
Tzvi got up feeling afraid. The dream was clearer and more lucid than reality.
 
After that he went to the Chabad house in Los Angeles and asked the rabbi to put tefillin on him, for the first time in his life. The rabbi put tefillin on him and told him to say the Shema.   Thus he began to put on tefillin every day, but in the evening he continued to go to the discotheques.
 
One day Daniel told Tzvi that Rabbi Yisrael Ber Odesser (photo, right), a well-known Breslev hasid, had come from Israel to the United States in order to bring people closer to the Torah and in order to raise money. He suggested that they go and see him. One of the participants asked the venerable rabbi: "Why is there so much air pollution in Los Angeles?" And the rabbi explained: "Every physical thing has its spiritual parallel. Air pollution in the physical realm expresses the spiritual pollution that is here..."
 
Finally the rabbi distributed copies of the pamphlet "The Tikkun Klali," by Rabbi Nachman of Breslev. The rabbi's answer and the pamphlet moved something in Tzvi's soul. The main point in the lesson and the pamphlet was the keeping of the covenant, the need for the Jew to guard the sacredness of sexual life, and the prohibition on wasting the forces of life.
 
Tzvi reflected that up till now he had lived in a completely contrary manner. And now someone was revealing to him that his life until now was an uninterrupted course of mistakes, contrary to the will of God. He understood that he had to turn his life around. He had to stop going to discotheques, smoking drugs and pursuing fame and fortune. He had to stop worrying about his external appearance and his image and start worrying about his soul.
 
To be continued.




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