Sanctify yourself through the permissible... Yevamos 20a

Divrei Torah to provide Chizuk in the struggle to balance spiritual and physical needs.

L'Iluei Nishmas Mirkah Bas Yosef

Monday, August 6, 2012

An extremely moving letter to Rabbi Brody

I'd prefer to conceal my real name, but the editorial staff of Breslev Israel knows who I am. You can call me Yisrael; I live in Denver, Colorado.

With thanks to Hashem, I have grown in my Judaism over the last few years as I've learned about the central importance of guarding our eyes and personal holiness, an awareness in no small measure developed from reading Rabbi Brody's articles and Breslev books. Consequently I have generally stopped seeing movies, recognizing that sitting for two plus hours in front of a screen featuring bloodshed and immorality is misusing my eyes and hurting my Divine soul.

Image courtesy of thedarkknightrises.com

Still, the temptation of superhero films has been a great struggle for me. I grew up reading comics and to this day the thought of my favorite childhood superheroes brought to life on the big screen is indescribably alluring!

In recent years when I have "acted out," I go to a particular theatre outside of Denver so I don't see anyone from the Jewish community, sparing myself embarrassment and potential chillul-Hashem, defamation of Hashem's Holy Name. (Where was my embarrassment before Hashem? He wasn't looking? He wasn't with me?)

I would frequent a theatre five or six miles away, called Century Aurora 16.

I've harbored a unique obsession for Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy since 2005. To give you a clue, I've read novelized accounts of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. When The Dark Knight came out in the Summer of 2008 I am embarrassed to divulge I saw it on the inaugural day of the Three Weeks of Mourning. That's right, the 17th of Tammuz. I was so eager to see the film that I spent a day meant for teshuva in a movie theatre! I wonder if it was precious to Hashem that at least I was still fasting though I was neglecting the actual core message of the day- teshuva!

Fast forward four summers. Though I no longer see movies like I once did, how could I not see the epic finale of Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises? Especially not on opening night at the midnight premiere like I've done in the past for other comic-book films?!

Upon realizing it premieres on Rosh Chodesh Av, the beginning of the Nine Days, my evil inclination was still not extinguished. Remember, I'm the guy who shamefully saw The Dark Knight in 2008 on a fast day of mourning, the 17th of Tammuz.

Please do not judge. There is no rhyme or reason to a taiva, a lust or urge; we all have our own strange tests in life.

I was actually too ashamed to confide this personal test to my own rabbis here in the States, irrationally fearful it would sound ridiculous to their ears. So instead I typed an email to a rabbi overseas who I might as well consider a rebbe-figure all the same: Rabbi Lazer Brody, whose website and translations of Rabbi Shalom Arush's books have been so illuminating in my Jewish growth over the years. Then there's the personal connection. Rabbi Brody came to Denver last summer, Shabbat Shelach-Lecha. I met him over that unforgettable Shabbos. Not sure I ever saw someone who gushes love for other people quite like this man; I knew Rabbi Brody would be a "safe" person to divulge my nisayon, my personal test.

On July 12 I sent him a long email about my Batman / Nine Days nisayon. I told him how much this meant to me. I concluded and asked, "Would it be precious to Hashem if I delayed seeing the movie until after Tishah B'Av, to show I'm refraining from something I would find highly enjoyable? Or, would it not matter because either way Hashem would be totally against my seeing this movie to begin with?"

Other rabbis might have jumped down my throat saying, "What do you mean, movies? They're absolutely forbidden!"

Not Rabbi Brody; he seemed to understand exactly where I'm coming from, letting me grow at my own pace. He replied the same day with a succinct email consisting of five words in his telegraph style (who knows how many emails a day he answers?), and said: "Delay until after Tisha B'Av", followed by his signature "Blessings Always." And I knew he meant it.

He wasn't judgmental at all. He simply told me to delay seeing the movie. That's all it took.

2012 was not going to be like 2008, when I went on the 17th of Tammuz.

I was not going to the debut at the Aurora Theater on Rosh Chodesh Av, July 20, 2012. Simple as that.

Instead of spending that midnight at the much awaited premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in my "escape" theatre Century Aurora 16, I was in the apartment of my dear friend A.C. studying Hashem's Torah.

The text A.C. and I studied was a discourse from the talks of Rabbi Tzvi Meyer Zilberberg shlit"a, an American-born tzaddik residing in Israel, entitled,  "To feel the great love our Heavenly Father has for every single individual, in every situation he is, for doing so greatly hastens the redemption."

Sweetest friends, he is saying that the month of Av is called Av (i.e. father) because among our main jobs in this month is to really truly feel the great love our Heavenly Father has for all His children.

I left A.C.'s apartment around 1:15 AM. I went to bed thanking Hashem that I overcome my movie Nine-Days temptation.

Not five hours later I was awakened by my distraught mother calling me with dreadful news of the massacre at the Aurora Theater debut of "The Dark Knight Rises".

At that moment I really, truly felt Hashem's love for me, His beloved child.

Thank You, Hashem, for giving me life.

Thank You, Hashem, for sending Rebbe Nachman into the world to show us there is no despair (Likutei Moharan II:78), and that we are to constantly begin anew every single day in serving Hashem as if we had never before begun, especially after falling (Likutei Moharan I:261).

Thank You, Hashem, for Rebbe Nachman's faithful students in our generation spreading the tzaddik's light, including Rabbi Lazer Brody.

Thank You, Hashem, for dear friends like Y.M.H., S.M.G, A.C.F., and E.D.W. who give me great encouragement in Your service.

And thank You, Hashem, for Rabbi Brody's succinct five-word email to me, Your beloved child, on July 12th.

I end with a prayer that our Heavenly Father comfort a lot of grieving, hurting people in Colorado, and across the world. May He speedily heal the survivors completely in body and spirit.

And may He finally fulfill his promise in Isaiah 25 to "swallow up death forever and wipe away tears from all faces." Truly, in our days.

P.S. I recognize that people in my small community reading this might easily figure out my identity. If so, I kindly and sincerely request do not discuss my identity amongst each other and that you do not bring this up to me when you see me next. Thank you. Writing this piece involved disclosing things of an embarrassing nature but with Rabbi Brody's encouragement I felt it was more important to overcome my personal shame and publicize Hashem's loving kindness, to try and sanctify His great Name, may it be sanctified.
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