“Lights . . . Camera . . . Action!” As the viewer sits mesmerized, his eyes glued to the screen, he is transferred from the reality of his own gray, banal world into a world of color and action, intense emotion and gripping expectation, where the good always outwits the bad and love conquers all and there is always a happy end. Is there anyone who isn’t spellbound by eternal beauty, unadulterated love and unlimited economic prosperity?

Is there anyone who isn’t spellbound by eternal beauty, unadulterated love and unlimited economic prosperity?Where else would you expect to find them other than . . . Hollywood? Where else can you find the radiance of harmony, the constant thrill of suspense and the uplifting sense of living on a cloud? Yet all the magnificent splendor is a mere fantasy world that resides in the imagination of the onlooker. And as the curtains close on the final scene, he must return to his own dull, monotonous life, uninspired, unmotivated and with a gnawing feeling of emptiness that seeks fulfillment. He may choose to settle for instant gratification with a quick fix from some passing physical pleasure, but if he is actually honest with himself, he will certainly agree that his yearning for fulfillment has not yet been truly satisfied. Like the fluff on a cotton candy, when we strip away the layers of greed, lust and pride from the scenes of a Hollywood movie, the intense sweet taste of sugar fades in the mouth, and we come back to earth with a crash to discover that all that remains is a bare wooden stick and a nagging thirst for pure, clean water.


In a world of refined imagination, a person knows how to distinguish between reality and imagination and doesn’t confuse the two; he knows that some things are just out of his range and others are impossibilities.1 A simple farmer, for example, will never imagine himself marrying the king’s daughter, because he knows that she is totally beyond his reach.2

Besides allowing us to recognize things that we have seen in the past by comparing them with our memories, imagination also helps us to imagine things that we have never seen. But the moment we are exposed to the scenes of a movie, dreamt up by the not-so-refined imagination of the screenwriter, that appear to actually have taken place in real life, the fine edge between imagination and reality becomes hazy and indistinct. Indeed, this very fuzziness between real life and their fantasy worlds is the reason why, behind the scenes, many of Hollywood’s greatest stars suffer from the world’s most appalling psychological plagues. Although it is blatantly obvious that Hollywood is merely the figment of so many untamed imaginations, nonetheless millions of dollars of taxpayers’ hard-earned money continue to be paid to subsidize the movie industry, and the public swarms down the well-trodden yellow brick road to view every new movie that is released.

Flip Side

We are taught that every phenomenon of holiness in the world has its flip side in the material world. Does the imaginary dreamworld to which Hollywood would like us to pay homage exist in holiness? Is there a golden path that we can follow to reach the authentic Holy-wood? The key to answering these questions is in rectified imagination.

No matter how rational we may like to think we are, imagination is the primary driving force in most people’s psyche. When properly oriented and refined, our rich and fertile power of imagination is a blessing, for it enables us to envision our ultimate life-goals and develop our G‑d-given talents. A healthy imagination makes an individual an inspired, vibrant and exciting person, and impels him to realize his dreams. Moreover, the power of imagination can actually facilitate the actualization of one’s dreams and goals, as in the famous saying of the Rebbes of Chabad: “Think good and it will be good.”3

Holy Wood

It was the illusions of their unrectified imaginations4 that brought the people to the rash conclusions that resulted in the sin of the golden calf. In fact, the numerical value (122) of the phrase eigel hazahav, “the golden calf,” is exactly equal to that of the idiom koach hamedameh, “the power of imagination.” The untamed imagination is the psychological base of the evil inclination, inviting fantasies that are aimed at gratifying the baser drives, while a rectified imagination is the key to true spirituality. (See Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, The Mystery of Marriage, pp. 48-50.)

A rectified imagination is the key to true spiritualityThe antidote that the Torah prescribes for the sin of the Golden Calf is to build the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle represents the home that every Jewish couple must construct: a place of love and peace in which the Divine Presence resides between them.

The pillars of wood from which the Tabernacle was constructed were made of wood and were overlaid with gold. In Hebrew, the language of the Torah, no distinction is made between the word for “wood” and the word for “tree”; both are referred to as eitz. So when the Torah teaches us to construct a tabernacle, our Jewish home, out of wood, what tree should we choose?

Understandably, since Adam’s exile from the Garden of Eden, there has been something of a rift between humans and the Tree of Knowledge, while our ability to make contact with the Tree of Life, which Adam never got to taste, was severely limited. It was only at Mt. Sinai that mankind was once again given the opportunity to taste of the Tree of Life, this time in the form of the Torah,5 which is available to every single Jewish soul. This is the “wood” from which we must construct our homes. By integrating into our lives the Torah that we study, we can refine our power of imagination and association and learn to recognize and sift out the unrectified images that we perceive. Any undesirable image or reflection that raises its head in our consciousness must be invalidated by ignoring the subliminal messages that it is trying to transmit to us. Studying the inner secrets of the Torah, in particular, helps to mold the power of association by using it to discover the harmonious connections within reality, as well as the connections between G‑d and His creation, and thus serves a central role in rectifying the imagination.


Once the imagination is refined, the true faith of holiness becomes manifest. The epitome of this is the power of prophecy, as the verse states, “In the hands of the prophets shall I imagine.”6

There are various levels of prophecy, the highest of which is the unique prophecy of Moses, with whom God spoke “mouth to mouth.” The power of imagination comes in to play in prophecy: the prophet, in a joyful state of connection with G‑d, is inspired, and he sees a symbol which he is immediately able to interpret in accordance with the Divine intention.7 Yet there are areas in our lives in which even the simplest people are sometimes given the privilege of receiving a minuscule prophecy, for example, when parents choose the name for their newborn child.8 Similarly, there are examples in the Torah and in the Talmud of couples who immediately recognize in one another their soulmate—a type of clarified “love at first sight.” Obviously, the more refined the person’s imagination, the more clearly he will be able to perceive the extent of such Divine Providence in his life.

The tzaddik, a completely righteous person, clings to the Tree of Life as if he is a part of its wood.9 It is the tzaddik who, by refining his imagination until his consciousness is totally in tune with the Divine, merits ruach hakodesh—a type of Divine Inspiration that is the closest to prophecy that can be achieved at this time.

The ultimate tzaddik will be Moshiach, the final redeemer of the Jewish people, whose revelation will lead to the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. His revelation will bring with it the promise of true joy, love and harmony throughout humanity that only truly Holy Wood has to offer. A happy end indeed!