"We are the best kept secret in the universe. Our mission is to monitor extraterrestrial activity on earth. We are your best, last, and only line of defense. We work in secret, we exist in shadow and we dress in black."
Will Smith, music video for the movie "Men in Black"
Will Smith is tapped as the newest member of an elite background agency that has as its sole purpose the propagation of the illusion that "what you see is what you get." Whenever reality steps in and reveals one of the universe's deep secrets these indistinct gentlemen show up, fix the problem, erase everyone's memory and quietly slip back into oblivion. The Men in Black are here to make sure that the general population is kept in the dark regarding the more sinister side of life.
"There's always an alien battle-cruiser, or a Corillian death ray, or an intergalactic plague that's about to wipe out life on this miserable planet. The only way that these people get on with their happy lives is they DO NOT know about it."
Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), Men In Black
Approximately 1,500 aliens are on earth at any given time, most living in Manhattan, and they come and go through the main terminal located at MiB headquarters. Their arrivals and departures are monitored through an elaborate airport-type scenario and warning bells start going off when the instances of unauthorized/increased departures of these aliens have the agents questioning what's going on.
Agents J and K investigate and find that an angry, giant locust-like alien has landed on earth and has taken over the body of a farmer. This locust-alien is looking for a galaxy that another alien inhabiting the persona of a mild-mannered, elderly jeweler named Rosenberg has attached to the collar of his cat. After the locust-alien kills Rosenberg, who is really His Majesty of Arquillian(sp?), the chase is on to see who will figure out where he has stashed the galaxy. The MiB need to find the galaxy and return it to the Arquillians, who are threatening to annihilate earth if it is not returned within a certain time period, before the locust-alien finds it and takes off with it. Agents J and K pursue the locust-alien who has found the galaxy and retrieve it thus saving the earth.
That's basically what the movie Men in Black is all about and you might be wondering what any of this has to do with a website that deals with Judeo-Christian themes? There are many parallels between this movie and the Jewish concept of the Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim. The lam-who what? Lamed is the 12th Hebrew letter with the numeric equivalent of 30, vav is the sixth Hebrew letter equating to 6 so lamed-vav is another way of saying 36; tzaddikim are righteous men. Lamed-vav tzaddikim = 36 righteous men. Supposedly there are at least 36 righteous men in each generation who have a special bond with Hashem (God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and without these lamedvavniks the existence of the earth is threatened.
Talmud - Mas. Sanhedrin 97b
Abaye said: The world must contain not less than thirty-six righteous men in each generation who are vouchsafed [the sight of] the Shechinah's* countenance, for it is written, Blessed are all they that wait lo [for him]; the numerical value of 'lo' is thirty-six...[thirty-six] refers to those who see Him through a bright speculum**
* Shechinah roughly translated to mean "divine presence"
** Only thirty-six see Him with absolute clarity
These men are humble, nondescript persons hidden throughout the world who are only brought to the forefront when disaster is threatening to strike. If you were to meet one on the street you wouldn't be able to tell as they are concealed until the time they are needed. When danger appears they come out of their self-imposed anonymity and with their close bond with Hashem defeat the foe and then sink back into the sea of humanity. Discovery of the identity of any of these righteous men is to be kept in strictest confidence, forget that you know their secret.
The role of righteous men in Jewish thought, especially among the Hassidim ("pious ones"), takes on messianic proportions: they are miracle-workers, prophets, healers, etc. even going as far as the Lubavitcher movement who in 1994 thought their deceased leader Rabbi Menahem Schneerson had been a great tzaddik and would be resurrected and revealed as THE Moshiach (Messiah). From this we can presume that the Lubavitchers thought Rabbi Schneerson was one of the 36 righteous men keeping the world from utter chaos (as opposed to an "ordinary" tzaddik who does not have the same degree of closeness with Hashem as the 36). Interesting to note regarding Hassidim is what the Encyclopaedia Judaica has to say about what they wear: "Most of the Hasidim wear a special garb, consisting of...a long black coat, and fur hat." I think we've all seen pictures of them walking around New York in the summer heat all dressed in black, sporting long side-curls. Are these the original Men in Black?
Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim are a group of 36 men, some dressed in black, who appear when there is a threat to the earth, fix the problem and then disappear. MiB have 26 men (26 letters of the alphabet), all dressed in black, who appear when there is a threat to the earth, fix the problem and then disappear. They neuralyze anyone who saw anything out of the ordinary so they can't remember what happened; the neuralyzer is a bright flash of light that erases the memory of anyone not wearing dark glasses. In Judeo-Christian thought the idea of light causing someone to forget is completely opposite to the understanding given by the light of our living, walking Torah, Jesus, but this is a minor point.
With all the parallels we see between the movie MiB and the Lamed-Vav Tzaddikim do we really believe that that is what the movie's producers were trying to convey when they made the film? No not at all, but it is still interesting to see those parallels and watch the movie again having this knowledge and enjoying it on a completely different level than we did the first time around. Spiritually speaking we are fighting against unseen enemies all around us every day (principalities and powers) and enemies that we can see (people who have opened themselves up to be overtaken by another spirit) and without the greatest tzaddik ever, Jesus the Messiah, the world would've been overcome and reverted to chaos long ago. In fact, we are getting ready to test this theory of what the earth is like without the lamedvavniks when the righteous people who carry the spark of Jesus within are removed from this earth before the events of the book of Revelation take place. So, is MiB just another science-fiction movie? Hardly.
Please be aware that this movie contains foul language and quite a bit of violence. On a scale of 1-5 the unedited version rates 2 as far as how bad it is (much less offensive than what's usually out there) but if you have a dvd player and would like to rent an edited version of the movie (which I have not seen) please go to Clean Films. If you would like to buy a copy, please see our Reference Guide: Men in Black.
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