Harry Zeitlin
Grateful Every Day, Modeh Ani Lefanecha!

One Step at a Time: Paying the Price

Most of us have been walking for so many years that it becomes unconscious. It’s pretty much the definition of toddler, and since that point, when we want to be somewhere else, we stand up, move our legs one foot in front of the other, and don’t really think much about it. After everyone makes such a big deal  of our mastering this basic human skill, we then just take it for granted–that’s what we, and everyone else, does. And assume that we’ll continue to take it for granted for the rest of our lives–to walk without thinking too much of what we’re doing.

But it doesn’t always, probably it doesn’t usually, continue so unconsciously throughout our lives. Injury, age, illness will change all that, and often quite in just a moment. It really shouldn’t be that unexpected, although I assume that everyone who does pass this mark usually feels it came without warning (for me there was a medication issue almost seven years ago, followed by a period of falling and broken bones), and a return just a couple weeks ago getting on a bus which had suddenly become insanely crowded, erasing most of the previous recovery.

So, I’m back to walking much more slowly, much more aware of the pain each step might (but not necessarily) bring, conscious of where and how I put my foot down. And always so aware that I’m moving so slowly……

But after a couple weeks of feeling sorry for myself, it dawned (a very appropriate and accurate word here) that I WAS walking. That in spite of the injury, in spite of the pain, I’m still able to walk the beautiful streets of this holy, sacred city. According to our tradition, one earns Olam HaBa, Eternal Life, for every Dalet Amot, four cubits one covers here. Think about what that means in terms of expanded awareness and consciousness. Not only that, but the beauty and hope and gratitude that each step brings has infinite worth, generates within me infinite gratitude. 

Obviously, when I crashed my foot a few weeks ago I had no idea I had anything but pain to look forward to. That and, of course and, don’t forget self-pity. That in just a handful of days I will have learned such a deep lesson came as a complete surprise, although it shouldn’t have. A lifetime of experience keeps repeating, in one form or another, that same lesson–that every single moment is an opportunity to grow and to learn.

Which is one good reason to savor every moment of life. In the medium-to-long term, they will all be precious.

The Mei HaShiloach (Parshat Tazria) reminds us that the Good, the Tov, with which The Creator daily renews all Creation is identical to Ratzon Hashem, His very will. That ever element of life is not merely potentially good, but, in actuality, a direct connection to Holiness. We just need to remain open to it, perhaps taking a risk that by allowing ourselves to fully experience it will only be to our, and to the world’s benefit.

Yom HaAtzmaut, commemorating Israel’s rebirth as an actual country on this earth, restates this theme. We became a nation in present-time, not because we gained recognition by the United Nations and not from world guilt of the Holocaust, but it happened simultaneously with our refusal to ever be victims again. With that, is our determination to transform whatever comes into ever deeper understandings of our place in the world, true triumph. No matter the prices we pay, our lives are always filled with nothing but blessings when we open our eyes.

Chag Sameach

About the Author
After almost 30 years, Harry Zeitlin returned home to Jerusalem! Growing up in Denver, CO, he began Torah studies at an early age. He also had the privilege of knowing and studying with Rabbi Shloime Twerski zt"l. He graduated from Yale College (BA 1974) with an independent degree in communications, theory-and-practice, focusing on filmmaking and linguistics. Harry had a 45+ year career as a professional artist (photography, to which he is just now returning!) and has played guitar for more than 50 years, in addition to his 30+ years as an orthodox rabbi teaching Torah across the denominational spectrum. He lived in Israel from 1982 - 1989 and returned in 2016. I'M BACK! Grateful every day! Follow his spiritual adventures. He is always available to speak, teach, present a Shabbaton or other workshop. ......or to serenade your group with his guitar.
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