Harry Zeitlin
Grateful Every Day, Modeh Ani Lefanecha!

Tisha B’Av 2021

When I made my first Aliyah (I actually immigrated officially to Israel twice, once in the 1980s and again in 2016) I thought I was one of a group of friends in Los Angeles who all planned to make a life together in Israel. Actually, I wasn’t the first one to make the move–there was a couple who had recently gotten married who arrived a few months before. There were several couples and several singles. We had dreams of a life shared together, perhaps in the Galil, maybe by the sea…..

Every time I returned to the US for a visit, all of my friends, still in LA, declared how much they “just love Israel”. After a year or two, the first couple returned to the US. Supposedly to clear up some work-qualifications (Israel, almost 40 years later, does continue to pile up obstacles to foreign (read that “American”)-trained professionals to work in their fields here. Thus the tremendous shortage of doctors we have here and the inexcusable disincentive for your “nice Jewish Doctor” to make Aliyah. For many years, until I fell out of touch with just about everyone in this group, I was constantly reassured that they JUST LOVED ISRAEL.

A few years after that, I, too, returned to the US. Initially if was a two-year sabbatical, but the years piled up and I found that I, too, JUST LOVED ISRAEL. Believe me, it took me close to 30 years, leaving behind all the people I truly love in this world, to return home. I know it’s not a simple thing.

But I also know that all the fasting, all the Lamentations, all the services sitting in candle-light on the floor didn’t mean a thing. Israel and Jerusalem remained deficient and I remained in Exile, a spiritual orphan.

I’m home now, for my fifth Tisha B’Av this time around. Jerusalem and Israel are still deficient, but even though the third Temple, the House Of Prayer For All The Nations, the yet unbuilt and unoccupied home for the Shechina, the Divine Presence, looms in our hearts and in the Heart of the World, at least one tiny piece of the puzzle has clicked back into place.

But so many other, absolutely necessary and beloved souls remain in self-willed Exile, a painful and self-numbing state of alienation, are just empty place-holders here now. These essential building blocks to the restored Bet HaMikdash, to a fully-functioning Kodesh HaKadoshim, Holy of Holies, to the reunited and re-integrated Highest Potential of humanity, remain longed-for, deeply missed, still awaited.

L’Shana HaBa’a B’Yerushalayim. May these times of mourning come to a close, soon, please God, soon.

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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