Monday, May 28, 2007
Tributes to R. Dovid Zeller
Many people don’t know that the first Carlebach minyan established outside of R. Shlomo’s territory [the Carlebach Shul in NY, or the Moshav at Meor Modiim], was actually established in R. Shlomo’s lifetime by none other than R. Dovid Zeller, as the following 1999 article excerpt attests:
The first Israeli "Shlomo minyan" outside of Me'or Modiin was established in Efrat in 1993 by Dovid Zeller, who first heard Shlomo Carlebach sing at the Berkeley Film Festival in 1966. At the time, Zeller was into folk music, not Judaism, but eventually, after a long journey through Eastern philosophies, meditation and mysticism [see also next anecdote], he was ordained a rabbi by Carlebach.
But the Efrat minyan (prayer group) was an exception, the lone wolf in an observant world that did not know how to be Shlomo without Shlomo actually being there. Zeller recalls how in early 1994, Carlebach came to Efrat for the Shabbat immediately following the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet. Although the town's rabbi, Steven Riskin, wanted to "nab" Shlomo to lead services in his own synagogue, Riskin's own worshippers demurred, claiming that Carlebach's singing would go on too long: they wanted to break their fasts as soon as possible. Rabbi Riskin approached several other synagogues in the town, but none were interested. Finally, Riskin was forced to concede defeat, and let the visitor pray at Zeller's "Shlomo minyan." Riskin, willing to extend his fast a while longer, sang and danced with Carlebach on what would be his last Shabbat in Efrat. He died later that year.
One of my absolutely favorite stories about R. Dovid is one I heard several years ago from Rebbe Mordechai DovBer Twerski Shlita, the Hornosteipel Rebbe. It goes something like this:
A well-known Shinto priest from the Far East was visiting America, and [before he became a religious Jew] Dovid went [somewhere in the southwestern US] to see him, and to learn from him. After hearing an inspiring lecture, the priest remained with whomever wished to talk to him privately or ask questions. When the priest [P] saw Dovid [D], he asked him what was his religion of origin. Then the following [approximate] dialog took place:
D: Oh, I’m Jewish.
P: Jewish people – very important for whole world.
D: Huh? What’s that? Why are they so important???
P: Yeah, Jewish People – they responsible for whole world.
D: Wow, really? Well, if there so important, why don’t you become Jewish then?
P: ’Cause I don’t wanna be responsible for whole world.
Master of the Soft Voice
I received this wonderful tribute from written on Friday by Shlomo Katz [pictured above], an accomplished Carlebach musician in his own right:
In loving memory of our dear friend, R. David Zeller z"l:
For whatever the reason is, the music that our generation is most exposed to is of a loud nature, a very loud nature. If we should aim for our music to be on the level of prayer, then something is a bit off. Our holy Master, Rebbe Nachman says, sometimes you need to sing and pray so loud, that no one can actually hear you.
The one person, who I was blessed to know for many years, who captured the essence of Rebbe Nachman's teaching above, was Reb Dovid Zeller of blessed memory, who returned his neshama to the Creator this morning.
Being a very deep and sweet singer/songwriter himself, Dovid would often talk to me about how he finds it hard to fit in to the music scene, since people just don't have the patience to listen anymore with their heart than with their ears.
Birkat Kohanim, the bracha of all brachos, the blessing with which parents bless their children, is found in the midst of our parsha. As Hashem gives over to Moshe the nature of this awesome bracha , he tells him 'Emor Lahem'. We all know that 'Amira - Lashon Racha Hi', when it comes to the word 'amira', literally meaning 'saying', so it alludes to a gentle and soft manner of talking. Dibbur would be more the heavier component of speech.
Brother Dovid, tonight, as you begin leading Kabbalas Shabbos with all the tzaddikim, all the soul masters you would so often learn and teach from, please know we are with you, davening next to you.
And that whisper... that whisper was the greatest bracha you could have ever shared with all of us.
May your angelic soul keep on piercing through ours.