THE STORY OF A SOUL: Reb David Zeller

Reb Dovid Zeller
© Joy Krauthammer 1992


Reprinted from the book written by Reb Dovid's chevra and compiled and lovingly published by his family in honor of Reb Zeller's 60th birthday. (Just before Dovid Zeller became ill with a rare blood disease.)

Yom Huledet Sameach! 
HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY  Reb Dovid

by Joy Krauthammer

REB DOVID ZELLER, on the occasion of your 60th birthday, MAZAL TOV

Quoting from my University of Judaism (now AJU) MBA 1994 thesis (with a chapter on "Spirituality"),

"Thank you to my dear Jerusalem Rabbi David Zeller. It was through your Kabbalah teaching and music in Rabbi Joshua and Liliane Ritchie’s # 613 home that I first received Hashem’s Light so brightly. It is through you that I was brought to my Los Angeles Rabbi Stan Levy and B’nai Horin, and all of my greater beloved spiritual Renewal community."

Was that first meeting with you, 1990? I found a flyer then, maybe at the UJ, maybe posted by another UJ student Lolly S. writing of an evening event at a street numbered 613. Knowing no one, but with this number in hand, I drove over the hill to Los Angeles from Northridge, the San Fernando Valley, to be Divinely guided / Hashgachah Pratit, in meeting you, Reb David Zeller.

I recall coming to the Ritchie’s home for that first time of many, and noticed the auras surrounding Liliane’s paintings. (On a later visit when I went to hear Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l, the entire room was bathed in golden Light and it was awesomely only the Light which was visible.)

I had traveled meditationally inside of a crystal with a teacher, but you--Reb Dovid, offered a Kabbalistic meditation with the Hebrew letter "Koof." I remember sliding down the form of the Koof. You probably offered the following: "Koof of the Hebrew Alef-Bet. First see it as a pictograph of shape and symbol; then as a letter and the shapes of letters within the letter; the name of the letter, and the letters that spell the name; the meaning of the name; its number, and so much more ."

Life was not the same for me any longer. My life became deeply SPIRITUAL. My consciousness shifted. Feminism had first tuned me in to my needs. In you, I had met my first Rebbe and who remains my #1 Rebbe. If you have groupies, I am one. I had met G*d not long before that. You were my next step in my awakening spiritual journey along the path to the Tree of Life, which led me to "who, what and where". I am today on a joyous journey and that is good. I have travelled far from the Koof into the whole Alef Bet and I can "Return Again."

Reb Dovid Zeller, Joy Krauthammer and (now Rabbi) Shlomo Katz, 
accompanying on drums
© Darlene Rose 1997, Happy Minyan, Malavah Malkah
After # 613, I was Divinely guided by my "Jewish Calendar Magazine" publisher, David Epstein, who advised me to call Yael Taubman, whom I did not yet know, and who was in LA, readying for her move to Jerusalem. Yael was due to be at Rabbi Stan Levy’s home for a Shabbaton with, yes, YOU. But Yael was ill and invited me to take her seat at Reb Stan’s table where my neshama is still nourished today. I knew no one in this community. I became a member immediately without being asked. I was in my makom. Even last Shabbat for Shavuot, 16 years later, I davvened with many of the very same spiritual seekers who were there on my first night in Renewal. I have since joined every Renewal shul in LA encouraging them to affiliate with Aleph if they were not already. (At one point of my surging soul, I was simultaneously a member of ten shuls from Renewal to Orthodox, and yes, a founding member of the Happy Minyan, as well as Ohr HaTorah with Rabbi Mordecai Finley.)

I met Yael Taubman's husband Micha one Shabbat in a Yamin Moshe shul and he walked me to his home to meet Yael. I saw two crystals on a table and I asked permission to touch them. Yael responded that, "There had been a third crystal that I had found on Mt. Sinai, but was just taken to a shul in Los Angeles." Amazingly, that third crystal was the one brought the week before by Shira Solomon to Los Angeles to my very own B'nai Horin to be used as the pointer in our Torah's silver yad (and handcrafted by Eva Nathanson). (On this very day today, Shira is in an LA hospital with pain following this last week's angiogplasty and stent insertion to her heart. May the light of our crystal help heal Shira.)

From you, Reb Dovid, I immediately met Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Eve Ilsen at B’nai Horin’s Simchat Torah and continued to learn from him locally at Makom Ohr Shalom and Aleph sponsored retreats. Reb Zalman mid-wifed me during my husband Marcel’s zt"l recent transition in January 2006 and with guidance from Rabbi Stan for which I am grateful. Following that Simchat Torah, in Jerusalem I was Divinely guided and I met my beloved Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l, and soon became Shlomo's percussionist, disciple, and shlepper and co-agent here in Los Angeles. I met Collette, zt"l, in Jerusalem. In LA I met Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man of (meditative) Metivta, and later Rabbi Judith HaLevy and became a founding member of my beloved Sarah’s Tent, and joined other teachers (currently Reb Toba August of Lev Eisha) in ecstatic communities in which to study, learn, play, pray, create, perform, transform, and transmit. All of these magical, mystical experiences have enlivened my heart, ah, all 4 Worlds.

From there across the country I learned from all Renewal teachers; Kallahs and Elat Chayyims, and National Havurah Institutes, and Ruach Ha Aretz'. And yes, I too have taught from the fire where my passions have been lit. Reb Zalman taught us to teach whatever "little" we have learned. I have shared teachings gleaned from you, On Four Worlds, and Sephirot. All this birthed from my being in your light, Reb Zeller.

A few years later, I went to Yakar, to be with Rabbi Zeller during Reb Shlomo’s zt"l first yahrzeit. It was Simchat Torah and for the first tiime I danced in the street with Yakar's Torah. My sweet spiritual sister in the Old City, Ruthie Fogelman, brought me to Yakar, your organization, and I learned for the first time with Mimi Feigelson (and others) who thankfully the last few years is in Los Angeles at my alma matar.

Quoting from the Jewish Calendar Magazine (JCM) as Arts Editor from my Journey Reflections, July 1992 where I was living in Mishkenot Sha’ananim (Jerusalem’s artists’ guest house in Yemin Moshe ) and the Moriah Hotel:

"The hotel, is walking distance to the Jewish Quarter and visible from my window, where after my morning classes at Hebrew University, I would find the finest teachers with whom to study, such as Tzipora Heller, sharing her insights about women in the Bible, and Rabbi David Zeller teaching mysticism and meditation through song."

In the evenings I would go to the Israel Center, listen to Reb Shlomo and Reb Zeller together and watch Reb Zeller late into the night, walking and wheeling home his baby in the baby carriage. (I became a Rebbetzin Heller groupie too when she visited LA.)

Another article I wrote on My Journey, "As Rabbi David Zeller’s song goes, ‘The whole world is just a narrow bridge.'" I wrote about my trip to Thailand’s synagogues in 1991. Beshert of course, I got to the shuls because I played Reb Zeller’s tape to a stranger in a restaurant local to my home. I made the stranger come to my car and listen to "Brothers (and Sisters0 and Friends". He connected me to the people in Bangkok.

October 1991's JCM's issue, I find my Cassette Tape Review: LET GO by David Zeller.

Immediately I was struck with the maternal sketch by Reb Zeller's wife of Let GO on the cassette tape cover, knowing the tape then had to be nurturing. The words are in Hebrew, but for me transcend language barriers..." "...I first experienced David Zeller at a house concert and allowed myself to be drawn gently into the meditational sound of his healing voice. Since my "sixties" days and dancing in Central Park in Strawberry Fields with the Hari Krishnas, I have not chanted mantras. I have now opened up to a special sound which is available at all times in my home and car with the help of a playback machine. I use this tape for relaxation, tension reduction and for feeling closer to G*D. Sometimes I just listen, and sometimes, I sing along and feel as if I can help bring the world closer. Zeller teaches-psychologically and spiritually-through meditations, stories and songs....
by Joy Krauthammer

When I was feeling lost in Italy in 1992 after my luggage filled with my Israel's photos and memoirs disappeared, I sat in the women's upper chambers of a shul in Florence crying and chanted "Rebonno Shel Olam". I had learned this prayer from Reb Zeller and it comforted me; and the police could not help. Days later the luggage reappeared. Feeling better and In some other Italian town where I was visiting, a woman unknown to me came to me and asked, "What was the matter? I say you crying in the shul."

Whenever I would drive on the I-5, 7-12 hours up Northern California to a Jewish Renewal spiritual retreat and then return back from a stay at Esalen, it was Reb Zeller that I would listen to over and over and over in the car. (I played repeatedely also Shlomo, Hannah Tiferet Siegel and Leonard Cohen for all those hours.) When I am asked to lead a niggun, I offer to the community, "Ruach". I also sing Reb Zeller’s rendition of Shlomo’s song, "Return Again." Even now, with my husband’s recent death, I sing this to myself. I sing again, "Listen, listen, listen to my heart’s song..." Reb Zeller’s music makes a huge impact on my heart, my tiferet, my lev, and my harmony. I can chant " Shalom" forever.

When I was a guest host with Cantor Michael Russ on his LA’s "L’Chayim" NPR-KCSN radio program, I would play Rabbi Zeller’s music. He always let us know that we could call him "David." I would not but I loved sharing his music with the world.

From your world, I loved listening to a tape of you-Reb Zeller and rabbis Schachter-Shalomi and Carlebach on Jewish Mysticism at the 7th International Transpersonal Conference, February 1982 in Bombay, India.

Reb David Zeller and Joy Krauthammer
when it was not raining at retreat in Vallyermo
I loved having an opportunity to share with Reb Zeller. One Shabbaton outside LA at the mostly vegetarian retreat center, St. Andrews Priory in Vallyermo, it was raining and I was happy to give over my disposable raincoat and umbrella. I was thrilled that I was chosen to bring snacks to the rabbi’s room up the hill. I receive in my mind, heart and soul, so much from my #1 Rabbi and I am happy when I can do something for him.

In a letter to friends dated November 1992, telling of my husband Marcel’s z"l condition, I wrote, "On his last short trip to LA, Reb Dovid Zeller came to visit my husband, Marcel, Menachem Elimelech ben Tova Mateal, during his cancer treatments. Rabbi Zeller was my first rabbi of Light. I was led to him by Divine Providence. "In Your Light do I see Light." I felt that Reb Zeller with his prayers in the Holy Land kept Marcel’s health in the "temple of his heart."

My husband was being discharged from Cedars-Sinai Hospital and Reb Zeller who had been making prayers for my husband for years, agreed to meet us in Pico-Robertson--the ‘Hood’, not far from his mother's home and just before leaving for the airport. Reb Zeller put his hands on Marcel’s heart and I took a photo of them together. It meant alot to me. We met at our favorite Pico-Kosher Deli which we had used since Marcel and I were married November 10, 1974. I felt badly because I had not thought about Reb Zeller being a vegetarian. (Was that the trip where I managed to have friends, the Lesters, loan their car to Reb Zeller and they did not even know him?)

I see another JCM story dated 7/20/02 speaking about my husband.

How does Rabbi David Zeller’s song go about the wrinkle on the face? "I used to laugh a lot; sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not so easy. Everybody’s got to have ‘em some happies. Sometimes I feel like I can’t go on..." He’s coming to town beginning of August. When he forgets where he’s supposed to be for a concert he calls me even though he knows that I probably can’t make it (while caregiving). I love my rabbi and he knows it. Reb Zeller was my very first rabbi over a decade ago. I used to hang with him while he pushed his baby carriage and with dear Reb Shlomo zt"l, walking them home at 3 AM after a concert in our Holy Land, Jerusalem. Do you love your rabbi? Let’s pray for our teachers to have safe travels and be well.

I sang Reb Zeller's songs to stay balanced during what were our 18 years filled with continual cancer medical crises. "I circle around." Reb Dovid's songs are supportive, healing, filled with energy and peacefulness. "It’s a joy to get to know you." Is that the song on Reb Zeller’s web site where I can see him strumming in a video on his guitar? I love looking and listening even for a moment. It makes me feel good.

Knowing that Reb Zeller was coming to town, I would call and write to everyone. I would try to help him with possibilities of gigs. I used to always learn with him when he was at his dear mother’s filled to capacity, Jung Institute library on Pico. (Not long ago, Mrs. Zeller moved out of town to be with her daughter.) Once when entering the library to sing and to teach, Reb Zeller saw a circular medallion on my neck which I had purchased at a Kallah. Inscribed are the words, "In Your Light Do We See Light" and the Menorah and on the reverse side, "The Compassionate One Seeks the Heart" and the Sephirotic Tree of Life. I was so happy that Reb Zeller liked it, that I immediately removed it and gave it to him wanting him to have a gift from me, something he liked and insisted on him receiving the gift. I now wear, especially for Parsha BaHa'olotecha, a t-shirt with the same Hebrew words, and a menorah design.

Another very tiny gift that I gave to Reb Zeller was a sticker of a blue hand. I was visiting Jerusalem and in a park for a celebration and he was there wearing a happy hippy tie dye shirt, and with his family, so that I got to meet his dear wife. I felt the little sticker represented the hand of G*d. Reb Zeller allowed me to place one on the band of his watch, as a symbol to me as G*d's hands on his clock. In LA a year or so later, Reb Zeller related a funny story to me about how he had just met a follower (aka groupie) in Boston. The man told Reb Zeller that he had curiously witnessed in a park in Jerusalem someone (me) putting a sticker on his watch. Next time Reb Zeller came to town I made sure to find in a store a whole package of little colorful hand stickers so that he too could share them on his travels. Timing was perfect as his watch sticker was wearing out. They are like little "blessings of G*d resting upon you."

Reb David Zeller and Reb Stan Levy
B'nai Horin in Carole Foley's home
©  Joy Krauthammer 
I loved taking pictures of Reb Zeller and Rabbi Stan Levy whenever he came to B’nai Horin. I loved it when I could accompany Reb Zeller’s singing and guitar on my soulful Djembe drum at the Happy Minyan, at Beth Jacob, or at Metivta or...

I bought all of Reb Zeller’s song tapes and meditation sets. I would give extras as gifts. One of my favorites tapes is Path of the Heart. I should have been listening during the last year while my late husband was struggling to stay alive. My machines were broken.

A cute story that I recall is when Rabbi Zeller was coming to town and to the San Fernando Valley for a concert. I invited a group of friends to come that evening to a shul. We were the very first ones to arrive and saved the whole front row for ourselves, of course. A single man walked in and wanted a little of the pew for himself. No way, there is a whole shul where he could sit. Rick Sklar went on to share with us that Rabbi Zeller had stayed at his, Rick’s home, in Santa Barbara, 90 miles away. Where ever Rick wanted to sit in the front row was now his. We have been good friends ever since. (Rick drove to LA for Marcel’s funeral.) Funny thing that in the car going home, one of the gals in the group in the pew asked me who my long time old friend was as she had never met him before. "New friend', I declared, "never knew him before." Reb Zeller brought our friendship together, "like the spirit together, like a rainbow ‘round the sun." "Love, love, our love, watch our circle grow" and we will share the temple pews.

"Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free. To come round where we ought to be ... We’ll be in the Valley of love and delight. To bow and bend, turning we come round right...." I believe that Rabbi David Zeller’s songs are bringing Moshiach sooner, and all of us closer. Reb Dovid, "You are a blessing of the universe." L'Dor V'Dor.

It is a blessing also that my daughter, Aviva, has received your light, and she sings beautifully. She sang to her father, may he rest in peace, while he was on life-support in the ICUs. Aviva received blessings for her chuppah twelve months ago from my dear rabbis Stan Levy and Judith HaLevy. We "Circle Around...".

I could keep writing about the impact of Reb Zeller’s neshama on me, but it would be another Jewish thesis.

I love you. Happy 60 th birthday.

With blessings for shalom, health and joy,

Joy Krauthammer

* * *

May The Source of All Blessings, shower you with a shefa of sweetness, song, love, Torah and health and joy especially on the occasion of your 60th birthday.

You have shared your soulful gifts with us all these years, particularly your gift of song, which I continue to treasure and appreciate with all my heart. I bless you that all the gifts of goodness which you have bestowed upon us seek to return to you and for you to feel the love in receiving that you have shared in giving from your Four Worlds.

I bless you with all levels of joy Gila, Rena, Simcha, Sasoon, Deetza, Chedva.

Mazal tov!

May you look forward to a good and blessed year.

Ad meah v'esrim. May you live until one hundred and twenty.
Harachaman hu y'chadesh aleinu et hashanah hazot l'tovah u'livrakhah.

May the Merciful One renew this year for goodness and for a blessing.

With lots of light, love, and

June 2006

Reb Dovid Zeller loved to sing RETURN AGAIN.
I wrote out the words he sang with his teaching.
On this his 5th yahrzeit 2012, I add the ChArt page. - Joy Krauthammer ©

Return Again
ChArt Art by Joy Krauthammer ©

On this 6th Yahrzeit 5773 of dear Reb Zeller, I add that his resting place is Kfar Etzion Cemetary.

"Return Again, Return again, 
Return to the land of your soul. 
Return to who you are.
Return to what you are.
Return to where you are.
Born and reborn again."

- melody, Reb Shlomo Carlebach

"Increasing our G*d consciousness is a process of constant Returning, each time coming out, 
being reborn closer to the essence of what we are, and who we are, and what makes us, and moves through us. 
The circles and levels unite in a multi-dimensional spiral." - Rabbi David Zeller

 I recall with love, the teachings and songs blesSings of dear Reb David Zeller, z"l, and Reb Shlomo Carlebach, z"l.

Reb Zeller's yahrzeit 7 Sivan, is during Shavuot. 
Counting the Omer ends at Shavuot, and I recall the very sad news delivered Shavuot morning of Reb Zeller's death. 
Personally, celebrating Shavuot that morning, I was with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at Isabella Freedman Center when in grief, he informed us all that Reb Zeller Returned Again to the Holy One.
~ ~ ~ 


Serve G*d With Joy

"Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha"
© Joy Krauthammer