In commemoration of Hillel Zeitlin’s 75th yartzheit, I am sharing a short excerpt from his 1917 work Al Gvul Shnei Olamot, BetweenTwo Worlds. Containing numerous elements, Al Gvul Shnei Olamot incorporates personal reflections on current events, spiritual angst, short essays on religious thought, amongst other things. While I plan to devote further studies to this work and its translation, this excerpt suffices in demonstrating Zeitlin’s spirit.
For the original Hebrew, click here.
For more about Hillel Zeitlin and his life, click here.
11 Nissan (April 3, 1917)
The currents swirl around me…I ascend and descend, descend and ascend. My spirit is not fixed. There is no respite. And I am so in need of rest. How do I long for rest. Alas, Master of the World, give me but a little rest!
I stumble in sin and fall. The present times are so very great, calling for greatness and heroism, yet I am cast into a mire of chaos and trapped in the narrow corner of party politics and journalistic disputes. When shall I find relief from this small, constricted, withdrawn world I inhabit against my will?
The voice of the Lord calls forth in strength, both in glory and in silence most thin: “Return to me and I shall return to you, cast off your infantile and meager concerns along with all of your primitive, constrained, and narrow ideas. Lift up your eyes on high, gaze upon endless worlds, which will be given life through my words; through my words they will be propelled, shine, sink, rise up, fall down, to me they will bow, to me they will pay heed. Even on this lowly planet, where you find yourselves, do I not create anew, monumental deeds, which have never previously undertaken, wars and revolutions the likes of which have never been. Do you not see, that the dominion of evil passes ever so slowly from the world, while the dominion of good is stated to come. It draws nearer day by day. And you, House of Jacob, what do you do? Pursuing chaos, sunken in folly, trickery, and lies, seeking pleasure, seeking wealth and honor. Even the good ones amongst you, what are they doing? They are engaged in trivial disputes, party fights, language wars, dwelling in pettiness, narrow programs, baseless politics, exhausting and twisting affairs, disappointment and dismay, baseless hatred to no end. When shall an end come to all of these?
And even you, Hillel! You aspire upwards, but you have have not the strength to ascend higher and higher without limits. You strive to ascend—and fall. You ascend—and fall. You lack the rest to take brave steps on the straight and ready path.
But, my Father in Heaven! From whom shall I seek the rest I need, if not from you, My Father-of-Peace, whose name is peace? From whom shall I request strength and courage, if not from you, Supreme Force, whose hand contains all, “…it is in Your hand to raise up and strengthen all”?
Pray, strengthen me. Pray, encourage me. Pray, do not deliver me to my narrow being. I shall not be ashamed. I shall not be disgraced. Do not let me fall. Support me with your right hand. Have mercy upon me from the repository of boundless giving. Have mercy upon me in your kindness, for in you alone does my salvation lie.