Article by: Rabbi Fishel Zaklos
Appeared in the Fed Star

It might sound like a platitude to say, “We are not strangers. — we are all brothers and sisters, we love and respect each other, we are one with you, we are here for you through thick and thin.” Or, “We may have different perspectives and levels of observance, we may have disagreements and in the process I may challenge you, and be challenged by you, but first and foremost we are internally linked forever.”  But there is actually great truth to these words. We are all children of G‑d, our souls eternally interconnected like siblings in one family.

As we approach the anniversary of the day that the Rebbe, of blessed memory, the most influential Rabbi in modern history, assumed leadership of Chabad, it is fitting to remember this special man whose inspiration and teaching  guided us on what makes a community and how it should function like a family.

Jacob our father was the first to establish a Jewish community, a haven for Judaism, in a remote location.  On his journey, he encountered a group of shepherds, and addressed them, though they were yet strangers, "My brothers, from where do you come?"  With these words, everything changed. Barriers between groups vanished as an honest feeling of friendship and brotherhood evolved to where everyone gained respect for the other. They were no longer mere acquaintances; they understood they were all children of G‑d.


A simple question: what is the difference between a surgeon and a pilot? When someone needs surgery, G‑d forbid, he is very cautious, searching for the best possible surgeon.  His life is at risk, and he wants to ensure he has the most qualified expert. When the same person books an airline flight, with all its risks, why doesn't he search for the best pilot? Why doesn’t he ask for the pilot’s resume and call 10 people for references?

If the pilot is inept, the plane will go down. A flight in midair is as dangerous as a knife going into one’s body. Why are we not more discriminating with pilots before we board an airplane?

When it comes to choosing our pilot, in whom we entrust our lives during a flight 30,000 feet over an ocean, we don’t know anything about him, and for all we know, he could be completely incompetent.


The answer is obvious: the pilot, flying with you, is exposed to the same risks as the passengers. The surgeon, on the other hand, is not lying on the slab with the patient. If the surgery doesn't go well, G‑d forbid, as pained as he might be, the surgeon can return to his home and continue with his life. The pilot, however, goes where we go and if he doesn’t know what he is doing, he would never sit in that driver seat.

The Rebbe of blessed memory would tell us to be like pilots for our community: their problem is our problem; their celebration is our celebration.

A man wandered through a forest for several days, lost at nightfall, enveloped in darkness. Alone and frightened, he suddenly saw a glimmer of light in and caught sight of a traveler carrying a lantern. When the two travelers met, he asked the man with the lantern, “Tell me the right way out of the woods. I’ve been roaming in this forest for several days.”  

The man said, “My friend, I do not know the way out, for I too have been wandering for many days.  But one thing I can tell you, the way I came will lead you astray.” He said to his fellow traveler, “Brother! Let us look for a new way together.”  

In many ways all of us are searching and confused, and must declare: Achai! My brothers & sisters, we must hold hands and seek together for the way out of the woods.

On a personal note, The Naples community is our dear family and together we can find new ways and fresh solutions.

Thanks to our extended family that includes Federation, for giving us the platform to share our words, and to David Willens for his incredible years of building the community.  Welcome to Jeffrey Feld who has, in a very short time, continued the practice. I thank G‑d Almighty for the amazing opportunity to be a part such a special community, with its wonderful spirit of brotherhood and generosity!