Rabbi Fishel's Blog

In the Face of Darkness: The unstoppable Force of Light

 Dear Friend,

There is one word that comes to mind and that I am craving to see more of: light.
The Bible tells us that the first thing that was created by G-d was light. “And the Lord said let there be light, and there was light." 
Why is light so important that it was created before anything else? 
In recent weeks and months the answer has become clearer to me: In a world that sometimes feels so dark and depressing, the greatest antidote is bringing light into it. “Let there be a light!” is an eternal mandate given to each of us to bring light into our hearts, homes and community. 
There is darkness in your heart? Let there be light! There is darkness in your home? Let there be light! There is darkness in your community? Guess what…let there be light! 
When dark forces wreak havoc on those we love, we can feel powerless to stop them. And while we may not be able to prevent darkness from occurring, we are far from powerless to keep it from spreading.
There is an old Hasidic expression that you don’t fight darkness with sticks and stones; you fight darkness by lighting a match. Of course, the IDF needs to take up arms and defend themselves, and fight for Israel and for the Jewish people and for the world, and eradicate evil. But what can those of us who are thousands of miles away do? How do we ignite the light that dispels pervasive darkness?
Light is relevant every day of the year, as we always need to add brightness to our world. Indeed, we have the mitzvah to light Shabbat candles every Friday night, but let’s be honest; there’s no better time to focus on light than during the holiday of lights: Chanukah. We start off by lighting one solitary candle and then each day we add another, thus flooding more light into the darkness of winter.
And there is another powerful reason that light is coming to mind: 
Very soon after the horrific events of October 7th, my colleagues and I travelled to our Holy Land of Israel for a mission to support the families who suffered loss and displacement due to the inhumane actions of Hamas. We brought with us 25 duffle bags full of bullet proof vests, iPads, toys, and other essential items to aid in their time of crisis. We also deployed much-needed funds raised from our community.
During our time there, we saw a tremendous amount of darkness. My heart breaks just from thinking about the unimaginable loss and devastation we came face to face with. Parents who lost children, children who lost parents. We met people who witnessed the greatest evils imaginable and were now grieving their loss. 
At the same time, we witnessed so much light; so much goodness. People who lost so much were full of hope and optimism for the future. They were determined to live and honor the lives and loss of their loved ones. I saw heroes with unbelievable inner strength, and we met people who can never be defeated because their fire and light can never be extinguished. 
I came with the intention to bring light and I returned brighter than ever. Even my own sadness and heaviness was melted and warmed in the brightness of the light I witnessed. 
Yes friends, that is why light was created first––because it is the most potent force on earth. Nothing can get in the way of the light. 
Nothing can get in the way of goodness, of justice, of our beloved Israel and our incredible nation. Light will always win.
Yet, there is much darkness, despair and despondency out there in our world now. The hypocrisy of so many people in the face of the loss of Jewish life is maddening. The evil hate of Jews and their state is terrifying. 
So what do we do about it? 
You know the answer: “let there be light!” The powers of darkness have nothing on the light of a menorah, the light of Shabbat candles, the light of a kind deed and a loving word. 
So here’s a loving suggestion: Light your own menorah this Chanukah and witness the magic of light over darkness for yourself.
Come to our public menorah lighting and Chanukah festival and celebrate Jewish pride. Chabad of Naples will be bringing talented Hassdic Rapper Nissim Black to our community. For those who haven't had the pleasure of listening to Nissim, he's truly one of a kind. Nisim is a pure source of joy and light and through hip-hop he raps about love of Israel, Judaism and how both can be a source of strength. 
His story of resilience and overcoming obstacles will resonate with everyone regardless of your religion. With thought-provoking, evocative and family-friendly lyrics his music will uplift everyone's spirits.
So please, come, enjoy, bring your friends and family. Reserve your spot now and be part of this special celebration.
For nearly 4,000 years the Jewish people have strived to be a light unto the nations. We have banded together when times were tough and when the darkness threatened to swallow us. Yet we have shined our light and that light has sustained us until today.
Do not underestimate the power of your own light. Now is the time to shine it stronger than ever.
Let there be light in our world! Amen.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos 

The Big Build is On! Investing in Light, Love, and Community

Mazel Tov!

Dear Chabad of NaplesNaples Preschool of the Arts Family and the entire Naples Community,

We are thrilled to share some groundbreaking news with all of you.

After two years of relentless effort, persistence, and unwavering dedication, we are delighted to announce that the "Big Build," expansion project has received approval of the city! This is a significant milestone that marks the beginning of an exciting chapter in the history of our school and community.

"The Big Build" project is designed to provide our campus with much-needed additional classrooms, a STEM room, a library, and a rooftop terrace and assembly space for Chabad's programming for the wider community. We are very excited about the new classrooms which will also serve our Hebrew School students, our teen programming, and our summer camp. Despite facing numerous challenges throughout the approval process, including unexpected delays and adjustments due to new city ordinances, our collective determination has prevailed, and we have received the city's blessings to proceed with our ambitious project.

The weeks ahead will witness the initial stages of our project, including fencing, excavating, grading, and clearing at the site. We look forward to providing our community with progress updates on the construction throughout the project so you can know what to expect.

The construction is not expected to interfere with our regularly scheduled Chabad & Preschool calendar and events. However, parking on our campus will be limited as soon as construction begins. We are very grateful to our next-door neighbor, the Horizons building, for generously offering their parking lot for our use throughout the duration of the construction. For larger events, our community is welcome to park on the nearby Publix which is a very short walk from campus. Your continued support and involvement are crucial, and we appreciate your patience as we embark on this exciting endeavor together.

To celebrate this momentous occasion, we will be hosting a grand community-wide "Ground-Breaking Celebration" on January 19th at 9:00 AM. Please mark your calendars for this special event, where we will formally celebrate the onset of construction and share the joy of this significant achievement.

We are blessed to share that we have reached a milestone of $5 million raised for the Big Build expansion! We still need $2.5 million to reach our goal for this project, and invite our community to partner with us to reach the finish line.

We need the support of our community to help us meet our fundraising goal. Every donation counts.

In these difficult times in Israel and the world at large, the need for light and love has never been greater. That is what the Big Build is all about - investing in light, love, and building community right here in Naples.

Please consider giving today to bring more light, love, and joy as we build the community center of tomorrow.

Donate to the Big Build today at 

To learn more, and to see all of our dedication opportunities, or to schedule a personal meeting with Rabbi Fishel Zaklos or Ettie Zaklos, Email [email protected], [email protected] 

We are confident that the momentum will only continue to build as we progress through each phase of the project. We have set an ambitious construction timeline of completing the building by December 2024 and we look forward to updating you as we progress. 

Together, we are making history, and we look forward to celebrating this journey with all of you.

Warm regards,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Arthur M Seigel 

and the Big Build Team


A Yiddishe Mame

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we read Parshas Chayay Sarah, and one of the main great personalities is the first mother of the Jewish people, Sarah Imeinu.

Sarah faced numerous challenges in her life including being kidnapped, suffering from infertility, and together with our father Avraham, constantly (spiritually) battling an immoral and corrupt world. Together they opened all four doors of their tent and invited people in to eat and learn about the one G-d and the ethics and values that He desires humans to uphold and transmit to the world. They quite literally transformed the fabric of the world to become a place where goodness and kindness are valued and upheld.

Yet, Sarah was much more than just a teacher, a hostess, and the voice of G-dliness. She was a Jewish mother, the first one, and the woman who personified passion, dedication, and burning love that as any Jewish mother knows is what drives our every thought and action. In the words of the famous song, “A Yiddishe Mame” – “Oh I know that I owe what I am today…To that wonderful Yiddishe Momme of mine.”

After years of infertility, at the ripe old age of 90, “G d remembered Sarah” and blessed her with a son, Yitzchok. This perhaps was Sarah’s most treasured life’s mission. She invested her heart and soul, in fact, her very essence, into her son. Sarah raised Yitzchak in a home imbued with purity and holiness. She instilled love, warmth & G-dliness into her home and ensured that negativity and bad influences be kept out.  

Sarah transmitted this dedication and selflessness to all Jewish mothers that followed her.

Last week, a group of mothers started a Facebook group called: “Mothers Against College Antisemitism (MACA), and within 48 hours there were 42,000 followers. Reading the posts, it exemplified the power and strength of the Jewish mother, the single-minded dedication and resoluteness to stop the negativity and hatred resounding on college campuses. Just like our first mother Sarah, and straight out of her child-rearing playbook, these committed mothers are banding together and investing all of their energy, love, and enthusiasm to protect the hearts, souls, and minds of their precious children and to try and make this world into a more G-dly, more peaceful and more beautiful place.

In honor, of Sarah Imeinu, all the IDF soldiers fighting, the hostages, and all of our brothers and sisters in Israel, all women should light Shabbat candles. This Mitzvah transmitted to us by our mother Sarah, will bring more light into this world and brighten up the darkness with the blinding light of our Shabbat flames.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a week of good news ahead!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  


My Visit to Israel; Heroes, Sirens, and Broken Hearts

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Dear Friends, 

“Libi bamezrach, v’anochi besof maarav,” my heart is in the East, but I am at the end of the West. These are the poetic words of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, referencing Jerusalem from his place of residence in 10th century Spain—and these words strongly represent how I, and many of us diaspora Jews feel right now.

Two weeks after the war broke out, I, and some of my rabbinical colleagues felt a calling to bring the love and support of our communities here in Florida to our brothers and sisters in Israel.

The Naples and Marco Island community rallied together with donations, supplies, and handwritten cards. I arrived at the airport laden with 25 duffel bags of gifts, including iPads, G-shock watches, and ceramic armored vests for the IDF. I felt as if I was bringing my whole community along, if not in person, then in spirit and encouragement.

Upon arriving in Israel, our first visit was to a small-town hotel where the Israelis of Kibbutz Aza had been relocated to.

Kfar Aza was a small Israeli farming community with beautiful green grass and tidy home gardens. Just under 800 people lived there, mostly families and young children. The residents tell me that in good times, Kfar Aza was a slice of heaven on earth.

On Simchat Torah, October 7th, they woke up to hell. 70 Hamas militants stormed the small community, starting from the side where the youngest families lived, and went on a 48-hour murderous rampage.

By the time we arrived, the community had held funerals and were sitting shiva for 52 friends and family, from babies and children to Holocaust survivors. They were praying for another 13 who are either kidnapped to Gaza, or still missing.

My heart hurt. The people of Kfar Aza were sitting outside in many circles. In each circle another family sat mourning their loved ones, as friends struggled to pull them through. I sat with them. There were no words to say that would heal such a wound, but at least I could sit shoulder-to-shoulder and bring the love of our community from miles away.

Then we went to visit the headquarters of families of the kidnapped victims. I spoke with mothers whose children were taken by Hamas terrorists. It was soul-crushing. Each family hugged photos of their loved ones and begged us to do everything we could to bring their children and parents home. I promised we would lobby our senator and congressmen, and hand signs everywhere. I knew our community would. On Shabbat we have a poster of kidnapped victims on every chair, and our congregation prays for each and every one.

We visited the city of Sderot, where dozens of residents were killed by terrorists, and the locals still live under constant rocket fire, with less than 15 seconds to get to safety. Amongst the many other important causes we donated to, I brought donations from our community to the Chabad center which is a massive bomb shelter and became the city War Room, with a warehouse of food to deliver to each home.

We met reserve soldiers who have everyday jobs like you and me and left their wives and children at home to fight for their security.

In Be’er Sheva, on our way to Soroka Hospital, we had to run off the bus and lay flat on the floor while a missile was exploded by the Iron Dome overhead. At the hospital we met heroes of Israel, who continued battling to save as many lives as they could, even after being shot multiple times. I delivered gifts, read the personal cards our community sent along with them, and heard the same words again and again, everywhere we went.

“Thank you for coming. Thank you for bringing your love and showing that we are one people.”

After a heart-wrenching and nonstop four days, I returned to Florida, but my heart remains in the East. I’m humbled that our community trusted me on this important mission to bring their love, donations and huge gifts to our family in Israel, and I know that from here, we will continue to support them, and do everything we can for the safe return of the 241 hostages.

Our community donated huge amounts to soup kitchens, victims of war, and security needs in Israel. We continue to receive many requests for vital supplies that are needed there, urgently. To continue contributing, visit:

Join us for an unforgettable evening of music and solidarity: Six13 A Cappella Concert in Support of Israel! Tomorrow night Monday, November 6 at 7:00 pm.

Your presence could truly make a difference as we want to show our strength in numbers. It's more than just a concert; it's an opportunity for us to stand together, celebrate our heritage, and support one another. This event is a chance for us to come together and show our strength as a community. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

We are one nation, under one God, and we will rise from this together.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  


How am I supposed to feel now?

These last few days were a whirlwind, I could barely sleep a minute. I met with my people all around Israel, sat and listened to their heartbreak until mine felt like it was shattered too.

I hugged and cried with soldiers who had seen the unseeable, and stood with mothers whose babies were torn from their arms and wait for them in Hamas’s tunnels of hell. I promised that Ettie and I and our Naples and Marco Mishpacha would do everything we could, and tossed and turned over that vow all night.

I saw the heroism of Israel, the brave people who ran into the fires and showed superhuman strength to guard their people, I got the chills when they said they’d do anything for the nation of Israel, because I saw that it was true. I felt their faith straight through my bones when after all they witnessed and survived, they stood up to thank God, don tefillin, and pledge to light Shabbat candles.

I wish I could stay side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder with them until all the pain is healed.

I’m on my way back to our Naples and Marco Island community, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my dear wife Ettie Zaklos who held the fort back at home. I feel so blessed to be supported by my amazing partner who keeps everything going, for our kids, world famous Chabad of Naples, our community, and of course, #1 Preschool of the Arts! She’s the pillar of support and absolute powerhouse behind and in front of everything I do. Thank you, Ettie!

I’d also like to say a tremendous thank you to every single person who donated. Your donation is feeding and clothing victims of terror, lifting up the injured, and supporting our soldiers.

You’re making a huge difference to the IDF, and to lift their morale when they need it most, and much more.

Your donation is doing incredible things for Israel, and you showed that we can do something. We can show up and make a difference. And now we need to do even more. The need is real!

I would like to encourage you to continue to be strong and continue your support, and the mitzvot you had started doing for our brothers and sisters. I invite you to join us this Shabbos at 11:00 am as I share first-hand stories and as we say "L'chaim" - to life, to good health, and blessings for all who need it.

Let us make a resolution that we will not rest until our brothers and sisters can walk the streets safely, be happy, and each of the hostages are returned safely. Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

*Not One But TWO Surprise Bar Mitzvahs!*

*Not One But TWO Surprise Bar Mitzvahs!*

Yesterday, I was referred by a Chabad colleague in Maryland to visit a wonderful woman in a local hospital, a resilient soul engaged in a fierce battle against a daunting illness. As I walked into the hospital room, I was immediately enveloped by the warm embrace of her big, beautiful family. In the midst of our conversation, I shared that I've been making an extra effort to don tefillin with people, to connect with our traditions and heritage in support of Israel. Then something extraordinary unfolded before my eyes. The woman's son, without hesitation, agreed to put on tefillin. But the story didn't end there.

Her husband, standing beside her, expressed that he had never had a bar mitzvah and had never experienced the ritual of putting on tefillin. I immediately announced, "Your bar mitzvah is right now," and he too wrapped tefillin and said the Shema prayer. 

Then another elderly family member shared that he, too, never had a bar mitzvah and never wrapped tefillin. And so, within minutes, a second bar mitzvah took place. 

Tears flowed freely, as we sang and celebrated a profound, unbreakable connection to our faith, to our heritage, and to one another. It was one of the most emotional moments I've encountered throughout all my years as a rabbi. 

Most importantly, this beautiful and poignant moment brought incredible joy to the woman who is courageously battling her illness. It was the best medicine in the world, a medicine of the heart and soul. In a single day, we celebrated not one, but two bar mitzvahs – of my new friends Moishe and Velvel. 

With the family's permission, I share this powerful experience with all of you. May it remind us all of the profound impact we can have on each other's lives, the strength that comes from embracing our heritage, and the immense power of unity. In these grave times in Israel and around the world, the Jewish spirit still beats strong. Am Yisrael Chai!

I Am Going to Israel On Behalf of Our Community

Dear Friends,

In the wake of the horrific atrocities committed against our dear brothers and sisters in Israel, and in recognition of the enormous challenges they are now facing in a war of unknown proportions, I will be joining a small delegation of Chabad rabbis from across the United States on a mission of support and solidarity to the Holy Land, departing this Sunday.

During this visit, we will be visiting with the brave soldiers of the IDF now stationed on front lines in the north and south and provide them with critical military gear to help keep them safe.. We will also visit hospitals with those who were wounded in the brutal attacks as well as families mourning for loved ones who were savagely murdered, hy”d.

Our mission, while brief, will be impactful, as we seek to provide both physical and emotional support to those affected by this crisis.

Beyond an opportunity to give practical expression to the feelings and passions that have been bubbling up inside me ever since I learned of the devastating attack, I see this as an opportunity to share the huge outpourings of love and support that have been forthcoming on Israel’s behalf from throughout our Collier County Community.

I will utilize the opportunity to distribute additional donations being made now to Israel Emergency Fund via our website to those who can benefit most from those funds.

I will convey the demonstrations of Jewish pride, strength, and resolve our community has been displaying in solidarity with our brethren during this time of peril and crisis.

I will let them know that they are absolutely not alone; that we in the diaspora stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in declaring “Am Yisrael Chai” – now and forever!

If you would like to have me deliver a personal card or letter from you and/or your family members to any or all of the aforementioned groups, please place your message(s) in an unsealed envelope(s), indicating on the outside for which group it is intended (ex. “soldiers”, “wounded”, or “families in mourning”) and drop it/them off at the Chabad Naples no later than 3:00 pm this Friday, October 20.

I will be happy to hand-deliver your uplifting and heartfelt message of “chizuk” (strength and reinforcement) to their intended recipients at this most critical time.

We know that our Naples community is filled with compassionate hearts and boundless love for our brothers and sisters in the holy land.

As we embark on this mission, I ask for your continued prayers and support. Our unity is a source of strength, and with blessings from Hashem, we pray for the complete recovery of the survivors, the immediate return of the hostages, and a swift end to the current crisis.

To contribute to this vital mission, please donate at 100% of every donation designated for Israel will go directly to emergency relief. 

May Hashem watch over our brothers and sisters in Israel, and may He grant them the strength to endure these challenging times. Together, let us stand united in faith, love, and support.

May He who makes peace on High make peace for us and for all Israel".

I look forward to sending your regards to our brothers and sisters in Israel…

With deep gratitude and warmest blessings,

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

PS - I plan to send periodic updates while in Israel via my personal Facebook page as well as report to you upon my return.

Let's add some extra light in the world

Dear Friends,

We are looking forward to a full house tomorrow for the Israel Solidarity Shabbat: '’Shabbat of Unity, Inspiration and Strength' at 11:00pm. Rest assured that proper security measures are in place.

Words cannot describe how we all feel right now. There are simply no terms available to describe the depth of the pain, the outrage, and the sadness of this past week.

But neither can words contain the strength of the Jewish People’s resolve, and the immense power of our faith and our unity. United as one and firm in our trust in G-d, Torah assures us victory over the evil people who are blinded by darkness.

This Friday evening, as we enter Shabbat in the comfort of our homes, hundreds of our brothers and sisters will be in the farthest place from peace and light.

What kind of Shabbat will it be for those in captivity, those on the front lines, those lying injured in hospitals, those reeling from loss of loved ones?

Let's add some extra light in the world and hope that somehow it reaches them.

Let's unite as a people with the beautiful mitzvah of Shabbat candles lighting up the world.

If you've never done it or not for a while, light a candle this Friday before sunset.

Do it for the merit of the captives, that they emerge from captivity to freedom, from darkness to light.

For the soldiers that they be safe and return home in peace.

For the injured and those who have lost loved ones, that they be healed and comforted.

After lighting the candles, cover your eyes and say the following blessing: "Baruch attah Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha'olam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu l'hadlik ner shel Shabbat Kodesh." 

Then say or think your own prayers in your own words. 

May we all be blessed to see the time when the whole world will be Shabbat -- peaceful, kind, loving -- when G-d's presence will no longer be hidden.

Please see a selection of prayers, stories and insights which we hope can bring you some comfort, context, and encouragement.

7 Things You Can Do for Israel Now

Psalms for Times of Distress

I Am an IDF Fighter and My Faith Will Carry Me Through

Chabad Centers Near IDF Bases Lifelines for Soldiers Headed to War

Israel Emergency Relief Fund

Things That Make Me So Proud to Be a Jew Right Now

Let’s remember: We are all in this together. And together, with G-d’s help, we shall overcome.

We pray for healing for the injured, safe return for the hostages, and divine protection for our brave IDF soldiers.

With love,

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and a great week!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos


This is time for action


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Dear Friend,

The horrific fighting in Israel not only continues unabated, it is escalating with horrific consequences.

Together we must escalate our help and support to our precious brothers and sisters in Israel suffering such horror.

The pain is unbearable. It will become even more unbearable as the awareness of the enormity of the tragedy starts to be realized.

Scenes that have not been seen since the Holocaust awaken the global Jewish consciousness to the existence of antisemitism that we thought had been relegated to ‘Never Again’.

Many people are asking ‘what will be’?

Upon the conclusion of the Yom Kippur war, Rabbi Yisroel M. Lau (who later became chief Rabbi of Israel) visited the Rebbe and said that people are asking “What is going to be?” The Rebbe answered, ‘One shouldn’t ask, ‘What will be?’ We should ask, ‘What are we going to do?’

 In that vein, I would like to share a call to action.

As this is not a time to be paralyzed with pain or fear.

This is time for action.

Help we can. And must. In the ways available to us.

In physical ways

There are multiple organizations that need funds for the soldiers, the emergency workers, and for the families that have their lives disrupted. All of the funds raised will be distributed directly by Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos among people and organizations we know on the ground in Israel.

The funds will be used to support:

–   Victims of Terror

–   IDF Soldiers

–   Equipment

–   Food, Shelter & Hygiene

–   Spiritual Support

–   Trauma & Therapy 

And we can help in spiritual ways, based on our holy traditions.

Firstly, we need to be strong in our faith and optimistic about the blessed outcome of this war. 

We are an eternal people. We will continue to exist and will continue to flourish. We will continue to be connected to our Torah and our faith, and we will continue to be connected to each other!

Our enemies want us to give up.

Our being positive is critical.

The books of Kabala point out that our positivity down here creates a Divine mirroring of positive energy from Heaven. 

Secondly, we need to deploy our spiritual ‘weapons’.

Torah teaches us (and history has repeatedly demonstrated to us) that the physical protection of each one of us — and, indeed, our very collective destiny! — is intrinsically connected to our spiritual activism.

When we pray or dedicate a good deed to our brothers and sisters in Israel, we create a spiritual defense shield for them that will help them through difficult and dangerous times.

In that vein, we have gathered below some of the directives that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, shared with people worldwide during times of crisis in Israel; positive action we can each take for Israel and its people.

Beneath our superficial differences, we are all united.

We are ONE people.   

May Hashem protect our soldiers who are putting their lives on the line to protect our people and our land.

May Hashem bless and protect our hostages wherever they are and may they swiftly be reunited with their families safe and sound.

May the wounded be healed completely and swiftly.

May all our brothers and sisters in our Holy Land be able to live together in safety, security and Shalom.

And may all Jews world over be able to live openly and proudly Jewish lives in safety and security.

 Am Yisrael Chai!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

L’chaim to our Blessings


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Dear Friends, 

When was the last time you asked someone how their day was going and they responded by using adjectives such as “amazing, incredible, unreal, or awesome…?”

It's becoming increasingly rare to hear people describe life this way–at least not without a good amount of L’Chaims.

Being positive is not in vogue, rather, being cynical and despondent about the present and future seems to be the more popular approach adopted by too many.

Will you join me in disagreeing with this trend?

Not just because it’s a great time to be alive—which it is. So many statistics show that when weighing the economic, health and longevity, sanitation, and many other factors, we are living in incredible times compared to almost all of history.

The reason we need to disagree with being despondent is because it sucks the marrow out of life. Life is too precious to waste on negativity and ingratitude, and miss out on the incredible blessings.

Yes, we all have blessings in our lives.

Each morning when we wake up, we traditionally say the words of the Modeh Ani prayer, in which we thank the Creator for restoring our lives to us:

"I thank you, living and enduring King, for You have graciously returned my soul within me. So great is Your faithfulness."

Thanks for what?

For so much!

For example: For waking up. Unfortunately, some people didn’t wake up this morning and passed on. I woke up. Thank You.

For sitting up in bed. So many people cannot sit up. Thank You, my Creator.

For opening my eyes. For moving my limbs. For the gift of touch, smell, hearing, taste. There are many people who don’t have all those specific blessings. Every living being has so much to be thankful for.

Thank You G-d for the phone I am about to check, the friends and family whose social media posts I’ll be scrolling through today, and the memes I’ll give a chuckle to.

For fresh air. For electricity. For a universe bigger and greater than I can imagine. For my heart. For my brain. For knowledge. For relationships. For the kindnesses I will do, and the kindnesses I will receive.

In Judaism, we take the value of gratitude – Hakarat Hatov – very seriously. Already in one of the first stories in the Torah, we witness the dysfunction of ingratitude. It’s a famous tale. G-d tells Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge.

Adam and Eve took a bite. G-d shows up and demands an explanation. Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent. Let's zoom in on Adam’s words: “The woman You gave me is the one who convinced me to eat the fruit.”

How ungrateful. Without Eve, Adam was the loneliest human being ever. Now, he has a wife, a companion, a friend, another human to share his life with. Say thank you, Adam!

Friends, that is what ingratitude looks like. What a miserable and immoral way to live.

We all have the choice to adopt a lifestyle of gratitude, where we notice every blessing in our lives and say thank you.

Yes, there are huge challenges in this physical world we inhabit. The Garden of Eden is perfect, but that’s in heaven. This world is messy, complicated, tragic, and intense–but it is also full of so much beauty, grace, love, awe and goodness. It’s all around you. Get off Facebook, TikTok, and X (formerly Twitter), and look in the eyes of almost every person you see on the street. You will see so much goodness.

This world is stunning. It’s Sukkot season. Get out into the Sukkah with your loved ones. Chill. Breathe. Take in the magic of being alive.

Don’t you agree?


The New Year Starts with You

The New Year Starts with You

Dear Friends,

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is upon us once again. It inaugurates a month of rich, colorful, meaningful holidays, with a spirit that ranges from the solemn to the ecstatic. With it comes opportunities for fresh beginnings, personal growth, and new resolutions. We enter the month of Tishrei with the intention of embracing new resolutions, engaging in self-transformation, and uniting with those around us to cultivate a more cohesive community.  

A good way to predict the success of our resolutions is to look at the scope and scale of what we want to achieve. Should we aspire to become a completely different person, or maybe single-handedly solve world hunger, we are not likely to get too far. Implementing and maintaining change is achievable when we take on smaller, immediately attainable goals. We are more likely to keep to our plan when we connect these goals with something real and tangible.

For example, if you want to kindle greater sensitivity or kindness this year, select one specific compassionate action that you will start doing. If you are concerned about world hunger, volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen. If you wish for a deeper connection to your Jewish identity, incorporate one small, new Jewish ritual into your routine. Gradually these steps will pave the wave for a more significant transformation.

This story will help illustrate:

A father once gave his 10-year-old daughter a puzzle of the map of the world for her to put together. Ten minutes later she handed in the puzzle, perfectly completed. The father was amazed. “How did you know where to put everything, and to do it so fast?” The child had a simple explanation. “Daddy, I am really not so good at geography, but I noticed a picture of myself pasted to the back of the map. I figured if I focus on putting myself back together then the world will come together too.”

As we navigate our daily lives, it is apparent that we are living in a world rife with discord, marked by political turmoil and disunity, in Israel and around the globe.  Thus, the importance of self-improvement takes on a profound meaning.  The idea that "First, I need to change myself, then change the world" resonates deeply, encouraging us to acknowledge our own shortcomings and biases before attempting to heal larger divides.  

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the world's problems, but the lessons from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur teach us that success lies in focusing on manageable, attainable goals.  By connecting our aspirations for personal growth with tangible actions, we can navigate a path of meaningful change.  And as we put ourselves back together, piece by piece, we can join together with our friends, family, and neighbors to build a stronger, more unified community on a local, regional, and global scale.

This Rosh Hashanah, dream big, but remember that change starts within each of us and that progress takes place in small steps. And then, not only will we see our resolution withstand the test of time, but we will also see a gradual change in the world around us until we speedily merit that time promised by our prophets of old, a time of world peace, perfection, and tranquility.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a Shana Tova Umetukah, a good and sweet new year for all.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

Let's begin this beautiful year together

Dear Friends,

Capturing a Beautiful Beginning: Meet Scott and Michael Weinstein, a father-son duo in our beloved Chabad Naples family who are always radiating warmth and love.

Michael is an exceptional and sweet young soul - every Friday we exchange heartfelt 'Good Shabbos' messages via WhatsApp, a tradition we've cherished for three years now without fail**.

But yesterday held an even more special moment. With the Jewish New Year on the horizon, Michael and Scott decided to embrace a new practice: daily tefillin.

Father and son wanted to do one small thing as they prepare for the High Holidays. You often hear in life to "not sweat the small stuff", but in Judaism, it's the small actions that bear cosmic significance.

I think the smiles in the photo say it all about the meaning and significance of this special Mitzvah. The Weinsteins' aspiration is to master the art of tefillin so that they can eventually perform the ritual without guidance.

As Rosh Hashanah beckons, let's all seek meaningful ways to elevate ourselves. It need not be tefillin; it can be any meaningful practice. I am happy to help you explore new ways to connect to your Judaism. Whether you seek guidance or companionship on this journey, let's begin this beautiful year together.

The path may be small, but its impact is boundless.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

** Michael reminded me that while he messaged me every week without fail, I did miss replying on many occasions. Just like I encourage others to do, I will also be increasing my efforts to work on myself this Rosh Hashanah, and will do better on sending him a Good Shabbos message (and many other resolutions as well:)) - a lesson on consistency I can learn from Michael.

It doesn't take courage to be a pessimist

Dear Friends,

Happy Birthday, world!

Make a Birthday wish!

Now enjoy the apple and honey cake! And have a happy sweet new year.

That pretty much sums up Rosh Hashanah. It's the day we celebrate the fact that we have a world. The Milky Way. The Planet. Nature. The animal kingdom. You and I – the human beings.

"Hayom Harat Olam" – today is the world's birthday, we announce after blowing the Shofar. And that is why we celebrate.

We celebrate by spending hours in the synagogue praying (and listening to awesome sermons, of course) and then spending many hours around the dining room table replete with familiar familial antics.  Let’s be honest: no one does a New Year celebration the way we do! 

A cynic might ask: "What about this world is worth celebrating? Have you seen how broken society is? War? Sickness? Mental health crisis? The collapse of families and communities? Are you naïve?"

Yes, I am frustrated by the agony around me. Sometimes I pinch myself to remind myself that this is not a movie. But, at the same time, I am hopeful for our future. Frustration without hope is like a joke without a punchline: it leaves us empty.

When G-d created Adam and Eve, He did so knowing the complexity and darkness that is part and parcel of the human condition. He was well aware of how humans can harm themselves, each other, and the world they inhabit.

At the same time, He knew (and Created) their potential for love, grace, forgiveness, redemption, generosity, holiness, empathy, joy, and light.

In the words of our sages: the human is half animal and half angel. We have incredible potential for the highest or lowest of creation.

Rosh Hashanah is when we celebrate G-d's belief in us, as much as our belief in Him.

Each morning when we wake up, we traditionally say the words of the Modeh Ani prayer, in which we thank the Creator for restoring our lives to us:

"I thank you, living and enduring King, for You have graciously returned my soul within me. So great is Your faithfulness."

Read that last sentence again. "Great is Your faithfulness." Whom does the Almighty believe in?

You and me. People. Messy and complicated homo sapiens.

Each day we wake up is another day that G-d tells us, "I believe in you. You are up to the task. The world needs your light and love. You can bring healing to this hurting universe; go make a difference!"

To be honest, I sometimes wonder why G-d keeps believing in humanity. I sometimes struggle to believe in our potential to get things right. Our history is packed with evil, stupidity and apathy.

But then I look at the many special souls living around me in this corner of the world, and I regain my faith. The incredible acts of kindness that occur daily in this G-d-given community give fresh and inspiring meaning to the term "the Sunshine State”.

Could that be why it’s called the Paradise Coast?

And I look at history and see the majesty, saintliness, and heights that we have climbed.

After the last few years, I contend that we could all do well to work on regaining our confidence that the best days are ahead of us! It doesn't take courage to be a pessimist. It takes courage to believe.

I believe. 

In G-d, of course – that's the easy part.

I believe in you.

I believe in myself.

That is tough. 

But I am in good company. G-d does not make mistakes. He believes in me. I'll trust His judgment.

We are thrilled to invite you to celebrate the High Holidays at Chabad Naples.

Whether you joined us in the past or not, we look forward to welcoming your entire family this year at your Chabad Naples family. Please RSVP at today so we can plan accordingly!

We take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Shanah Tova U'metuka - a good and sweet year, a year filled with happiness, blessing, success, naches and all good things. May this year be a year of growth, a year of prosperity, a year of peace and serenity in Israel and beyond.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  


The Path to a Beautiful Life Ahead

Dear Friends,

The great Jewish comedian Sam Levenson,  describing his family’s Jewish American experience said,  “My folks were immigrants who bought the legend that American streets were paved with gold. When my father arrived he discovered three things:

 1.   The streets were not paved with gold.

2.   The streets were not even paved!

3.   He was the one expected to do the  paving!”

This is a timely metaphor for our emotional development. In youth’s hopeful dawn, we feel noble stirrings within and dream of realizing them on a global scale. And yet,  so often as the years tick by, dreams slip away and we fall into the abyss of mediocrity where the temptation may be  just to give up. As 19th century philosopher Thoreau once observed, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

There comes a time of honest self-reckoning, possibly your very own ‘Aha moment', when we must take stock of unfulfilled dreams and realize that we don’t have to give up. Hard work is required to live life to its maximum potential, by  improving and “paving” our spiritual and physical well-being.

I believe this truth is reflected in the daily blasts of the shofar, that we blow in preparation for Rosh Hashanah which started today.

Several centuries ago, the renowned Rabbi Horowitz (known as the ‘Shelah'), once brilliantly explained how the sound of the Shofar is a parable of life:  The Shofar blasts begin and end with a tekiah — a whole note, yet in between are the shevarim and teruah — broken notes.

We are gifted at birth with magnificent potential. Along the winding path of life, via mistakes, weakness, pain, failure and more, we may become shevarim, (temporarily) broken. Yet, we can spiritually become whole again and commit to self-improvement.

During the month of Elul, the shofar acts as our spiritual alarm clock. We wake up! Step up! And increase our number of mitzvot each day. You, and you alone, hold the power to shape your life’s path with a destiny to “pave” and build a beautiful road ahead.

Wishing you a month filled with strength and meaning.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Slow Down for the New Year

Dear Friends,

I often hear from people, how busy they are, how much time they don't have to get more involved, and it reminded me of a story.

The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev, once saw a young man running down the street. The Chassidic master stopped him and asked, " Where are you running?" The fellow answered, "To make a living, rabbi." To which the Berditchever responded, "So how do you know that your living lies in that direction and you're running after it? Perhaps your livelihood is to be found in the opposite direction, and you're running away from it?" 

So often, we get busy with things we are certain are so important, but along the way we are actually running away from the things that really matter.

So as we approach the New Year, let's slow down and take a moment to figure out what is truly important in life, what we want our children and grandchildren to remember in 50 years, and get involved - or more involved - in the community and Jewish life.

With best wishes for a sweet New Year and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

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