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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

Keeping the Promise

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Keeping the Promise

Some years ago, this precious Holocaust Torah came into our possession as a gift from Sam and Trudy Adwar. Like many precious gifts, the Torah came with a history and was received with a promise.

In 1940 the Torah was buried in the ground in Warsaw, Poland. After the Second World War it was resurrected and brought to the United States by Mr. Barney Holms. He donated it to the Central Islip Jewish Center where it was held until 1970. When Temple Beth Am opened in Brentwood, Long Island, this Torah was passed on to them.

In 1978 the two temples merged and the Torah was back in the hands of Mr. Holms who was the president at that time. In late 2004 Temple Beth Am closed because of lack of membership. The Torah was given to Sam and Trudy Adwar by one of the remaining members who was a friend of theirs.

In 2006, the Adwars contacted us after hearing about our progress and plans to expand our Chabad Jewish Center in Naples.

They indicated their desire to donate the Torah to us, hoping to fulfill a wish that it become an integral part of a vibrant Jewish community for people of all ages.

This was very important and meaningful to us when we met with them at their home, as we always envisioned an energetic teaching component to our center, filled with laughing, learning children.

When we brought the Torah to its new loving and beautiful home here, it was sadly in need of major repair.

Fortunately, this was undertaken and sponsored by Sam Savage and Ellen Goldman Savage and Ben and Rachel Federman. Through their generosity we have been able to dedicate and use this Torah.

The promise we gave the Adwars was that we would create a beautiful home and center for the Torah in a thriving Jewish atmosphere and I believe we have kept the promise.

We have stayed in touch with the Adwars and when Trudy recently came for the first time, to see our active and blossoming center and how the Torah is honored here, she was so proud and well assured that her trust in us was well placed.

Unfortunately Sam Adwar passed away, but there is no doubt that his Neshama is proud of this gift and his Neshama is shepping Nachas from on high and that it brings comfort to his neshama to know that this Torah has the kind of home it deserves.

By providing a home for the Holocaust Torah in this way, we honor the lost souls of the Holocaust and perpetuate Yiddishkeit in the hearts of our children.

As we read from this Torah on many special Shabbats we ensure the continuation of many lives: Am Yisroel Chai!

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos 

 

May we share simchas with each other

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Dear Friends,

You know that experience of feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for the blessings that surround you? We hope and pray that all of us have that experience often- and ideally, actively create that experience by savoring our blessings every day.

But there are some moments in time that stick out; that dazzle us with their beauty and their richness.

This weekend is turning into one of those moments as Ettie and I feel full of gratitude to be celebrating our dear daughter Hinda's bat mitzvah this Sunday.

Indeed we are humbly grateful to be at this beautiful milestone, celebrating our dear Hinda's transformation into a young Jewish woman.

It humbles us to see this extraordinary girl, born and bred here in Naples, carry herself with such dignity and grace and pride.

And feeling so grateful to our beautiful community who has watched her grow alongside us- it does take a village.

So indeed, we thank Him for the blessings of family, and our dear friends who have become our family.

We give our gratitude an address- to the Giver of all that is good.

What truly makes a simcha complete, is the ability to share it with family and friends. This is a precious gift that cannot be overestimated.  It takes the joy and the nachas to an altogether higher level.

Whether you are joining us in person or spirit, please know that you are an integral part of our celebration. We hold each and every member of our Naples family in our hearts, and do not take the ability to celebrate this precious milestone with you for granted. We will be thinking of you when we say L'chaim, and saving you a dance!

May we, as a family, always share these wonderful simchas with each other.

Warmly,  

Rabbi Fishel and Ettie 

Even the tiniest light can dispel a room full of darkness

Dear Friends,

Chanukah brings light to our homes and to our lives. Think about the power of light, that even the tiniest light can dispel a room full of darkness. A small flame can spread its light to an endless number of candles.

Many people are walking around worried about the future of the world, things seem grim at times. Chanukah comes along with it's message of light, proclaiming for all to see: Light is much stronger than darkness, love is stronger than hate, goodness will overcome evil!

The same is true in our personal lives: When we feel a cloud of darkness descending upon us, perhaps because of a financial, medical or familial challenge we're facing, we can begin to despair. The Chanukah lights illuminate the way for us, and remind us that where there's light any cloud can be lifted.
 
How do we access light? Through strong faith in HASHEM!
 
When one's faith is weak, all sorts of clouds of worry and concern, for troubles real and perceived, can encircle us and make us feel helpless and confused. When we take the time to refocus and strengthen our faith in HASHEM, remembering that He creates us and the entire world, and directs our lives down to the minutest detail, and we're never alone, suddenly our lives become illuminated. Doubt and confusion give way to a life filled with focus and direction.
 
As the Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson, would often say, quoting his father in law and predecessor: "we must listen to what the Chanukah candles are telling us."
 
Each night, after lighting the candles, it is customary to spend 30 minutes sitting near the candles, studying Torah, playing dreydel with the family, or just reflecting. Take the time to listen to these miraculous candles, and reflect on how real HASHEM is in YOUR life! The results will be miraculous!

With love and blessings,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

HONORING WARRIORS

 

Dear Friends,

This week Jews all over the world marked the remembrance of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. It is the 83rd anniversary of the frightening night when the Nazis destroyed, looted and vandalized Jewish synagogues, cemeteries, schools, homes, and businesses and killed Jews whom they encountered.

Survivors of Kristallncht recall the “Night of Broken Glass” and the fear and terror it brought to their families and friends. They will never forget, nor should we. We can, however, use the memories to learn and build in a positive way, to educate and replace horror and hate with messages of light, love and respect for others.

We will never forget those who died in the Holocaust, and we will never stop being who we are and living our faith with pride.

It is a meaningful time to visit the Naples Holocaust Museum and Cohen Education Center, 975 Imperial Golf Course Blvd., to connect with our history, acknowledge past events and hopefully learn to dedicate ourselves to bring the light to a better future.

Yesterday, we commemorated Veterans Day. We salute members of all the Armed Forces - those who fought and returned home to become our family, neighbors and friends, and those who never returned. Because of their sacrifices many of us will never have to know the reality of putting our lives on the line to save our country and its values.

We owe our veterans so much: our liberty, our democracy, and all of our freedoms that we take for granted daily. When we thank them for their service to the country, not often enough, let’s put our heart and soul behind the words and let them know how much we really mean it, and how we are prepared to carry on this precious legacy

***

What's the best way to get to heaven? Walk across a busy highway? Perform some amazing act of faith? Save a thousand lives? Well, a pretty good answer may be found in this week's Parshah.

We read the story of Jacob's dream and the famous ladder with its feet on the ground and head in the heavens. "And behold the angels of G-d were ascending and descending on it."

Let me ask you what they might call in Yiddish, a klotz kashe (simplistic question). Do angels need a ladder? Everyone knows angels have wings, not feet. So, if you have wings, why would you need a ladder?

There is a beautiful message here.

In climbing heavenward one does not necessarily need wings. Dispense with the dramatic. Forget about fancy leaps and bounds. There is a ladder, a spiritual route clearly mapped out for us; a route that needs to be traversed step-by-step, one rung at a time. The pathway to Heaven is gradual, methodical and eminently manageable.

Many people are discouraged from even beginning a spiritual journey because they think it needs that huge leap of faith. They cannot see themselves reaching a degree of commitment which to them seems otherworldly. And yet, with the gradual step-by-step approach, one finds that the journey can be embarked upon and that the destination aspired to is actually not in outer space.

The correct and most successful method of achieving our objectives is the slow and steady approach. Gradual, yet consistent. As soon as one has become comfortable with one mitzvah, it is time to start on the next, and so on and so forth. Then, through constant growth, slowly but surely we become more knowledgeable, committed, fulfilled and happy in our lives.

And so my friends, it doesn't really matter what your starting point is or where you are currently stationed on the ladder of life. As long as you are moving in the right direction, as long as you are going up, you will, please G-d, succeed in climbing the heavenly heights.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

Why is the Torah called a song

Dear Friends,

At the end of Moses’s life, having given the Jews at G-d's request 612 commandments, Moses is instructed to give them the last, commandment #613, a commandment that expresses how all of Judaism should be lived: 

“Now write down,” G-d says, “this song, and teach it to the Jewish people”.

According to tradition “this song” refers to the whole Torah, meaning that the last mitzvah is to write down the whole Torah.

But why is the Torah called a song? Is a Constitution a song? Haven’t we been reading a book of laws and commandments, not lyrics to a song?

By referring to Torah as a song, however, it is as if G-d were saying to us: “It is not enough that you study Torah cognitively as mere history and law. It must speak to you emotionally.”

Joy and melody are essential to Jewish living. Judaism should infuse our lives with joy; every mitzvah ought to bring new celebration into our life. Just like song breaks barriers and reshapes our hearts, so too must the Torah.

Another aspect to song is this: the first time you read a book, it is exciting. But most of us cannot read the same book more than a few times. Not so with music. The more we hear a melody, the more we appreciate it. It inscribes itself deeper in the grooves of our soul. Torah is a song. The more we study its melody, the more we love it.

Finally, the Torah is called a song because a song becomes only more beautiful when sung with many voices, interwoven in complex harmonies.

When you talk and someone else starts talking, what is that called? Interruption!

But when you are singing and someone else starts singing, what is that called? Harmony!

When Torah becomes an egocentric speech, Jews fight; “we interrupt each other.” But when Torah is studied as Divine music, we sing in harmony.

Simchat Torah is when we recapture Judaism as song, when we bring the beat back into our lives. It is when we rediscover the 613th command — Torah as a melody, scored for many voices. The Torah is G-d's song, and we, the Jewish people, are His choir, the performers of His symphony.

Even though this Simchat Torah many of us can’t be in Shul to dance, we can still be at home and sing! 

Wishing you a Chag Sameach! Good Yomtov!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

5782 is off to a great start!

Dear Friends,

And what a Rosh Hashanah it was.

5782 is off to a great start!

It was wonderful seeing so many of you over Rosh Hashana! The safe, indoor services, as well as the overflowing crowd at ‘Shofar & Tashlich in the Park’ were inspiring.

The Shofar & Tashlich in the park ceremony seemed even more meaningful and special as we all carefully observed the safest way to come together to pray at the Gulf for this occasion.

We prayed for those who couldn’t attend and expressed our dearest hopes that G-d will hear and grant all our wishes and prayers.

It's an honor to be part of this incredible community.

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Yesterday marked marks 20 years since 9/11.

“Where were you?” is a sobering question that has been asked to so many of us in relation to the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. With a two-decade milestone upon us, it feels necessary to pause and reflect.

The question, “Where were you?” should not merely be an account of time and place – it is so much more and begs the follow up enquiry: “Where are you?”

The great Chasidic master, Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained how in the story of Creation, when Adam was asked by G‑d, ‘Ayekah’ - Where are you? It could not have just been a geographical question, for G‑d obviously knew where Adam was ‘pinned’ on the map.

Ayekah - explained Reb Shneur Zalman - was G-d asking, “Where are you in your life?” It is a constant, ongoing question - a perpetual call to every human being. What have you accomplished on the path to fulfil your life’s mission? 

Twenty years later, September 11th is still such an emotional date. Let’s not merely reminisce and ask, ‘Where were we?’ Rather, let’s reflect two decades later and analyze our individual evolution: Where are we now? 

After such a tumultuous year, having just experienced Rosh Hashanah, now is the perfect time to pose the existential question: Where do I want to be? 

May these pensive and reflective Days of Awe, between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, inspire us all to search our souls to both conceive and actualize the answer!  

Wishing you a meaningful Shabbat Shuva, G’mar Chatima Tova and may you be sealed in the Book of Life!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

EMBRACE THE SEASON OF HOPE

Dear Friends,

King David once called a jeweler and asked him to design a ring that would be his equalizer by bringing him joy when he was sad and ground him when his heart felt haughty.

Quite a challenge!

Overwhelmed by the task, the jeweler walked home with stress written all over his face. A young boy noticed him and asked him why he was so sad. He brushed the boy off. The boy nudged.

Reluctantly, he shared with the boy the seemingly impossible task the king just gave him.

The clever boy told him: “do not worry. Make a beautiful ring and on it engrave these words גם זה יעבור – this too will pass. The king will be happy with it.”
 

The fellow went home and prepared such a ring and presented it to King David. The king was mightily impressed and asked him how he came up with this idea. The honest jeweler told the king about the young, clever boy. The king asked him to describe the boy’s features. It soon became apparent that this youngster was the crown prince – and future King – Solomon.

The ring worked its magic on the king by always centering him regardless of the circumstances.

 

Although this story happened thousands of years ago, its message could not be more relevant in our time.

Currently, we see and have seen loneliness and emotional pain that we never thought we’d see in our lifetime.

We have witnessed extreme politics taking hold of the national (and global) conversation.

We watched in horror as the incredible search teams, both local and abroad (a special shoutout to the incredible team from our Holy Land), searched through the rubble of crushed concrete and crushed dreams, looking for survivors amongst the carnage.

 

We saw missiles fly above the heads of children in southern and central Israel and taking the lives of innocents.

Having suffered through more than a year of a pandemic that has overturned our lives, we now find ourselves facing a new variant which we don’t yet fully understand.

We look at all this and ask, ‘does this ever end?’ ‘Is life as we knew it forever gone?’ ‘Will we ever move beyond masks, social distancing, pandemic waves and all the havoc they bring’?

Although none of us owns King David’s ring, nevertheless the message of the ring reaches across the centuries with its soft and gentle voice.

‘Let me tell you about King David. For the first two decades of his life, he was ostracized by his own family. As he says in the book of psalms, “my father and mother have neglected me, yet G-d embraced me.”

‘He was hunted by King Saul. His own son tried to kill him. His enemies were constantly waging war against him. He witnessed the dirtiest politics of his time. He faced endless drama amongst his family.

‘And yet – here is the punchline – he always took heed of the wise words of the ‘wisest of all men’ – his son, King Solomon, that this too will pass.’

‘Take this statement to heart. Let it remind you that no matter what the challenge, it will pass. You will smile again. You will love again! You will overcome this. The best of life is not behind us; it is ahead of us!’

So spoke the wise ring.

If I were to summarize this article in one sentence, I’d have to borrow from baseball legend Yogi Berra who said: “it ain’t over till it’s over.”

We are far from over! Better days are ahead of us!

As we anticipate the approach of the High Holidays with their theme of hope and renewal, we pray for better days in the coming year and that Hashem will bring physical, emotional, and spiritual healing to our world.

May this coming year bring sweetness and love to all.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos 

 

Just enjoy the Manna

Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money. – Jackie Mason

When the Jews left Egypt, they went out into the wilderness. How did they survive? G-d. For example, when they awoke in the morning, they found Heaven-sent Manna on the ground outside their tents.

The Manna was white, a bit bland-looking, but it had whatever taste you desired. Fettuccine Alfredo for lunch? You got it. Grandma’s brisket with mashed potatoes for dinner? That was the exact taste in your mouth.

But there was a wrinkle. You couldn’t store the Manna for tomorrow; if you tried to save some, it miraculously spoiled.

The Talmud points out that the Manna – for all its wonders - had two elements that were dissatisfying to the human psyche/palate.

A.     There was no sense of security. Since they couldn’t put away for a rainy day, they ate well today, but with unease about tomorrow.

B.     People eat with their eyes. The Manna tasted great, but the bland appearance detracted from the pleasure.

In more modern words: They were objectively given wealth, but they subjectively felt dissatisfaction/’poverty’.

Our society is blessed with plenty; just three generations ago, this lifestyle was unimaginable. Believe it or not, we have our very own Manna from Heaven.

Recognize it.

Let’s use and save our money wisely; let’s also recognize that our wealth is ultimately G-d’s blessing, our Manna. Sharing, by giving to charity, shows that awareness.

Let your senses enjoy life’s pleasures, but don’t get too bummed out if you’re not touching every single sensual base. Don’t get in your own way.

Just enjoy the Manna.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Spend a moment meditating on this teaching

Dear Friends,

The Jewish People’s journey from Egypt to Israel was anything but efficient. It featured 42 different journeys spanning 40 years. There were numerous setbacks and obstacles.

Now, at the cusp of entering the Holy Land, Moses recounts all of these journeys in the opening of this week’s Torah Portion.

But why bother giving this long account? Many of these trips involved unpleasant incidents – was there really a reason to bring them up again?

Many of the trips appeared negative as they first unfolded. But now, after these 40 years of growth, the Jewish People were able to go back and reframe each of those journeys and see a deeper good within them. All 42 journeys, even those that represented tremendous  failure (golden calf, spies, etc) were part of the nation's healing process and springboards to their growth as a people.

The Baal Shem Tov shared an incredible mystical teaching about this Torah section. He explains that these “42 stops” are not just the history of our people but the story of each of our lives today.

In his words: “The forty-two ‘stations’ from Egypt to the Promised Land are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as the soul journeys from its descent to earth at birth to its return to its Source.”

Spend a moment meditating on that teaching. Imagine your life as one long book containing 42 chapters.  See yourself as a character in a cosmic play.  Envision the great author, G-d, directing all events that transpire, yet, at the same time, giving you freedom of choice in your moral decisions.

And for many of us, some chapters in our life seem overly challenging. Perhaps senseless.  And then there were times we really blew it as a result of our own poor choices.

We can discover how difficult moments lead to our greatest growth.  They form our identity.  They make our personal story the uplifting drama that it is --- one that changes the world, and ourselves, for the better.

Wishing you a great week ahead,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Our hearts, minds and prayers are with the families

Dear Friends,

It has been over a week since the Champlain Tower South collapsed in Surfside. It has been over a week of anxiety, heartfelt prayers, and an unending hope to finally hear some good news. Our hearts, minds and prayers are with the families of the disaster.

The situation is horrific. Think about it. People doing what is usually the least dangerous thing in the world. Sleeping in their own homes, in their own beds, in the middle of the night.

To think that all of this can come crashing down in just a few moments is terrifying.The families of those who are missing are going through excruciating pain that is beyond description.

We can pray... And pray we do. First and foremost, for those missing and for their families and loved ones whose lives have been torn apart. We also pray for all the rest of us, that our lives be healthy and safe. Successful and blessed.

Then there is the horrific stabbing of an innocent and defenseless rabbi in Boston, a short distance from the children’s summer camp at his shul. Our prayers for a complete and swift return to good health go out to Rabbi Shlomo Noginsky, husband and father of 12, as he recovers from the horrific attack.

Do we question, from where can we get our strength and our hope at times like this? That comes from within, and from our faith. Now more than ever we need to be there for each other, to offer prayers and support in as many ways as we can, and to take action with mitzvot.

We hear all of their cries of sorrow and we cry with each one who suffers: as humans, we all suffer. Along with prayers, consider food, shelter, and clothing for all the homeless at Surfside, we see how our wide-reaching Chabad family steps in to help when needed.

Our approaching Independence Day means different things to each of us, but above all, perhaps we could humbly celebrate a sense of gratitude for all the good that is in our lives, and how each of us can expand upon what is positive to bring light and hope to others.

Hope seems like such a simple thing, but to some in troubled times it may also seem out of reach. Let’s try to bring a gift of love, hope and appreciation of the good elements of freedom to each other, for Shabbat and for all the days ahead.

As we keep the victims, families and brave first responders at Surfside in our prayers, please keep your eye on the weather map and potential of now-Hurricane Elsa possibly headed this way as early as Sunday.

May the Almighty have mercy on all those missing in this horrendous Surfside tragedy. And may the Almighty protect us all from further tragedies and bless us all with everything safe, healthy, happy and good.

With love and blessings,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

values that personally inspire me

Dear Friends,

This Saturday night we begin to commemorate the 25th year of the Rebbe’s passing.  Since he did not name anyone to inherit his position, many wondered and worried about the future of Chabad.  In the ensuing years, Chabad’s exponential growth have proved those concerns to be insignificant.  Not only has his yahrzeit become a celebration of his life, but it is also about reflecting on and practicing the beliefs that he stood for and cherished.  From the heart, I personally thank the Rebbe for giving and instilling in me these ideas and life values which both Ettie and I try to live with and strive to pass to our children.

Here are just a few of the Rebbe’s values that personally inspire me, that really capture his legacy as a leader and mentor for all humanity.

1.       Look at the world in a positive way.  If you look through shattered lenses, that’s what you will see.  If you choose to see the world as a garden, you will see the goodness that blossoms all around.  It’s amazing how the Rebbe was no stranger to pain and suffering, having lost family members to the Holocaust and having seen the terror of world War 2, and yet the Rebbe chose to see what was positive in the world. His constant reminders to be upbeat and see things in this way.  Even when stories in the Torah seem locked in negativity, the Rebbe found a positive, uplifting perspective.  

2.       Everyone has a powerful mission. The Rebbe would say that birth is G-d's way of saying you matter.  If we are here, we are here to make the world a better place.  No two people are the same.  Each one is irreplaceable and therefore there is no excuse:  you must stand up and be counted.

3.       The Rebbe encouraged women to take leadership roles in establishing and operating Chabad centers.  More than any other Jewish leader, the Rebbe empowered the women, strengthening the partnership between husband and wife in this mission. I think about this so often as Rebbitzin Ettie partners with me in this endeavor. From the ground up, we always planned together in every single way, especially in establishing the incredible preschool.

4.       Create leaders not followers. The Rebbe certainly wanted us to be humble, but wanted leaders who would implement the same vision and ideals but would use their own brand of creativity and inspiration.  Each Chabad center you enter, while it mirrors the vision, will have its own personal flavor  and its own areas of focus tailored to serve within its community.

5.       This is a big lesson for today's world:  the Rebbe implored us to regard other human beings not just as beings but as souls.  If we focus on what makes us the same, the divine that’s within us, we stop allowing the differences to divide us.  The Rebbe embraced each individual unconditionally.  In today's world of division, more than ever we need attitudes that are  non-judgmental  and accepting .

6.  I remember the Rebbe's constant gratitude to America as a kind country where liberty and opportunity reigned, a country where we can live proudly as Jews connected to one another and connected to G-d.

Thank you Rebbe for infusing such a powerful purpose in my life and the lives of countless others.  I am so grateful to be able to share your vision and philosophies here at Chabad of Naples where daily we endeavor to feel and share this sense of love and fellowship under an umbrella of our Jewish faith and culture.

This Sunday, I will be joining people from across the globe who will gather to pay respects at the Rebbe's ohel resting place. It would be my honor to include you and your loved ones in my prayers on this day.  Please email me your name.

This Shabbos, wherever you are in the world, let's take a few moments with family or friends to learn some of the Rebbe's teachings, discuss the Rebbe's life and vision, and rededicate ourselves to the the values and causes that are close to our souls. 

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Personal Growth

Dear Friends,

I hope you had an uplifting and joyous Pesach.

Judaism considers personal growth a lifelong task for each of us, 365 days a year. Nevertheless, each year a period of time is set aside when these efforts become the focus of our attention. This reflects the spiritual significance of Sefirat HaOmer, the forty-nine-day period between Passover and Shavuos.

The Hebrew word Sefirah means "counting". Every night we count one of these forty-nine days. But Sefirah also means "shining". During these forty-nine days, we should endeavor to make our personalities shine.

According to the Kabbalah, we have seven fundamental emotional qualities. These qualities then interrelate, to create a total of forty-nine emotions. The cultivation of our spiritual personalities during the Counting of the Omer involves the refinement of our "emotions", refining our character, eliminating their coarseness and directing them towards goodness and G-dliness.

As we work to upgrade our emotional potential, we prepare ourselves to relive the experience of the giving of the Torah on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

What does Freedom mean in 2021

Each year as the Passover season comes around it brings with it many gifts. Kneidels. Matzah. Spring cleaning. Kvetching about the prices. Mock Seders. Memories. The off-tune uncle ‘singing’ Ma Nishtana. And so much more…

One of the most important gifts it offers us is the spirit and theme of FREEDOM. It is the flavor of the season and rightfully so. Pesach is all about the privilege and responsibility that comes with liberty.

Let’s face it though. Freedom is not exactly the buzz word of 2021. There are many feelings pulsing through the hearts of us all; freedom is not high on that list. With the many restrictions and unknowns of the pandemic, we can argue that we are not living through the freest of times.

Add to that the anxiety many are feeling in this political climate and you are faced with the question: what is the message of Pesach for our time? What does freedom mean in lockdown? What does freedom mean if we cannot sit at the same table as our loved ones? What does freedom mean when we cannot even shake the hands, let alone hug, our friends and family?

Before I continue and offer a somewhat philosophical response, I must pause and allow the heart to talk first: my heart aches for the pain and loneliness that so many are facing for this long time. You are in my heart, and I ask you kindly to carry me in your heart as well. Our hearts beat as one.

Freedom can mean vastly different things based on which word follows it in the sentence.

Exhibit A: Freedom from…

Exhibit B: Freedom to…

Often when we speak of freedom, we mean ‘freedom from’. From tyranny. From rules. From anything I don’t want to be enslaved to.

Freedom to is not about where I am leaving, but where I am going. Rather than looking back at where I am leaving, I am looking forward to where I wish to be.

It is the second freedom which is never taken away from the human being. No matter our circumstances we are given the total freedom to choose our attitude, our perspective, and our behavior.

This Passover season reminds us that we alone can decide whether to choose freedom or not. We can choose to embrace optimism. Hope. Faith. Love. Empathy. Reflection. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the Jewish people “choose life!” You might ask, “but isn’t that the obvious choice?” Not really. Choosing ‘life’ is more than just choosing to live. It is about choosing to ‘have a life’ – a life of freedom. That is a big choice to make.

Life and freedom are synonyms. Choosing freedom is choosing life. 

At the same time, we continue to pray for ‘freedom from’ Covid, incivility, pain, hardship, financial struggle, sickness, death, loneliness, war… the list is infinite. But perhaps it is also simply, the freedom we ask G-d for: Next year in Jerusalem. 

As we sit at our Seder table this year, let us remember that freedom is handed to us in gift wrap. Will we open it? 

We wish you and your loved ones a Kosher, Happy, Inspiring (and Healthy!) Passover!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

Never too young to do a mitzvah!

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Never too young to do a mitzvah!

When a call goes out for volunteers to help with a project at Chabad Naples, we are never disappointed both with the quantity and the quality of the people who step forward.

This was the case about two months ago when we heard about the problems people were having trying to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

We began putting together a team to assist anyone who needed help securing an appointment or assistance in getting there.

From the onset many of our dear members led by Bruce and Sue Yankow and Thais Wulkan Alcalay began working tirelessly to help, and still are to this day.

But sometimes help comes from unexpected sources. That’s when one of our Hebrew School students, young Tori Fuchs volunteered.

When Tori heard about this endeavor a few weeks ago, she told me she is handy with computers and she wanted to help with securing appointments as well, and that she would do everything she could to get them.

We divvied the lists of people and for a few weeks she has been working non-stop to make as many appointments as possible, taking on one group after another.

This week when I met her at Hebrew school, I thanked her as I have received many calls from people, grateful for what she has accomplished on their behalf. When I asked Tori how it was going, she said she was “tired but I am so happy to do it”. She wakes up early, when the enrollment begins online, and gets working on it.

We are so proud of our Hebrew school student Tori for taking this on! What a thoughtful mitzvah project, preceding her Bat Mitzvah, and how amazing to take the initiative to be help and think of others!

We said that we couldn't guarantee success but thank G-d we have been able to help almost everyone who reached out to us, to get the vaccine.

We are so grateful for our success and wish to thank all those who gave their time and energy, helping us to help others.

If you know someone that still needs help, please let us know, and either Tori or others will call you and help get it done. In general, if you know someone who needs help in some way, please contact us: we are here to help at Chabad Naples.

 

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF 2021

MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF 2021

by Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

"These are times that try men's souls," said Thomas Paine. This past year has tried our souls. We have been tested in ways we never thought possible. We've seen and endured so much suffering and pain.How does one deal with the intensity of emotions and challenges of these times?There are three ways:

Apathy.

Sympathy.

Empathy.These three words describe different attitudes one might apply when reacting to the feelings, challenges, pain and loss suffered by our fellow human beings. Each is quite different from the other. 

Apathy: I don’t see you. I don’t care.

Sympathy: Poor you. I see you. You are such a nebbish, a wimp - I’ll help you out of the kindness of my heart. I'll ask how you're doing, but I really don't want to know. I have much to tell you, but there's nothing I want to hear from you.

Empathy: I see you as a human being. I see you as a child of the Creator. I see you. I hear you. Tell me about yourself. What can I do for you? I have so much to learn from you.We can all agree that no one admires apathy as a moral and aspirational ethos.Sympathy, however, is ambiguous. It sounds great but it puts people on various rungs of the ladder, where have-nots seem ‘lesser’ than those who have. We look at one another vertically rather than horizontally.

Let’s look at the standard-bearer of Jewish leadership: Moses our teacher - Moshe Rabeinu, the famous fellow from the Exodus story. What did G-d see in Moses, making him worthy of leading the Hebrews out of Egypt? What X-Factor made him stand taller than other leaders of the time? His empathy. When he looked at people he saw a reflection of himself. Their social status did not matter, he loved them. His loving attitude also showed in his original occupation as a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock.

The Talmud tells us G-d was so impressed with his kindness that He felt confident to entrust Moses with the historical task of leading the people into freedom. He was a נושא בעול עם חבירו He walked among the people with their challenges, helping them carry their load.

Moses was truly kind. True kindness is a child of empathy. To give with one’s whole heart is only possible when one does not see the person who lacks as any less than oneself. The homeless beggar, the addict, the person with disabilities is no less human than oneself. They are beautiful and worthy of dignity and respect.

We are all God’s children, deserving of empathy, deserving to be seen and heard.

Does that mean we have to take on the pain of almost 8 billion people? That is simply not possible. Developing empathy is not about saving the world (an overused cliché); rather, it is about how we interact with our family, friends, and community. We lean into our relationships with those close to us, and the ripple effect spreads far beyond ourselves.

Here in Collier County I am truly blessed to be living in an amazing community! This area is so filled with generosity and goodness.

Wherever I look there is so much empathy! Our shared struggle has brought us closer together, and we have learned to lean on one another.

It is this perseverance and unity that gives me faith that 2021 will be happier and brighter, because we will make it so!

 

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