Printed fromChabadNaples.com
ב"ה

Rabbi Fishel's Blog

Work to Vacation or Vacation to Work?

Dear friend,

Chassidic thought teaches that every aspect of life, even vacationing, is holy and part of our overall life's mission.

So here is the question: Do we work to vacation or vacation to work?

Do we work hard in order to finally arrive at the long anticipated vacation, or do we go on that well deserved vacation in order to refresh so we can come back and be more productive at work?

Perhaps contrary to conventional thinking, I'd say it's the latter for sure.

Did you ever wonder why we sometimes spend weeks or months planning the ideal vacation, only to experience complete let-down one or two days into the much anticipated trip, itching to get back to work? It's because at our core, humans have a need to be productive, to make a difference. Whatever one's occupation, it's not just a means to pay the bills. Our work is part of our soul's mission to make our unique contribution to G-d's wonderful world.

So yes, a relaxing respite from time to time is extremely important, but not as an end in itself, rather because it serves an important purpose in recharging our mental battery so that we can get back to work. Thus an occasional vacation can be more than simply fun and relaxing but actually holy and meaningful.

So friends, during these beautiful summer weeks, if you have a chance to get away and relax a bit, enjoy! Then come home and get back to work. There's lots to do.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie zaklos

Our hearts are in Uvalde, Texas

Dear Friends,

There are truly no words.....

Our hearts are in Uvalde, Texas.

We are numb and so heartbroken by the senseless mass killing at Robb Elementary School in Texas. Looking at the pictures of the mothers outside the school trying to find out if their child is okay, is gut wrenching. We cannot begin to fathom this terrible murderous rampage and bloodbath of young children and their teachers. It has shaken us to our core. So many children torn away from their loving families.

It’s difficult if not impossible to deliver consoling words sufficient to help the grieving parents and survivors of the horrific, senseless massacre.

Our deepest condolences, thoughts, and prayers go out to all the grieving families and the entire effected community of Uvalde. May all those injured have a complete and immediate recovery and may the families of those taken in this horrific attack be comforted. 

Our thoughts are also with the heroic teachers who jumped in front of the line of fire to try to save their students lives.

As we ask Hashem to ease their pain and give them love and strength to face the future, we pray for world peace and an immediate end to violence throughout the world. We pray for the return of sanity to this troubled nation. We hope and pray that we can finally come together to work hand in hand to end this kind of madness.

The work ahead of us is hard and the road may be difficult, it starts at home and in our own circle of friends and our own communities.

May we, and our elected officials be inspired by the Almighty with the wisdom, strength and humility to take all steps possible to never have to experience such a tragedy again.

As we light our Shabbat candles this week, let us take a few moments to pray for the souls of these innocent victims — the children, the adults and for their families. 

****

Safety and security at the Chabad Naples Jewish Community Center is our utmost priority.

We are blessed to have a strong relationship with Naples Police Department who always check in to ensure the safety and security of our campus and our community. We have been reviewing our procedures with law enforcement to strengthen the measures that keep us all safe.

We are also deeply grateful to Dennis Harris of TriCorps Security, Head of Security at Chabad & Preschool of the Arts, who has decades of experience in law enforcement and has worked with us for the past eight years to secure our campus. He is an extremely motivated, detail oriented, and highly ethical security professional who is devoted to keeping our campus and community safe. We also thank Steven our security guard for his dedication to keeping us safe.

We have connected with Dennis and communicated with law enforcement over the last two days to review our procedures and strengthen security measures.

The safety of our students, congregants, staff, and community is our highest priority.

With prayers for peace and security,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

THE POWER OF LIGHT

Dear Friends, 

Our Lag Bomer celebration and BBQ was a huge success, in spite of one tiny glitch. 

One of the customs at a Lag Bomer event is the lighting of a bonfire, signifying the bringing of spiritual light into he world. 

How were we to accomplish that? Knowing the rules and regulations about fire lighting in Naples, we consulted with our friendly and always so-accommodating Naples Fire-Rescue Department Chief Pete Dimaria. Pete and his amazing crew are always on hand to help throughout the community not just with fire fighting and other safety measures but also with prevention and education, as shown by the occasions when they work with our Preschool students. 

Well, in the ‘heat’ of the day, my message that the necessary equipment for the bonfire wasn’t delivered. I was surprised when a huge fire truck manned by Battalion Chief Adam Nadelman showed up, and I had to apologize quickly for the lack of bonfire equipment. 

As I began to explain the significance of the event and the bonfire, I noticed Adam was especially interested, and much to my surprise he identified himself as being Jewish and having had a Bar Mitzvah. 

Then it became clear - why Adam was sent to celebrate with us, bringing his own kind of light to brighten and unify the community. 

We said special prayers and welcomed him, knowing although the reasons are not always immediately clear, G-d has a plan and we just have to lean into it and accept it. 

Adam brought his personal spark to light up our celebration and make Lag Bomer even more memorable.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  

Important life lesson from a Bow and Arrow

Dear Friends,

This coming Thursday (May 19) is a special day in the Jewish calendar. It is known as Lag B'omer, the day that marks the passing of the great Talmudic sage and mystic Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. This second-century Rabbi and Kabbalist requested that the day of his passing should be marked with happiness and celebration.

One of the many Lag B'omer traditions is for the community to get together outdoors to celebrate. There is a custom that children play with bows and arrows on Lag B'omer. Among the many reasons for this custom is one that has an important life lesson.

To use a bow and arrow effectively, the shooter must first pull the bow towards himself. Once the bow is pulled as far back as possible, the arrow can be released with significant force and hopefully meets its target quickly and accurately.

The lesson here is simple but powerful. Affecting the world around us is more successful when we first move inwards. When we look deeply into our own soul, realizing the amazing potential that we possess, only then can we influence others.

 The Rebbe of Kotzk once said: "When I was younger, I thought I would change the world. I then decided that I would work on my city, and later concentrated just on my family. But now I have decided just to try and change myself." I do not believe the Kotzker Rebbe meant that he would work only on himself and ignore others. After all, he led a big community and was responsible for thousands of followers. What he was saying is that the only effective way to change other people is, to begin with ourselves.

Improving our own character and personality is within our control. We choose to progress or stagnate, to become angry or stay calm, to give or to hold back. We cannot control other people, but we can influence them by moving inwards. Changing ourselves will change others.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,
 

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Speech is a powerful gift - use it well.

Dear Friends,

In this week's Torah Portion we learn about the transgression of gossip (Lashon Horah), which is considered a serious transgression. But what is the definition of gossip? Is it only malicious slander that is harmful to another, or can it even be a casual, harmless comment that is negative? 

One morning after prayers in the Synagogue of the holy Baal Shem Tov, two men had a disagreement. Out of frustration, one of them threatened to tear his adversary to pieces, and with that, the dispute ended. The Baal Shem Tov called together some of his closest disciples and, using a mystical strategy, showed them a spiritual vision that caused the students to recoil in horror. They witnessed (on a metaphysical level) the man carrying out his threat and tearing apart his friend.
 
In Jewish sources, the human being is defined as "the communicator." The mystics explain that communication goes to the very core of our existence and that the words we utter release a powerful force into the universe. Every time we speak, we create a new reality that has a tangible effect on those around us.
 
Saying something seemingly harmless but negative about someone else creates a flow of negative energy that can inflict damage upon that human being. It is for this reason, the Talmud states that evil talk kills three people: the speaker, the listener, and the one who is spoken of.
 
The good news is that the same is true in the reverse. Positive talk has great results. When we verbalize sentiments of optimism, hope, and encouragement, we make a tangible difference even before anything happens.
 
A 14th-century sage once wrote:
Before you speak, you are the master over your words. After you speak, your words are master over you. 
 
Speech is a powerful gift given to us humans - use it well.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

HONOR THE 6 MILLION

Dear Friends,

Yesterday was Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. As meaningful as every Shabbat can be, perhaps this week can be a little more significant as we remember and pay tribute to the Six Million "kdoshim". We will read from the Holocaust Torah that was dedicated to Chabad of Naples in Jan 2012.

Who can forget when we dedicated the Chabad Center, with people of all ages, young and old, singing and rejoicing? And then, the highlight of the dedication, receiving the Holocaust Torah.

Mixed feelings? To say the least. Joy and sorrow -- joy for all that survived, and sorrow for our losses, and there were many. That this Torah survived and came into our hands, reborn through the generosity of Ellen A. Goldman and Sam Savage, and the Federman Family, is nothing short of a miracle.

We have become the stewards of a valuable piece of history, and with that we are responsible to the donors who entrusted it to us saying, "It is in good hands at Chabad of Naples."During this sacred time let us give homage to what we have lost and honor them by dwelling on a strong and blessed future.

We can take this time to discuss our history with our children in appropriate ways. Now is the time to teach them to respect the great sacrifices made by the lives and heroism of the 6 million Jewish people who were slaughtered in the Holocaust and to honor their memories.

During a discussion in our last Hebrew school class, the children realized their responsibility in carrying this legacy forward. It encouraged them to pray for these souls and resolve to make a Mitzvah and live as proud Jews, in honor of the memories of those who died.

Our youth today need to see the ‘Joy’s of Judaism not only the Oy’s of our faith’.

As we continued to reflect on frightening current warlike conditions throughout the world, our desire grew to increase our involvement and to ensure “Never Again” becomes a reality rather than just a slogan.

We pray for worldwide peace and understanding and that no one should ever face this horror again. I know the 6 million will be praying along with us from On High... I also know Hashem will answer our prayers.

May the memory of the six million be blessed.Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

A few days ago I was stopped by a gentleman in a parking lot

A few days ago I was stopped by a gentleman in a parking lot. He noticed my Kippah and asked if I could help him find a place where he could purchase items for Passover. But it turned out it wasn't just a random stranger, it was Cliff––a man I had met at an event 17 years ago. I told him to stop at Chabad and we would be happy to help him.

 

 

Cliff visited yesterday, and we spent some time with special prayers for Ukraine, for Israel, for New York, and for world peace. What made these moments even more meaningful, is that they occurred on the 120th birthday of my mentor, the Rebbe, of blessed memory.

 

 

The Rebbe saw the soul, the essential goodness and G-dliness, in everyone. He taught us to make the world brighter and kinder by helping others. That’s what drove Ettie and me also to establish this home, this center of living, loving kindness for the entire community. Yes, we love Naples and Marco and you are family. We are here for each other in good, and unfortunately unhappy situations. Today my children and I are out delivering matzah and connecting with our fellow community members; making sure to take the opportunity to brighten someone's day.

 

 

The Rebbe listened to every person without discriminating over age, size, color, race, or gender. He accepted and cherished all people as divine creations chosen by G-d. He cared for the Ukrainian refugee, the Prime Minister of Israel, the atheist in Alaska and the broken teenager from New York equally. To the Rebbe, each individual had infinite value and a unique light to share with the world.

 

 

He reminded us that we all share the same divine source and are therefore connected. G-d runs the world and there are no accidents. He ensured that when Cliff needed Passover supplies, there would be a familiar face to help him.

 

 

The Rebbe’s care and his love, the Rebbe's message, his example and teachings remain a living inspiration to us all. Regardless of where we may be in our individual journeys, today we take a moment to reflect on how we can better ourselves, and become closer to our real self––our divine soul that rests inside of us and makes the world a better place.

 

 

Yesterday marked 120 years since G-d gave us the precious gift of this special man.

 

 

Take a moment to choose one good deed you can do in the Rebbe’s honor. His memory should not only be a blessing, but a prime example of how we can live a meaningful life.

 

 

And if you need some matzah or tefillin––or anything else––just let us know. Be like Cliff and stop by Chabad Naples!

 

 

 

 

 

We are thinking of family and friends far and near

Dear Friends, 

As the holiday of Passover descends upon us, Ettie, Mendel, Yitzi, Chaya and Hinda join me in wishing you and yours a truly joyful Passover holiday.  

We are thinking of family and friends far and near and wishing you a very special holiday.

As the global order tremors watching the carnage in Ukraine, and a world looks heavenward for guidance, the Pesach season lifts us up to see the chains of “Egypt” falling apart and the gates of freedom opening before us.

Please G-d may the the next 8 days be for us a season of discovery, for each of us personally - highlighting our true inner Divine essence in its full glory.

As we commemorate our first journey home, from Egypt to the land of Israel, we pray for our Holy Land Eretz Yisrael and its people, Am Yisrael, that for once and for all - they, all those who dwell in her borders and her neighbors beyond, be freed from the tyranny of terrorism striking fear in the hearts of its innocent, and may the land secure in its physical borders and its people secure in their spiritual purpose, be a light unto the nations.

We pray for the people in Ukraine, we ask the Al-mighty; Protect those who only desire and deserve to live in security and safety. Comfort those who fear for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Be with those who are bereaved. Change the hearts of those set on violence and aggression.

We pray for the children of the world, the tragically suffering children of Ukraine, the hunger-stricken of Africa, the refugees in Europe and the US, and indeed all of G-d's children across the world, that they be endowed with a spirit of freedom from the oppression around them and be given the chance to live their lives in peace and dignity.

Let us use this opportunity to tap in to our inner Moses, hearing the word of Hashem, and take a step forward in our own lives, to live a more present, conscious, Jewish, G-dly life; enriching our family experience, uplifting our social value, and expanding our communal contribution to make the world, immediately around us, and beyond, a holier and happier place.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

The power of Being Joyful

Daer Friends,

The Jewish calendar has many special days, weeks, and months. First, there is Shabbat. Then, there are the holidays, sometimes weeklong or even longer. Then there are months, full months dedicated to a specific theme which we are called upon to bring into our lives. One such example is the month in which we find ourselves: the Hebrew month of Adar.

Jewish law teaches: "When the month of Adar is upon us, we add in joy for the entire month."  You heard it right: an entire month dedicated to joy.

Why so long?

Because it takes an entire month to integrate joy into our lives. It's not an easy task.

I think you will agree with me that joy is not too easy to come by in these anxious times. We don’t often bump into people on the street who are oozing with joy and joie de vivre. There are some happy folks, sure, but they are not the majority by any stretch of the imagination.

Thank G-d not everyone is afflicted with this "Doomsday attitude," but far

too many people are tense, aggravated, irritated, fearful, annoyed, exasperated, pessimistic, angry, infuriated, and many other synonyms that all have one thing in common: they are joyless.  And is it any wonder? We don’t want to abandon our sensitivity to current affairs and become numb to news of disaster, but neither do we wish to become totally obsessed with it. With frightening events shown by the rise of anti-semitism and the horror of Colleyville, for which we are so thankful to G-d that our prayers were heard and the outcome was positive, it’s difficult if not impossible to remain unaffected by these headlines that could tip us overboard into a swirling abyss of misery.

I get it. It's tough out there. It's reasonable to be despondent.

But just because it is reasonable does not mean that it is wise, healthy, or even inevitable. You do not need me to tell you that having our headspace rented by negativity is neither wise nor healthy. It is hurting our mental health, our families, and our communities. It has real life consequences.

What's the alternative to frightening darkness and depleting heaviness?

We need energy that uplifts us, which defies gravity: We need joy! We can't afford to nurture anything that keeps our heads in the pillows and our hearts in the dumpsters. This is not about denial––burying our heads in the ground and closing our eyes to the issues. No, this is about choosing joy as the healthiest antidote to cope and flourish in these times. Judaism teaches us that Simcha (joy) can break through all barriers. Not only is it necessary for our mental and emotional wellbeing, it is lifesaving. It picks us up above the narrow and instinctive thinking and gives us a bird’s eye view. It helps us see things from an objective and healthy perspective and thus allows us to live a life of inner peace and mindfulness. In addition to the above, it’s a Mitzvah. Joy is a moral and religious pursuit. When people are living with joy, they are more empowered to face the struggles of life and fight them with bravery and optimism. A fighter who shows up with a good attitude has a much better chance of winning the championship than someone who just fought with his spouse.

In the fight to be our best selves (the most worthy battle of them all), we need to have an attitude that keeps us joyful so that we fight the good fight and live to our fullest potential, the way our Creator intended for us.

That is why I couldn’t be any happier than to be in the month dedicated to upping our dose of joy! And this year we are doubly blessed, since it’s a leap year for the Jewish calendar. The full explanation of Jewish leap years would fill an entire additional article, but suffice it to say that instead of adding an additional day, we add a whole extra month––two Adars! What could be better than an extra month of joy?!

Dear friends, let us all wish each other L’chaim––to life, love, and happiness, and may our lives be full of joy! We may have to consciously work at achieving it, but as an aspiring eternal optimist I am prepared to brave accusations of naïveté for having hope and faith that our future news will be filled with positivity and joy.

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

The not-so-secret formula behind the success of Chabad and Preschool

 

 

Ettie WIth GIrls.jpg

Dear Friends,

In this week's Torah portion we have the delivery of the ten commandments. It is interesting to note in the scene at Mount Sinai, in the days leading up to that most awesome spiritual event in history, G-d gives Moses very specific instructions about conveying the message to the Jewish people.

 In preparation for the big event, He tells Moses to first address “Bait Yakov” – the women – and only afterwards the men.  The point was, that G-d knew the only way His Torah would be properly received and effectively transmitted from one generation to the next was through the enhanced qualities of vision and foresight, clarity and intuition, loving and nurturing, that women bring to the table.

This is a phenomenon that we have seen throughout the millennia, that there was a more internal, far-sighted, and soul-based influence wielded by our strong and competent Jewish women. These qualities have served as our nation’s greatest source of salvation and most effective engine for positive change and growth. 

When we study the lives and times of the heroines of our history, women like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, like Chana and Devora, Ruth and Queen Esther, and so many others, the common thread among all of them was their keen ability to see beyond the difficult issues and challenges of the moment, to the bigger picture of what it’s all about and to act and lead the way with incredible boldness and selflessness.

Although we are always cognizant about the abilities and power of our women, this week we especially celebrate them and our dear Rebbitzin Ettie. Usually she would be at the Chabad Conference attended by more than 3,000 women hailing from around the world, as far away as Laos and Angola. However, this year as Omicron demands flexibility and extra care, most of the women are attending a hybrid conference online.

Ettie is here, continuing to do what she does best every day, which is bringing light, love and healing and inspiring the next generation. 

This is a special time to acknowledge, as we all know, the not-so-secret formula behind the success of Chabad and Preschool: it is Ettie. 
 

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

Keeping the Promise

Trudy.jpg

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

 Hinda Beautifu.jpg

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

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.