Rabbi Fishel's Blog - Chabad of Naples
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one soul kindles another."

 Dear Friends,  

Thank you to all of you who joined us for Rosh Hashanah services.  

It was amazing spending such a meaningful and inspiring Rosh Hashanah with this amazing community. 

Over 500 women, men and children walked through our doors on Rosh Hashanah.

We hope you found the services inspiring and uplifting.

Thank you for being part of the wonderful welcoming and joyous energy of our Shul. 

This is what Chabad of Naples is all about: A place that offers an open door, an open mind and an open heart to each and everyone who walks through our doors, regardless of their level of religious knowledge or observance.

Please reach out to a friend or relative who may not have plans for Yom Kippur and invite them to accompany you to Chabad. You'll have a mitzvah! "As one flame lights another, one soul kindles another."

We look forward to observing this very special and holy day with you. We wish you an easy fast and a most meaningful Yom Kippur, setting the stage for an inspired year ahead.

Shabbat Shalom, and Gmar Chatima Tovah - May you be "sealed" for a good year!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Arthur Seigel, President

From our family to yours

Dear Friends,

As we prepare to usher in the New Year or 5779, we send our best wishes, from the depths of our hearts, to you and your loved ones for an amazing 5779. 

May it be a year overflowing with all of G-d Al-Mighty’s blessings of health, happiness, prosperity, and everything that is good, both materially and spiritually. 

We are honored to be part of this united, empowered, and innovative Chabad Naples community. You have given us the privilege of a lifetime.  

Thank you for the past fifteen years of growth and friendship. We are truly blessed!

As we head into the Jewish New Year, we take some time to stop and reflect on the multitude of blessings of this past year.     

At Chabad of Naples, each time we dip an apple in honey, the sweetness and blessings of the New Year will transmit to you, our dear friends who surround us with love and blesings, whether you are here in body or just in spirit. With your family, know that you have touched our lives and we are so deeply grateful for the many mitzvot and support and support from you.  

We will be praying for you and looking forward to either being with you in the coming days, or welcoming you back to your Chabad Naples family.   

May you gather the sweetness of the New Year, blessings and good health as we join together to spread the light one mitzvah at a time.

From our family to yours, wishing you a prosperous and sweet new year filled with health, joy and blessings.    

Shanah Tovah!

Rabbi Fishel, Ettie Zaklos, Mendel, Yitzi, Chaya & Hinda Zaklos

 

Take time to call someone - The power of connecting is infinite

Dear Friends, 
Rosh Hashanah is a mere three days away. Everyone is sending Shanah Tova cards, Shanah Tova emails, WhatsApp messages and even making old fashion telephone calls. Is this just a cultural nicety, a pleasant civil formality or is there something deeper to this practice?

The great Chasidic master Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch once said to his son:

"People think that blessings need to come from a great righteous person, however, it is not so.  Even blessings from a regular person are of great valuable and effectiveness. Hundreds of angels wait on Rosh Hashanah for individuals to say positive things to each other (a reference to the custom of wishing Shanah Tov to each other after prayers on Rosh Hashanah services)."

When we wish each other a good year we are not just being formal - we are doing something extremely powerful. With each blessing (even from simple people) comes the power of the soul which is unlimited and strong. We generate tremendous positive energy and influence the flow of blessing that comes down on Rosh Hashanah.

So in the next few days, take time to call someone we haven't called for a while, reach out to someone you had a problem with in the past, help someone that maybe is not in your circle of friendship. The power of connecting to each other is infinite.

In that spirit may 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.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 


The reunion was complete.

Dear Friends, 

Rosh Hashanah is a multi-layered, spiritual time when we focus and pray earnestly and fervently to G-d. At this juncture, we share that which is deepest within our hearts. Our sages teach us that during these auspicious days, our collective voice, Koleinu, resonates more profoundly than at any other time of the year.
 
Yet, shouldn’t we be asking G-d to listen to our prayers alone rather than our voice? Why emphasize the voice – a simple vehicle that articulates our innermost feelings and aspirations?
 
The Chasidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, tells of a king who had an only son. While his progeny was well-educated, he was also over-indulged. The king hoped his beloved son would follow a righteous, noble path and eventually rule the kingdom. However, the son chose to associate with shady characters, company that didn’t befit a child of royalty with responsibilities.
The prince rebelled and sought adventure far away from his palatial residence of birth. He mindlessly wandered from town to town, all-the-while becoming more estranged and detached from his previous life. His clothing became tattered, his features weathered – he was, for all intents and purposes, unrecognizable.
 
Years passed. The former prince suffered greatly and ruminated over his stubborn, self-imposed exile. He regretted his behavior and decided to return to his father, the king, to seek forgiveness. After many trials and tribulations, the wayward son fell to his knees and pleaded to be granted permission to see his royal parents.
 
Entry denied. In desperation, the prince shouted and cried, “Father, if you can’t identify my face or any features, surely you still recognize my voice - that hasn’t changed!” The king heard the commotion and did concede it was indeed the voice of his only son, the prince. In a moment of compassion and love, the reunion was complete.
 
It is this authentic voice that we offer Hashem over the High Holy Days. It is our signature identity that runs deeper than anything material we may casually or deliberately throw on. There is no disguising it.
 
By collectively raising our voices, we entreat our Father in Heaven to grant us a Shana Tovah U’metukah – a happy and sweet New Year!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

ON LIVING 100 YEARS — AND MORE!

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L’chaim Ruth!

ON LIVING 100 YEARS — AND MORE!

Many of you may not be aware, that one of our treasured friends and supporters, Ruth Anderson, recently celebrated her 100th birthday! Although more people seem to be living longer these days, not many do it with such flair, joie de vivre, and enthusiasm. She lives independently at the Arlington where, with her friendly and outgoing spirit she is probably one of their best-known residents.

Over 250 close friends attended Ruth’s birthday reception. For weeks before the event Ruth was occupied busily designing and sewing the two outfits she wore for these events. When she isn’t sewing, knitting, reading, enjoying the pool, holding her own in a political discussion, she might be found having an afternoon of donut holes and coffee at one of her favorite places, where she is a frequent customer, or working at her computer.

Many of Ruth’s friends originate from the Naples Macintosh Computer Users’ Group where she has been a member almost since its inception. Some of her ‘newer’ acquaintances admit they were “picked up” by Ruth during visits to the aforementioned coffee oases, and have remained friends for years. 

It’s not difficult to find positive adjectives to describe Ruth - beginning with indomitable, kind, generous, clever, witty, - just to name a few.

At Ruth’s birthday dinner, a cousin of Ruth’s, a doctor of gerontology, captured the essence of her personality when he commented on the fact that genetics, as previously thought, do not account for longevity as much as attitude. He noted that people who live past 100 suffer all the same tragedies and losses as everyone else, but it’s how they react to them - with a positive attitude, curiosity for life, interest in others, and humor.

Ruth remains a steadfast Partner with an ongoing interest in and identification with Chabad Naples. As we begin this New Year, we remember the importance of a positive attitude, the importance of family, and above all to thank and to celebrate those people like Ruth who inspire all of us to be better people. We are so proud to wish our very own Centenarian Ruth Anderson a very Happy Birthday and good health in the years to come.

We can’t wait to celebrate year 120!

Mazel tov!

It may be one small step by man, but a giant step for G-d.

Dear Friends,

On Rosh Hashanah we are dedicated to change and to renewal. We try to make amends for the past and to start afresh for the new year. But what does change mean? Is it even possible?

In an ideal world, change can be a permanent and irrevocable improvement: we cannot go back to the way we once were. We become different people. 

Think of Chaim calling his old buddy Moshe, and getting an answering machine message: “You have reached my voice mail. Please leave a message after the tone. I decided to rethink my entire life, my priorities, and make many changes. If you don’t hear back from me, you are one of the changes.”

But, as we know quite well, this type of change, complete internal transformation, is not so easy. Sometimes it does more damage than good: Just knowing how hard it is to change, discourages us from even trying in the first place.

How often do we not attempt to do something because we fear failure?  Or give up our dreams because we are afraid we will never fulfill them perfectly?  Do we look at things as ‘all-or-nothing’, and therefore never embark on chores we may never fully complete? Do we deprive ourselves of the gift of an individual mitzvah that is so dear to us because we fear disappointment? Does fear of not getting it ALL right make us think we will get nothing right and it’s not worth the effort to try? Do we allow ourselves to be intimidated by thoughts of not succeeding, before we even begin to consider how to change? We feel that if we don’t get it all right, we will get nothing right, and it is not worth the effort?

Does this sound familiar to you?  How many of us will not go to the gym because we can’t do it every other day? How many of us do not work on our marriage, because it will never be perfect? How many of us do not mend our relationships with family members, because there are too many demons in the closet? How many of us will not make a spiritual, moral change because it will not be 100 percent perfect?

Perhaps what we need, is to redefine success and failure, trial and error.  A wise man once said, “If you never make a mistake, you are not really trying to improve things:  every experiment is not a success.  Your success lies in what you learn from the results of each experiment and how you proceed from there.”  If you truly want to improve, perhaps errors and mistakes could be considered positive stepping stones on the way to eventual change and success. Every little bit counts.

Rosh Hashanah is here to tell us that G-d embraces every act of change. If we regret one mistake and change that, G-d accepts it fully. Any step forward you manage to take, towards a better more inspired, G-dly life, is infinitely treasured by G-d. It may be one small step by man, but a giant step for G-d.

So friends, this Rosh Hashanah take that step and make one change — for a day, a week, a month. Whatever your struggle or challenge is, tackle it one day and one step at a time, just don’t stay in the same place you were yesterday. Broaden your horizons! Discover more! Learn more! Grow more – as a person and as a Jew.

L’shana Tova! 

Some of our exciting highlights ~ Treasures of Israel

 

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Dear Friends,
 
Ettie and I were privileged to travel to the Holy Land of Israel with our family. We were fortunate to be sharing a very rare family break between summer camp and the school year, traveling with the children to explore and enjoy the treasures of our Jewish homeland.  As a family with young children it has been so special and such a memorable experience to visit the holy sites and watch them come to life before their eyes, sites which back home they knew as stories and history lessons.
 
In last week's Torah portion, we find our greatest Jewish leader, Moshe, begging God to allow him to enter the land, a privilege that he was ultimately denied. Reflecting on this idea, of how long and deeply our people have been connected to this land and how many thousands of years we have yearned and prayed for our return, we feel so thankful to be alive at a time when we can walk the streets of Jerusalem freely with our family as proud Jews in a Jewish homeland. We feel blessed beyond measure to have walked the same soil of our ancestors and visiting the places where Biblical Jewish leaders once led our people in ancient times.
 
We soaked up the one place in the world that connects our past and present history like no other.

Especially now, as the challenges in Israel make headline news, with fires burning in the south and tensions at the border, Israel needs us to show our support more than ever. I am still digesting my experience of visiting this oasis of Judaism during such turbulent times but, I want to share with you some of our exciting highlights from this amazing trip.

The first destination was the Western Wall where throughout our history it has been our special place, sacred for prayer. We requested special blessings for our special Naples community. Just touching those ancient stones and seeing Jews from every corner of the world was moving, but watching our children absorb the moment was the best, and will remain with us and them. What a nation —what a history! In just one day we were able to give them a ‘ crash course’,  by going to the Kotel. The first thing we did was pray with the kids, then we went to the tunnels where you can realize how magnificent the Western Wall really is. Then we went to pray at the graves of King David and Samuel. From these places you can see almost all of Jerusalem-- what an incredible sight! As it says in Psalms, Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains and is simply powerful in its magnificence. Jerusalem was and is the symbol of unity, hope, and love.

In addition to some crazy fun kid-centric activities like zip-lining and jeeping (what were we thinking! 😊 ), we also spent an incredible day together in the holy city of Chevron. We connected with the local Jewish population – an amazing, resilient community, as well as the inspiring Chabad Rabbi in Chevron, Rabbi Danny Cohen. We were blessed to speak to the IDF soldiers stationed in the city, bring them some food and words of support, and thank them for protecting Israel. Another one-of-a-kind highlight was being in Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, when we were able to go to the Kotel, the lasting remnant of the destroyed Temple that we were mourning, and witness tens of thousands of people coming together to sing songs of hope and redemption. The Israel that we are experiencing here is one that is glowing with life and shining with spirituality and meaning. We are completely filled with awe and respect for these incredible people who, in spite of the odds, have such determination, hope and resilience.

While we were away we were thinking of our community and praying for all of you. We know that many of our families are facing various challenges and tests and we want you to know that we have davened for you for strength and blessings.

As wonderful as our trip was, it’s always good to be again surrounded by our Naples family, planning and preparing for another amazing year together. We hope you are enjoying a safe and healthy summer wherever you may be spending it.

Wishing you all a beautiful family Shabbat!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

In G-d’s eyes we are one!

 IMAGINE

People needed help and other people came to help them.

Sometimes it takes adversity to force us to open our minds and our hearts and accept, that in G-d’s eyes we are one!

~~~~~~ 

All I need to say is: 12 Boys. You know exactly what I am talking about! 

Imagine how you would have felt if one of your children had been caught in the caves in Thailand.

Imagine how you would have felt, if you were one of those children or the coach, in a dark cave without enough food or water, or any hope of being rescued.

Imagine how you would have felt if you were one of the divers or part of the team sent to rescue them under such hopeless circumstances.

Today we heard the amazing news that all of the boys and their coach are now safe. Only some of the rescuers and divers from the team still remain in the caves.

How many times were relatives and friends about to give up hope?

How frightened and abandoned must the children have felt?

How many challenges and setbacks did the rescue team face, until they broke through for the first time?

It’s all about faith, courage, teamwork and technology.

As people came forward from all over the world, offering personal skills as well as technology, there was no question about age, gender, race, nationality or any other divisive identity element — ‘people’ needed help and other people came to help them.

The rescue was nothing short of a miracle and as we thank G-d for hearing our prayers, our thoughts are with the family of the courageous Navy SEAL who lost his life in the effort. 

Volunteers from countries all over the world participated in this effort, and Israeli technology contributed by supplying special underground communications units.

Sometimes it takes adversity to force us to open our minds and our hearts and accept, that in G-d’s eyes we are one

TEAMWORK BRINGS SUCCESS


Teaming with Success and our Powerful Prayers

We hope you all enjoyed a fun-filled July 4th with your beautiful families! We are ever aware of how fortunate we are that G-d gave us the USA as our home. We cherish these blessings and make every effort not to take them for granted.

What a contrast it was to hear of the entrapped soccer team of children in an underground cave in Thailand! Many of us have been (and continue to be) glued to the media, hoping and praying for news not only of their miraculous survival, but now also of their rescue. How incredible to learn of the bravery and determination of the Navy Seals and the divers from Thailand who risked their lives and sacrificed so much to keep these kids alive!

I believe that one of the major keys to the kids’ survival for nine long days before they were found is that they were a team with a coach. TEAM spells out:
T – together
E – everyone
A – achieves
M – more

So at the same time we celebrate INDEPENDENCE, we must be cognizant of INTERDEPENDENCE and strive to be there for one another, not only during trying times, but whenever the opportunity or need arises.

Teamwork enabled the Thai youngsters’ survival and discovery. And teamwork within the Jewish people (and within the community at large), as we care for one another and are exemplary citizens, is the key to our success, today and forever.

We continue our powerful prayers for these young people who hopefully will emerge unscathed very soon from the cave. Again, profound thanks to the brave Navy Seals (one of whom already made the supreme sacrifice, unfortunately) and our prayers that they, too, should be saved.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos
 

Vacaville is a beautiful place with a lot of sunshine

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Dear Friends, 

We have just recently commemorated Gimmel Tammuz, the anniversary of the passing of the Rebbe, where I prayed for our community and for all those who asked for prayers. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the Rebbe’s legacy and the impact he has made on the world. His influence is literally beyond anything we can ever imagine. And what the Rebbe accomplished wasn’t just with words: he actually encouraged families to move out to locales that were considered genuinely faraway places with no kosher food, no Jewish schools and so forth – in order that each family should help create a thriving place where people from all walks of life would come to join together and celebrate Jewish life.

I just returned from Vacaville, CA for a short visit to see my brother Chaim, his wife Aidel and their family.

Accompanying me were my two daughters Chayah and Hinda who will be attending their summer camp which many of their cousins and other children will be enjoying as well.

This was my first visit to see my brother and his family where they moved to establish a Chabad center nine years ago. Some of you may recall how Chaim, as a rabbinical student, helped us in Naples as we settled in.

Vacaville is a beautiful place with a lot of sunshine, surrounded by mountains, streams, and vineyards. We’ve had a bit of time to go out and enjoy the scenery, and we got a fun chance to go grape picking. There are approximately 500 Jews in all of Solano County and I am beyond thrilled and proud of what Chaim and his family are accomplishing there.

They purchased a building which they are renovating for a grand opening, two months from now. I am kvelling and rejoicing for their amazing commitment and love for the Jewish people and for all human beings, and for making a meaningful contribution to the Jewish community and the Vacaville community at large. ,  They also reminded me of Abraham and Sarah as we strolled through the town and they were recognized by people calling out their names.  

Rabbi Chaim and Aidel have truly become an integral part of the community, bringing goodness and joy to the town.

Although I speak frequently with Chaim, seeing his success with my own eyes was incredible. What a thrill, to go up in the cherry picker with him as the sign for the Chabad Center for Jewish Life was erected.

How privileged I feel to witness the blossoming of Chabad and Jewish life in Solano County, and how humbled Ettie and I are to play our own part in the beautiful growth we are witnessing in Naples.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

A Special Prayer & Blessing for You - The Rebbe's Yahrtzeit

Dear Friends, 

This coming Shabbat - Friday night June 15th and Saturday, June 16th, marks the 24th Yahrtzeit - anniversary of passing - of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory.
 
It is a Jewish tradition to visit the resting place of a saintly person with the heartfelt wish that he join our prayers to the Almighty, for blessings for ourselves and our loved ones.
 
I will be joining thousands from across the globe who will visit the Rebbe's grave site for prayers at this special time. It would be an honor to bring letters and blessing requests on behalf of you and your family which you can send to me via email: Rabbi@chabadnaples.com 
 
While writing the letter, remember to include your name and your mother's name and those of anyone else you would like me to mention, I would be glad to include them. If you have something in particular you would like to pray for, please mention it as well. In keeping with Chassidic tradition, the letters will be shredded and left at the Rebbe’s Ohel resting place site.
 
May all our prayers be fulfilled. 
 
The Rebbe's love and care for every person is legendary. The Rebbe was known for his pragmatic take on the world. He believed in being proactive and measured success only on the basis of results. To him action was imperative, and the time is always ripe to act. 

It may be amazing to see how Chabad has grown since his passing, and how much had been accomplished. It is fair to say that - through his thousands of students spread all over the world - the Rebbe continues to inspire millions, Jews and non-Jews alike, to bring more goodness and kindness into the dark world we live in.

The Rebbe's legacy lives on. It was this vision of love for every individual and a vision of a perfected world that inspired our lifetime move to Naples. We carry his messages with us on a daily basis.

To me, what the Rebbe highlighted most, is the imperative for each person to take the prerogative and become leaders within their own sphere of influence. In the insightful words of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, “The Rebbe was not a man who was interested in creating followers; this was a man who was passionate about creating leaders.”
   
We've posted lots of information to help you learn more about the Rebbe's devotion to G-d, discover how deeply he cared for each human being, and to glean insight into his teachings. To learn more about the Rebbe click: www.Chabadnaples.com/Rebbe  
 
With best wishes for health, happiness and success,
Rabbi Fishel & Ettie

 

L’chaim - let’s celebrate life together

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As I write this, the cheerful sounds of cheerful events are still ringing in my mind as I contemplate some recent happy milestones at Chabad: 21 of our oldest preschoolers celebrated academic achievements as they progressed to kindergarten; 40 Hebrew School students attended end-of-year ceremonies in recognition of the Jewish learning they acquired. Each and every child walking across the stage was worthy of a well-earned L’chaim! As I saw their smiles and blessed them, I thought of how we recognize the journeys we make together with L’chaim and hope the children continue with the friendships and togetherness they have formed here.

Interesting that the phrase “L'chaim" is plural, not the singular form of the word “ chai" meaning life. But instead of “ L’chai" we say “to lives”, which suggests an important message: life lived well is plural, at its fullest when shared with others - thinking about other people, blessing them, giving to them.

The last time I was in Israel with my family I noticed something striking when we visited the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee.  Why is one so full of life, while the other has none, while their source, the Jordan River, is the same?  The Dead Sea has no outlet, and my takeaway is, when you  give and share you are full of life. Giving connects us not only to the recipient, but to ourselves, helping us recognize the ways in which our lives are intertwined. By enhamcing others’ lives we enhance our own. How easy it is in the daily running around to take care of obligations and personal needs to become isolated, an island,  and lose sight of the mainland!

During this somewhat slower season let us gather with family and friends to focus on what we can share and give to others. Take advantage of the more relaxed hours to notice the people who have been sent into our midst who might need and enjoy a kind word or a smile. There are many ways to give.

Come to our weekly kiddush to stay around and socialize and offer a heartfelt L’chaim!

Prayers for Israel

This week, our brothers and sisters in Israel once again experienced what it means to live under the fear of war. Some communities in Northern Israel were woken up at 2:00 am by the sounds of missile blasts. There is also concern about the Gaza border. The country is on high alert and the army is mobilize.

This is good time to ‘check in’ to Shul on Shabbat - and touch base with the ‘commander’. Even if you don't use your Tefillin regularly, I encourage you to don them on a weekday during this period; the Tefillin represent our Jewish uniform and protective gear. Women and girls don't miss your Shabbat candles today, or any Friday, to add much needed light, during this challenging period.

Let us continue to stand strong with Israel and stand proud of Israel! Let us continue to be vigilant, resolute, and united in our love and support for Israel!  Whether by visiting the country, extending financial support for Israeli causes, speaking out on Israel’s behalf, or performing “mitzvot” - acts of goodness and kindness - to provide Eretz Yisrael with vital spiritual fortification; let us not lose sight of the fact that what we do here makes a difference there! For this perspective and course of action will serve to reinforce one of the most immutable and unshakable truths of human history - namely, that “AM YISROEL CHAI!”  - THE NATION OF ISRAEL LIVES - yesterday, today, always and forever!

A Mother's Love Goes Both Ways

 

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As we celebrate Mothers’ Day this week, my thoughts focus even more strongly on the incredible women to whom I owe so much.

A Mother’s Love Goes Both Ways -
 
We all know where we’d be without mothers and most of us realize by the second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year just how much we owe to those biological and maternal figures who not only gave us life but continued to guide and influence us in positive ways as we matured. For some, the role never quits, even though we may be remiss in expressing to them how we feel as often as we should.
 
There is a poem that expresses it perfectly: ‘When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking' tells how each little caring thing that mothers do is noticed, even though the child may not acknowledge it at the time, and that ranges from the encouragement one feels when school art is hung on the refrigerator to the silent tears and smiles that mark each passing event. My own mother had a great impact on my life with her happy and joyful attitude, and it continues to this day.
 
In the same way, although she might think we don’t notice, it would be next to impossible not to see how Ettie is truly unbelievable with the strength she quietly exhibits while directing and supporting the Preschool, Chabad, our children and the community.
 
Mothers’ Day is just an annual reminder of the gratitude we should feel often for the loving foundation given to us by those maternal figures. May we always recognize it as a ‘two-way street’ and remember to show our love and appreciation in return.

 

Count the Days and Make Them Count

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Count the Days and Make Them Count

During the period from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot we have a unique Mitzvah: to count the omer. At the start of each 24 -hour period at night we say a special blessing, thanking G-d for having us count the days, and then state the number of the day, starting with #1 all the way to day #49. Other Mitzvot are typically more action-oriented and easily understood, like eating matzah and blowing the shofar. But what is the meaning behind what seems to be a time-counting exercise? 

In Psalm 90, King David writes, "Teach us to number our days so we can acquire a heart of wisdom." When we realize that our days are numbered and recognize that life has a limit, we begin living fully and freely. When we recognize our own mortality, we become less concerned with meaningless annoyances. We forgive more, we love more, we fill every moment with love and with joy.

Every single mitzvah, custom and tradition we are instructed to perform is meant to evoke an inner discovery within us. Each one is meant to elevate the spiritual or moral quality of our lives, or to teach us a valuable lesson on how to go about living our lives.

Jack Schwartz had a curious non- Jewish co-worker who constantly asked him about Judaism. Jack decided to invite him to his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, to witness a Jewish service and ceremony firsthand in a synagogue. The guest sat there in Shul on a Saturday, totally intrigued by everything he saw.

Every other minute, he asked Jack for the reason and explanation behind each action, from wrapping a Tallis around oneself to covering one’s eyes while reciting the Shema, to the lifting of the Torah for all to see. In each instance, Jack explained everything as well as he could.

Then the Rabbi stood at the lectern to deliver the sermon. Opening his Chumash (Bible), he removed his watch and placed it gently at one side of the Chumash, so that he could keep an eye on the time.

“What does that mean?” his friend asked.

Jack responded: “That, my friend, doesn’t mean a darn thing!”

Time is relative. Of course, a day is never more than 24 hours; an hour is never more than 60 minutes and a minute is never more than 60 seconds. But, as the Rebbe of blessed memory, would always say: “Time is like a vessel which is highly elastic - with an infinite absorptive capacity - It has the power to expand or contract, depending on how much, or how little, is put into the vessel.”

We can take that same unit of time, those same 24 hours, and fill it with incredible content, with so much accomplishment and achievement that it has an impact for all eternity, or we can squander it completely, shrinking it into nothingness, so that it fades away as if it never happened. It is up to us.

The message of counting the Omer is: “Take it one day at a time,” but make the most of each and every one of those days. Count the day and make the day count

 

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