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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

A loyal partner of Chabad of Naples, our reliable Shofar blower, a treasured friend

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With deep sorrow we mourn the sudden passing of Gil Block, Gershon ben Zelig, yesterday.

A loyal partner of Chabad of Naples, our reliable Shofar blower, a treasured friend, and a very sweet person: he is sorely missed. A true special light and beautiful soul has departed, and the entire Naples community has lost a gem of a person.

Gil had told me he expected to return from a visit with his children to celebrate the High Holidays with us, and how he was looking forward to blowing the Shofar. However, he became ill and passed away.

 

I am happy that I had an opportunity to speak with him a few days ago, and to tell him how much we loved him. When his wife Diane said he might not return for the High Holidays, I told him we would miss him but looked forward to his coming back to Chabad Naples.

Two days ago Gil's daughter mentioned to me that he really was not doing well. So I called my dear friend and colleague Rabbi Levi Potasch, who is the Chabad rabbi there, to go and pray with him and send him my love and give him a hug.

He went there and he put on tefillin with Gil, spoke Yiddish with him, prayed with him, and then put the shofar by his lips and Gil smiled beautifully.

Gil was such a sweet soul. We had an amazing relationship. Every Shabbat together was special, and he uplifted us all with his warmth. He always had something special to say and always showered praise upon our work. He loved what we did and we loved him back. He was also involved in so many other interests such as the Jewish war veterans and a host of other organizations in our community.

This Rosh Hashanah will be even more powerful than usual, as Gil will be blowing the Shofar from on high. He will be with us as he always was. He was such a man amazing and beautiful person. And his last words to me were, “ I love you”.

We mourn and express our deepest condolences to his wife Diane, his daughter Susie, and his son.

May the Block family & our community only know of Simchas.

Funeral services will be held on Sunday at 1 PM at Beth Shalom cemetery - 1501 Anderson Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15209. There will be a Maariv service Tuesday night at Chabad Naples at 7:00 pm as we honor this special human being in the Chabad Naples that he called home.

 

THE PATH TO HOPE

THE PATH TO HOPE

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

 1.   The streets were not paved with gold.

2.   The streets were not even paved!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was it just one week ago that we were  anxiously waiting for details about the  hurricane’s track?  It was a wake up call, and  what is most important is while we were spared,  there are so many people who were not. Many of the small islands  in the Bahamas have been devastated and sadly, many lives lost.  We pray for everyone there and in the eastern US who has suffered injury, loss of life and property.  Their days ahead will require help, strength, and faith.

Chabad Naples & Preschool of the Arts would also like to contribute to these relief efforts, without overlapping with the many organizations doing such meaningful work here in Naples and in the Bahamas www.jewishbahamas.com/relief2. While basic necessities are needed immediately, we would like to help some of those who lost everything in the longer term. As a special Mitzvah Project, Preschool of the Arts is organizing a toy drive, where we will be donating toys to those most affected by Hurricane Dorian. We will begin collecting toys within the next few weeks until the holiday season, during which we will gift these toys to children in need. We believe this effort will resonate well with our young students, who will learn the importance of helping other children. Toys are a medium that transcends differences, and we hope our children will be excited to participate in this project that will get toys into the hands of children who don't have any. Stay tuned for more details as we roll out this initiative. If any parents would like to volunteer to helping organize in this effort, we would greatly appreciate it.

Wishing you all month filled with strength and meaning.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

COMFORT IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

Dear Friends,

As the Hebrew month of Tishrei approaches, with many important holidays, it’s a good time to reflect on how our faith offers a safe, secure haven from stormy days in a chaotic, tumultuous world. In light of recent news, let us ponder deeper aspects of the High Holidays, as we automatically turn towards spirituality and seeking answers and purpose when life feels uncertain and threatening.

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year, and yet we often find ourselves walking into the synagogue disoriented by the chaos in the world and the challenges in our personal lives. However, Rosh Hashanah is essentially about reflecting on our relationship with G-d, and His caring, loving presence.  Many of us have an unfortunate image of G-d as a powerful, stern man in the sky with a large stick.  This can intimidate us from connecting with Him as that compassionate, caring presence, or connecting with Him at all. As a Chassidic master once told a self-proclaimed atheist, "The G-d that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either. “

A question to reflect on: what was my perception of G-d in my childhood, and has this perception changed?

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and yet, G-d asks us to do something before making amends with Him: to make amends with our family and friends. When He sees that we are “loving whom your Beloved loves,” he is especially open to our prayers and requests.  After we have asked forgiveness from the people in our lives, we turn to G-d and acknowledge where we have fallen short this past year and commit to doing better in the year ahead. It is in this spirit of honesty and vulnerability that we can culminate Yom Kippur day with the holiest moments of the entire year, in an intense, intimate oneness with G-d in the Neilah Prayer. Perhaps before asking G-d for forgiveness, we need to forgive ourselves. Often, we are our harshest critics. We forget that making mistakes is part of what makes us human. G-d isn’t happy when His children aren’t treated kindly. You are one of G-d's children. We need to practice kindness within ourselves.

Some questions to reflect on: which friends and family do I need to make amends to? What character defects do I need to talk to G-d about?

Sukkot is that glorious season when we eat in a hut outdoors, surrounded by

G-d's bounty.  As we commemorate G-d's clouds of protection to the Jews in the Sinai desert, on all six sides, we affirm that then, and now, our security comes from more than stocks and bonds and solid roofs over our heads: it comes from G-d's will,  from His goodness. It is disconcerting and anxiety-provoking to face the fact that there are no guarantees in life, especially in today’s uncertain world. That's why we rejoice in our relationship with G-d-- we acknowledge that ultimately there is no reason to be afraid, because G-d is our ultimate provider, protector, and constant presence.

On Simchat Torah (the day immediately following Sukkot) we dance with the Torah closed. If we opened it, some might feel inadequate or intimidated by others who are more familiar with the text. The learning and doing can and must come later, for on this day, we all just rejoice that this gift of truth belongs to everyone, not simply to the Rabbi or the Rebbetzin or the learned scholars:  it belongs equally to every single Jew.

Some questions to reflect on: how have I made ideas, material things, and acquisitions my sense of true (or only) security? How can I make rejoicing in G-d's protection and presence a daily act of affirmation and gratitude?

A lasting high and real security don’t come from a promotion, social media, a new car, or a glass of wine. They're certainly wonderful to savor in the moment (and become meaningful when used in meaningful ways, as with family, or for G-d), but in and of themselves they don't spiritually sustain us.

This season is called the High Holidays because of the truly elevated, lasting purpose they give us, not for the promise of adrenaline rushes or everlasting bliss.

They give something better and deeper: they give us precious reminders of G-d's presence in our personal life, of His unconditional love for us, of His forgiveness, of His protection, of His guidance, and our ability to act with courage and kindness, tapping into our higher selves. In a world fraught with uncertainties, disappointments and pain, these Highs can serve as the foundation of faith and quiet security that lead to a deeply meaningful year.

With love and blessings,

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

Let Shoshana be an inspiration!

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When the sun sets on Shabbat, August 10, Tisha B’av,  the saddest day the year begins.  This is when we fast and pray and refrain from of regular activities as we recall the destruction of both temples.  As we personally and as a community reflect on  our past pain and suffering, in spite of all that we have endured and experienced, it is amazing that  our faith remains as deep as can be.  One of the core principles in Judaism is the belief  that  better days are ahead:  a world of universal peace, and peace among humanity. 

This  picture which has been circulating  in social media expresses this in a powerful way.  It  is worth sharing,   to  give you strength in your own journey, in the midst of the hate, anti-semitism and negativity. Stand up and be counted!  Let Shoshana be an inspiration!

Be fruitful and multiply!

Words form social media…

“In front of her eyes she watched Mengele taking her mother. Shoshana Obitz herself survived Auschwitz. After the war, she met Dov, who lost his wife and four daughters in the camps. They married and came to Haifa. She worked as a seamstress and helped him run the chicken shop. Shoshana just celebrated her 104th birthday and asked for one gift:  that all her descendants come together to the Western Wall.

Am Yisrael Chai!

LET IT BEGIN WITH US

LET IT BEGIN WITH US

Thinking of the endless families and friends who are grieving their loved ones after these horrific shootings. We condemn them in the strongest terms possible and know that we have an urgent responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again.

We cannot ignore that we live in troubled times and often a solution cannot be found at our fingertips, so what can we do about it? We can pray and offer comfort and solace to those suffering loss of friends and relatives, and pray for the speedy and complete recovery for the injured. But like so many, we ask ourselves, is that enough? Daily our hearts and minds are tugged to take action against the rampant hate that is circulating in the world. Glib words are quick band-aids that don’t suffice to heal and cure, when we desperately need to exhibit and exercise more love and kindness. As we all know, there are many ways to react to tragedies like these, whether it is emotionally, intellectually, politically, and so on.  

What I know for certain is that in times of such hate, our world desperately needs more love and kindness. let us take courage from the age-old Jewish adage “a little bit of light will dispel a great deal of darkness”. Please join me today in taking action, to combat the darkness by calling a family member, volunteering to help someone, leaving a note of appreciation for people just to touch base, spread comfort, and show you care! We can act by flooding the world with kindness and light. One act of goodness will beget another, one small flicker of light can multiply and hopefully begin to illuminate some of the darkest corners of our world. So let's put politics and arguments aside and take some time to look at each other with eyes wide open and hearts open even wider. It can begin with us

May their memory be for a blessing and may G-d grant strength to their families, friends and communities. And 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.

With prayers for peace and security,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Summer usually brings travel, and although many of us look forward to the destination, often the process of getting there can be frustrating and tiresome. Sometimes when embarking on a long trip, especially with children, it can be more enjoyable if we make frequent, enjoyable rest stops along the way. Refreshed, we can continue to the destination.

When the Jewish people set out on their journey to freedom, the opening words of the Torah portion say, “And these are the travels”. In reality, it should say “These are the encampments, the stops”, since that is what is being described.

Perhaps the reason is, although we have pauses in life, moments of resting quietly when we try to restore our strength, we still must remain focused on the journey. Angels are described as standing still but we humans are constantly moving and wanting to grow. It is said, life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you need to keep moving.

Soon we will be bidding farewell to summer holidays and in a few weeks, school will begin, and then the high holidays and a new year will arrive. Even if we stop temporarily along the way of our trip through life, we should always keep on aspiring and keep our eyes on the destination.

Some of the precious moments that I enjoyed as a child going to shul were the five times during the year when we completed a book of the Torah and the congregation rose as one, after the Torah reader concluded the book, and we all said, ”Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazek” - Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened. We turned to one another and said, “You be strong and together we will strengthen one another.” When we complete the fourth book of the Torah tomorrow, Sefer Bamidbar, we will say, chazak chazak v’nischazeik - - Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened

Let us strengthen the course of our lives and encourage one another to keep moving forward. You may recall that we also shared these words when we completed our Unity Torah. Here is Yitzi saying those words.

This Shabbat let’s come together and strengthen each other. Wherever you are, with whomever you share this Shabbat, don’t forget your destination in life: rise and move forward towards your goals, inspiring, growing, and strengthening those around you to enjoy the pauses but not to forget to keep moving toward the destination.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

"Follow the leader!"

FOLLOW THE LEADER!

In this week's Torah portion, Moses requests of G-d that a successor should be appointed to lead the people after he passes away.  His student Yehoshua is chosen.

When describing Yehoshua’s qualities, neither his intellectual capabilities nor his powerful personality, or even his righteousness is emphasized.  He is described in a few words as “a man with souls in him”.  The commentaries say that it means that he had a unique way of interacting and connecting with every type of individual.

A real leader is not one who regards himself higher or better than others, but one who truly cares for each person and guides each one according to his or her needs.

Sometimes it's a video that's worth a thousand words. So grateful for this video I received recently, capturing this precious encounter.

Sometimes it’s a video that’s worth a thousand words, and I am truly grateful for receiving this video a few days ago.  The Rebbe assigned slots of  time which  he reserved to meet with people, to distribute to  thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike,  dollars intended to be given to charity.   It captures a precious encounter with the Rebbe:  the second adult in the video is my father, followed by my brother Chaim,  then my brother Yossi who just had his Bar Mitzvah,  and then me. All of us are receiving dollars from the Rebbe's holy hand. He cared for each person equally, never showing preference. 

This was the Jewish ideal of two people interacting with the intention to help a third. 

May we never lose sight of this goal.

"Follow the leader!"

Always take a step back

Parshah teaching: When Bilaam was unsuccessful with cursing the Jews, king Balak took him to a different mountain, where he could see only some - but not all - of the Jewish camp.

Why would that vantage point be more conducive to cursing the Jewish people?

Because when you choose to only see a part of the nation, you can always find faults and be negative. But if you choose to see the Jewish people as a whole, you're sure to see its overall beauty and splendor.

And the same goes with how we choose to view other individuals.

Always take a step back, take in the whole picture, and you'll see goodness and beauty everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.

Dear Friends, 

What a powerful weekend, filled to the brim with inspiration and encouragement, joining tens of thousands of visitors in NY as we prayed at 770, Chabad Headquarters, and visited the Rebbe's gravesite.

It's difficult to believe that 25 years have come and gone since the Rebbe's passing. And yet, a quarter of a century has not diminished the Rebbe's impact, the Rebbe's teachings, the Rebbe's light. The Rebbe's light and influence has only grown stronger, reflected in the thousands of Chabad Centers that have been established after his passing, and the tens of thousands, if not millions,  that have been touched by the Rebbe's teachings and philosophy.

Summer is a time of increased light and warmth; we have longer daylight hours, and higher temperatures. In other words, summer is a time when the sun is in fuller glory and effect.

That’s summer in ‘macro’; but this also applies to each of us in ‘micro’.

In a way, we each have our own internal seasons. We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.

There are times when we go through an internal winter, when our moral vision and priorities don’t express their full light into our daily lives. There are times when conscience and values are in relative hibernation, when the spirit is cold, and moral growth seems a part of the distant past.

Then there’s summer. Summer is about letting our internal sun shine. Summer is about feeling our own internal capacity for spirituality and warmth, a capacity that might recede in the face of a hectic schedule.  

So if we’re able to relax a bit from the everyday stresses and ‘get away’, then we need to use that to synchronize ourselves with nature; we need to create our own internal summer by increasing the light and warmth in our life.

We each have valuable relationships - with loved ones, with our community and with our G-d – and relationships need nurturing. So if you’re running on fewer cylinders this summer, and have some extra space in your brain and heart, those relationships could probably use some extra warmth.
You have an internal sun. Let it shine.
Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light and lots of sun:-)


 

values that personally inspire me

Dear Friends,

Tonight 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.  On this 4th of July, 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 weekend, I will be joining an expected crowd of 75,000 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.

 In my absence on Shabbat, Rabbi Choni will lead the services,  and thank you to Clement Soffer for sponsoring the Kiddush.  Clement will also speak at the Kiddush about the essence of the menorah and how we can all be a beacon of light on this planet. Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

Celebrate the Joy — Eradicate the Oy!

I recently was delighted to meet a former Hebrew School student and his mother.

The woman proudly shared that her son was active in combating anti-semitism in his school by reporting certain negative activity and publicly condemning the hostility some of the students were experiencing.

I congratulated the boy’s sense of justice and asked him my usual question about what his favorite mitzvah is.

“Fighting hate crimes. Making sure every person feels safe in my school and in my neighborhood.”

Unfortunately, we are aware that incidents related to anti-semitism are increasing and are a large problem in Jewish life today. Anti-semitism is undeniably on campuses and some elementary schools, too, and along with the subtle and not-so-subtle occurrences comes the obligation to stand up and condemn them and prevent them from happening again.

I could give you a whole slew of examples, many of which you are likely to be somewhat familiar with.

We (understandably) become preoccupied with Jew hatred-preoccupying ourselves with proclaiming what we are not-- that we tend to not focus enough on what we are.

Fighting anti-semitism is certainly a noble preoccupation; it is ultimately our obligation!

And I said as much to the boy at the market, congratulating him on his courage and commitment.

But at the same time, we have to embrace the joy of Judaism, embracing the beauty of our traditions.

Anyone in a thriving business knows that with all the PR in the world, and all the attempts to purge the Internet’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages from negative reviews, without a really good product, you have nothing.

So I suggest that we choose a time and place, together with friends or family, to bask in the priceless product: what we are. Let’s look at the values that Jews not only died for but lived for. Let’s bask in the knowledge that today we are a vibrant nation of survivors, where millions of Jews are learning about their Judaic culture and history more than at any other time in history. Let’s explore and experience the Joys of Judaism: the glow of the Shabbat candles, the wine of the Kiddush, the crusty Challah, the words of our timeless Torah to uplift and invigorate us all. Let’s practice the prayers that connect us to our Creator, all in a tech-free zone, where we’re not just hearing each other, but really listening and absorbing.  Let’s show the world not only our intolerance for racism, but that Jewish people love being Jewish.

Judaism is alive and well and living in this century.

I remember my father sharing this with us at the Shabbat table: in general, we human beings are drawn to the sensational. There’s a reason that bad news is always front and center in virtually every magazine, newspaper and TV channel, while the good news follows afterwards. Bad news gets our attention and sells. It fascinates and preoccupies the mind. But it does more than that, as it traps our thinking and we begin to view the world as a dark and fearful place. When we look at the world through the TV news lens, our world will look shattered. When we learn about a corner of our world that is suffering, we must do everything in our power to condemn those who are perpetrating misery, and work to alleviate the suffering.

Let’s not define our world by the darkness that exists within it. Let’s define our world by all of the blessings we enjoy, and the kindnesses we receive.  When many people do that constantly, we become aware of a brighter, hopeful side of humanity. And most importantly, let’s all work to that end by doing an act of goodness and kindness today. Keep your eye on the joy and take the time to perform a mitzvah or two.

Step up to a challenge!

Dear Friends,

Just before the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel, they seem to have hesitated and been a little suspicious about what was waiting for them there. When they came up with the idea of sending an advance party of scouts or spies, G-d said they could go ahead with this plan of theirs, but he was not commanding them to do it and, in fact, He seemed to wonder why it was required.  

Now why was this such a big deal? Isn’t it wise to be cautious? Before you invest in anything you want to do research. Before you buy real estate, you do a survey and examine the property. What was so wrong that the Jews wanted to send spies to scout the land? It seemed that G-d saw it was a bad idea even before it ended up going bad.

When making decisions, we can consider one of two routes: ideas and words versus experience and action. As “People of the Book” we are great with ideas and words, but what enables us to reach great heights and superb accomplishments that truly make a difference is action and experiences.  

King David said one could taste and see that G-d is good. Why just taste, when we can analyze or study? I can tell you all about cheesecake, but you won't truly appreciate it until you taste it: action is paramount.

With the spies: finally, G-d told them, here you are finally going to Israel, the long-awaited dream, and what do you say? Well, we need to do an analytical study. What! Are you kidding? You want to take this amazing experience and water it down to a study? A third- hand report?  
G-d knew that no report or study would capture the essence of Israel (As you will have the opportunity to see when you join our excursion next year).

There is a time for contemplation and study and there is time for action.  Knowing what to choose and when makes the difference.

We sit here today on a campus with the names of Alex and Carol Glassman on it. Alex and Carol had their time for ideas and words but were always people of action. From the moment we met, Carol wrote an article about our first Chanukah at the Waterside shops, and then again and again stepped forward with articles to help make us known in the community. And then dedicating a classroom, understanding when we needed it most. It was action first that inspired Carol to do something special for the community by bringing her plans with Alex to fruition. Of course, Carol could easily have made all sorts of reasoned calculations and analyses as to why not to do what she did – when she did it. After all, “Why jump the gun?”... “Why not wait and see if there might be better uses for those funds, or perhaps a different schedule with which to roll them out?”

All of those could certainly be seen as valid and legitimate approaches. But Carol did not opt for any of those! Instead, she took one look at the situation, saw how much this community needed those funds at THIS time in order to take the next big step, and she just plunged ahead and took this incredibly magnanimous and meaningful action in a swift and timely manner. Instead of asking for proof of purpose, what we got was a no-strings-attached gift.  

There is a lesson here - and I am not encouraging you to be foolhardy and dive blindly into situations. When faced with challenges, don't look for excuses (or you will always find one…)-- plunge forward and do what needs to be done, thus opening the channels of blessings. There is no doubt that Alex's neshama is deriving much nachas and as we gather in shul on his yaehrzeit may his neshama have Aliyah and inspire the action first to do a mitzvah and then you will see the blessings.  Although we always encourage study, the idea is not to get frozen in time by analysis paralysis - don’t wait for the results of studies and analysis - plunge right in and reap your blessings.

With love & Blessings,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos
 

Our Mitzvot travel with us

 Charles ridge.jpgnice pic Tefilin.jpg

Dear Friends,


 

Shabbat shalom from Prague! Now that's not a greeting you hear every week but it’s every bit as sincere as it would be coming from the heart of Naples.  

I feel blessed to be here with my children and Ettie, celebrating her niece’s (oldest brother's daughter’s) wedding. Ettie's brother Rabbi Manis and his wife Dini, the Chabad Rabbi and Rebbitzin of Prague, have been serving here for 23 years, illuminating souls and creating a vibrant Jewish community. This wedding is a testament to their incredible community as hundreds of dear friends joined in the celebration, sharing their joy. It's an historic wedding, and also very meaningful for her parents since this is the first Barash grandchild to get married. Most of Ettie's family including siblings came, which created the perfect environment for a magical family reunion. 

Ettie always admired her older brother and in fact, when we were dating, she always dreamed of establishing a Chabad center just as he did. How special to come full circle as we are here to celebrate with his family, who ignited so much of the inspiration for us! We will return on Sunday, rejuvenated and bringing renewed inspiration.

We will be with you in spirit only this Shabbat, as Rabbi Choni Teitelbaum will lead services followed by kiddush sponsored by the Mizrachi family in honor of his father's birthday. Mazel tov on this blessed occasion!

This week’s Torah  portion is Behhaalotecha. It talks about  kindling lamps: Aaron, the high priest, was commanded to raise the lights. Every literal story has a message for all times and here the spiritual meaning is that each of us is meant to kindle lamps, as we are asked to illuminate souls and inspire each other to do good by filling the world with light.

In keeping with the message of sharing mitzvot, we enjoyed another very special moment. I had told Mendel and Yitzi wherever we go, we bring our Tefilin because it’s not only about putting it on ourselves but it’s also about sharing with others.
 
As we were taking a little tour and found ourselves on the Charles Bridge, we heard a few people speaking Hebrew and we ended up putting Tefilin on them. The last time he put on was at his bar mitzvah and we all danced and rejoiced together. How special it was to share and participate in such a meaningful event, not missing an opportunity to kindle yet another lamp.

Good Shabbas from the Zaklos family in Prague!
 

Listen to Logan's Generous Idea

Dear Friends,

In our Torah portion, we are charged to uplift our brothers and sisters with us. Perhaps imach, with us, can be interpreted to mean we can uplift them and show critical support with imach, with our experiences and what we have gone through. We didn’t ask for our particular struggles, but we give them meaning when we use them to help others with similar predicaments or experiences.  

Here at Chabad of Naples we take great pride in our Hebrew School education, not only in the curriculum and how it is offered, but also and more importantly, in how our students respond to our teaching.  

We try, and I believe we succeed,  in making our teaching both interesting and relevant to daily life, and  this year's heartwarming graduation ceremony stands out as a perfect example of this.  During the ceremony, one of the students, Logan, was motivated  ndependently to pass around  a Tzedakah box, explaining that  we all have to give charity.  His generous idea was quickly adopted by the rest of the class. Click here to hear Logan's few words.

Hebrew School teaches how to read, write, and speak the language, but our culture is about a lot more than that!  Hebrew School has also taught this young man about kindness and giving.  It's amazing what we can teach the  the students to practice now, so that  their world will  eventually be a brighter place. 

We should make ourselves available and offer help and support not based on how close we feel, but based on our experiences, our having been there and knowing somewhat what they are going through with this particular challenge. Don’t hesitate or be afraid – send a text, or an email or leave a message with someone saying, we don’t know each other or we aren’t close, but I went through a similar circumstance and I want you to know I am here to help or talk.

Money can help but sometimes we can’t afford to share money and sometimes money is not the issue. There is something else every single one of us can offer:

There is a story told about the devastating famine, which had brought great misery in Russia: A beggar had become weak and emaciated and almost starved to death. He approached the novelist Leo Tolstoy and asked him for assistance.

Tolstoy searched his pockets for money, but discovered that he didn't even have as much as a single coin. However, he took the beggar's worn hand between his own and said “don't be angry with me, my brother. I have nothing with me.”

The thin, lined face of the beggar lighted up, as if from some inner light. The beggar whispered in reply: “But, sir, you called me ‘brother.’ That was the greatest gift that you could give me.”

 V’chi yamuch achicha – the least we can all offer is achicha, to make someone feel they are our brother and our sister and you are with them.

 With love and blessings,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos


 

Sunday is Mothers Day

Dear Friends,

Thank you.

It was a beautiful show of UNITY this past Shabbat.

How great it was to see so many people from the community ready, willing, and able to demonstrate their solidarity and unity with our brothers and sisters in Poway CA.

Never underestimate the power of prayer and the mitzvah!

***
This week’s Torah portion tells us - first examine yourself and then examine others. It means be honest and truthful with yourself, before being critical of others.

People watch what we do, not what we say and the most potent device to change another is to model it ourselves. First the Cohen Gadol had to fix himself and only then could he try to help others.

An inscription on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abby who lived a thousand years ago reads: “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it, too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now, as I lie on my deathbed, I suddenly realize: If I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”

***

Happy mothers Day to all!

Sunday is Mothers Day - and where would we be without mothers? I think we all know the answer to that one!
 
Not a day should go by, that we forget to thank G-d for the blessing of a wonderful mother.

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.

May you and your family enjoy a wonderful day together! 

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