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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

What goes through your mind when you awaken each day?

The older we get, as we wake up each morning we often joke about being grateful for being on the 'right side' of the grass.
It's no joke, and the moment we open our eyes we should be saying a prayer called Modeh Ani which states: “Thank You, G-d, for giving me back my life.” It is a brief prayer with a powerful message and lasting impact. Neuroscientists have found that the thoughts going through our minds the first few minutes after we wake up set the tone for the rest of the day. They call this the “the rudder of the day”. Just as the shifting of a boat’s rudder at the beginning of a voyage can utterly change its ultimate destination, so our first thoughts set our outlook and attitude for the rest of the day. The first thing we are to do immediately upon awakening, while still in bed, is to thank G-d, to appreciate the gift of life, to upload positive thoughts of gratefulness in our mind.
So add G-d as a contact in your address book. Let Him be your first text of the day. Challenge yourself to keep G-d in the top 5 people you text all day.

my older brother Yossi's inspiration and short life


Sometimes we draw on moments of darkness for our inspiration --

Until I was 14, I felt I grew up in a perfect family, somewhere in the middle of three older sisters and one brother, and two younger brothers and a sister -- that's right, there were eight of us. Today almost everywhere you go in the world you can find a Zaklos, from Melbourne, Australia to Sherman Oaks, CA -- sadly, there is one missing:  my older brother Yossi, of blessed memory, whose yahrzeit is tonight.

Yossi and I were close in age (he was a year and a half older) but we had quite different personalities.  Yossi was more studious and always helping people -- you could see he was on the rabbinical path from the beginning. I, on the other hand, loved to play basketball and was perhaps a little more carefree.  That, however, was to change. After several months of Yossi's being in pain and being examined by several doctors, he was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.  Against the wishes of my parents I joined Yossi and my father at Sloan-Kettering. Since my parents were needed at home with the family,  I spent the next two and a half years by Yossi's side, whether he was in treatment or temporary remission, just because I knew it was the right thing to do. As we became best friends, I learned with difficulty subjects that teenagers should not have to know:  pain, suffering, and the reality of life and death.  During those powerful, formative years Yossi and I would discuss life and philosophy, but more important,  while he was hospitalized I observed how he acted in such a dignified way, visiting other patients, smilingly warmly, trying to soothe and heal others while ignoring his own pain. He was such a mensch!  

Although I loved helping people, I had not really thought of the rabbinate as my life's work. But I vividly recalled Yossi's words as he encouraged me all the time:  "Fishey, you must go into the rabbinical field or be involved with helping others.   You would be great at it." 

After fighting courageously for two and a half years, Yossi passed away.  That left a deep void in our lives,  but he lives on in my promise to give every ounce of my energy to continue his love for others  by helping people, working for a better world,  building a strong Jewish community of family that is authentic and where we truly care for each other. 

Yossi, I can now say that I am here in Naples at the beautiful Alex & Carol Glassman Chabad Community Center because of you -- you were my inspiration.

I wish Yossi could have met Ettie and my four children.  I wish he could have been here to give me much-needed assurance and encouragement in our early days in Naples.

No parent should ever lose a child, and I too seriously questioned G-d's wisdom in the loss of my brother. But rather than allowing this tragedy to define my life,  I have tried to reach out and reframe what I experienced in a positive way, by using what I learned in those many, terrible hours I spent watching Yossi suffer.  One of my greatest honors was receiving an award with a certificate of appreciation  from the hospital,  as the greatest brother who devoted time and energy in taking care of Yosef Zaklos during his treatment. 

Although having our  wonderful campus and facilities is exciting, the real importance underlying  the amazing incredible Glassman Center is the ability to channel our strengths, to help, to bring light and comfort to our extended family and to our community.

In memory of Yossi's inspiration and short life, on the anniversary of his passing tonight, honor his soul with  a mitzvah to confirm that his goodness and strength continue.

I know he is smiling from on high and may his soul be elevated and comforted… Yossi, I will read from your Torah tomorrow with your Chabad Naples family…we love you! 

David Allen's bestseller resonates with me


Dear Friends, 

Author David Allen's bestseller is about getting things done with as little stress as possible.   

“Most people feel best about their work the week before their vacation," he writes, " but it’s not because of the vacation itself.  What do you do the last week before you leave on a big trip? You clean up, close up, clarify, and negotiate all your agreements with yourself and others.” 

That really resonates with me at this time of year, as I think this summarizes Passover  perfectly:  it’s a time to make preparations -- clean up -- to go on vacation, even for a few days,  from all the things that inhibit you. 

Passover is the time when we are blessed with spiritual freedom to allow us to rise above and "Passover" the confusion and worry stemming from the challenges we face in daily life. Enjoy its rich traditions, observe its sacred customs, and allow It to afford you the much needed energy of joy and liberation to savor year-round. 

This in turn gives us an additional dose of the many blessings and inspirations which Pesach provides; namely, the spirit of true freedom from every conceivable obstacle, from within and from without. 

Please accept our best wishes for a Happy, Kosher and Meaningful Passover! 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

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