Rabbi Fishel's Blog

An imperfect world

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Quick thought after yesterday’s meeting at the UN.

There is no place in the world that is perfect — every place can stand some improvement. Meeting with Israeli leaders and key figures from other countries, heads of state and presidents and ambassadors from Africa, I understood how everyone is actively seeking solutions whether it’s assistance with water or striving to make a difference and solve problems in each country. When this imperfect world was created and G-d appointed us as its stewards, we became His partners to improve and perfect His world.

With the advent of Rosh Hashonah, "the beginning’’ of the year, it’s time for us to dedicate ourselves by throwing in our lot with G-d, becoming real partners and working to make a difference, to create and innovate, using the resources G-d gave us to be ingenious and enterprising, really participate in this world. We can’t fix the world all at once. We do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one mitzvah at a time!

Happy Rosh Hashonah

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos


Cherished Connections

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Dear Friends and Naples Family,

I am sharing Mendel’s personal moment with all, in the hope that this message connects with you as it did with us.

In Ashkenazic tradition, a Bar Mitzvah boy has a celebration about two months before the actual Bar Mitzvah day, known as hanachat tefilin, when the boy dons tefillin for the first time. This is one of the highlights of the transition from boy to man.

We went back and forth as to what was the best location for Mendel to actually lay tefillin for the first time, but in the end we decided that Mendel should actually lay Tefilin for the first time during a visit to the Rebbe’s resting place in NY, known as “the Ohel”. Throughout our history, the holy resting places of the righteous have served as spiritual oases. The Ohel is no different, and draws a wide range of visitors every day seeking prayers and blessings.We also have close family members, Zaidy and Bubby and our great grandmother in NY.

As it happened, the location, timing, and choice turned out much more powerful and memorable than expected. Although many would call it a coincidence, as a Chassidic rabbi I have no other choice but to call it divine providence. As we gathered, a friend noticed that near us stood the family of Eyal Yifrah from El’ad Israel. Eyal was one of the three teenage boys who was kidnapped and murdered in the summer of 2014. Eyal's and his friends’ parents made international headlines for their bravery and strength, so powerful in the face of tragedy. They served as an inspiration for so many.

I walked over to the parents, and introduced myself and explained that we were visiting this very special place for Mendel's laying tefilin. Just this Shabbas in my talk I had spoken about them and the example of their steadfast belief in the face of the unreal and how one’s faith can be challenged.

Eyal’s mom was moved by this gesture and and came over to our family and said L’chaim in honor of Mendel. Recalling everything she went through, she said something I will never forget, that encouraged Mendel and all of us: “Do whatever you can to be happy ever day.” THESE WERE HER EXACT WORDS.  She went on to explain how every day when she wakes up, it’s a struggle to find happiness. Through a smile and tears she shared that at simchas, happy occasions, one just has to be happy and enjoy every moment. It was such a moving tribute to her pain and and touched us all to the core as she shared how this little gesture of our saying L’chaim together and letting her know that we shared a few words on Shabbas and that we are all praying for them meant so much. 

It was a mere iota of comfort but for me in Eyal's grieving mother I saw a reflection of all grieving mothers, and my own mother who unfortunately also lost a son at too young an age. I recall how my mother barely looked at pictures of my brother since any memory triggered such pain. And then when we dedicated a Torah in his memory my mother said how she was able to find some comfort. While I cannot fathom the pain of Eyal's loved ones, it is my hope that by their seeing more boys continue to inspire joy in the path of Torah, they will gain some comfort from Eyal’s legacy.

This interaction was so special for us and particularly for Mendel as he approaches adulthood with renewed purpose in his life.

There are many times in life that if we were just aware of encounters, we would be making life-changing connections. As our New Year approaches, let us all take inspiration from this woman and be happy, enjoy the moments and live the happiness she was speaking about. 

As we look at this photo of this very special interaction, may we begin the New Year by finding joy in every moment of our lives and may we be blessed only with simchas!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Zone in on a Healthier, Longer Life


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Zone in on a Healthier, Longer Life

Given a choice, everyone would want to live a longer, healthier life.  And that’s what Blue Zone is all about.   On Sunday  we had our special ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the beginning of this very positive program for our Preschool of the Arts.  While we always strive to promote wellness and good health, as the Torah  mentions so many times how we have to guard our bodies, we are pleased to have the opportunity  to provide this to our children.  Just last year I shared my thoughts with you on this topic in an article in the Federation Star, and because of its significance and in order for everyone to appreciate the value of living ‘in the Blue Zone', I am repeating it here.

May Your New Year Be Blue!


Who doesn’t want to live a  longer, healthier life! Are you aware that it could be within your reach, brought to a Blue Zone neighborhood near you by Dr. Alan Weiss of NCH?

Blue Zone is a worldwide movement to transform the wellbeing of a community by encouraging small but significant changes to lifestyles which will result in healthier, happier people who live longer and better. People who live in Blue Zones around the world commonly live to 100 years of age. They practise  similar activities such as  participation in purposeful lives, plant-based diets, red wine, spiritual events, down-shifting  stress levels,  multigenerational families, and belong to faith-based communities.  

As a dedicated family man, I am excited to hear that NCH made a 10-year commitment to bring Blue Zone to our community. We all want our children and friends to enjoy quality living. As the Bal Shem Tov,  the founder of Chassidism said, a small opening in the body is a big hole in the soul;  the mental and physical elements in our bodies are  interconnected. One of the commandments in the Torah as one studies is  not to neglect  to exercise  and care for the body.
As a Rabbi I recognize a profound message here for all of us and can assure Dr. Weiss of our support as we aim to enter  the Blue Zone.

We are approaching the High Holidays, a time to look back, assess,  and then look forward to the coming year. We ask the following questions:  How do I fill my year with meaning?  How do I increase the quality of my family’s Jewish life? How do I take it to the next level?

All we have to do is look at the Blue Zone project to guide us straight to a HappyNew Year.

One of the steps of this project is to wake up with purpose each day. Our tradition teaches us that G-d created the world in an unfinished state and made us His partners to complete perfecting it. That is why we celebrate Rosh Hashana on the birthday of Adam and Eve, not on the first day of creation: we realize we are part of G-d’s master plan of creation, that each positive deed or act of kindness , no matter how small, makes a difference, gives us purpose each day and enhances the quality of our lives and those around us. 

Down-shift, find a stress-relieving strategy to counter  obligations and busy schedules. Look no further than  the gift of Shabbat or our High Holidays as days of rest, time to wind down and spend quality family time - another one of the steps. 

But my favorite step is to belong and participate in a faith-based community. It has been my unbiased experience that belonging to Naples Chabad,  which offers faith, social, and humanitarian services will increase your happiness and enhance the quality of your life. 

We must remember part of our extended family is Israel where our brothers and sisters need our support. Take the time to learn more about Israel or visit there to touch base with  your heritage,in this country that has been our beacon of light.

With the holidays at hand, I encourage you to “take the pledge”:  join this group of people and families who are starting the New Year afresh, with a clear strategy to improve not only their physical lives but also their emotional and spiritual wellbeing. See you in the Blue Zone?


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