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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

Alex's precious life

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This week's Shabbat is dedicated in loving memory of Alex Glassman of blessed memory by his dear wife Carol. Alex was a giant of a man not only in terms of his physical stature but in terms of his character and his spirituality. He was a warm, friendly, and generous man with a big smile and an incredible laugh :) I remember this...his distinct laugh....he also had this special Neshamah and huge heart and was a person who always put his action where his heart and soul were.

Alex would often express regret over the fact that he grew up in a small town in Quebec where there was no Jewish community life to speak about and he was never able to receive bar mitzvah training.

Consider how many children in this community have received their Jewish education and how many bar mitzvahs have taken place and will take place in the future. Think about how many children are enjoying the warmth and the love in this beautiful Alex and Carol Glassman Chabad Naples Community Center, and to whose honor this Center is dedicated. It is all a tribute to Alex's legacy and a result of his wife Carol's actions to make it a reality. So I think it's safe to say that Alex is having his symbolic bar mitzvah in this very shul/synagogue many many times over. 

On a personal note, this week's Torah portion was actually my reading on the occasion of my bar mitzvah years ago...time flies! As this was my bar mitzvah Torah reading I genuinely feel that I am reading it for Alex - his bar mitzvah Torah reading and he is celebrating his bar mitzvah this week. Taking it a step further, and considering that almost to this day several years ago Ettie and I first moved to this part of the world to establish the Chabad Center of Naples, my heart swells thinking of how are dedicating this Shabbos to Alex's precious life and soul and what a tribute it is to have this bar mitzvah and Shabbat in his honor. 

This Torah portion suits Alex and Carol: this Torah reading teaches us that action is most important. Even the statement from Tehilim Psalms.... taste and you will see that G-d is good ... it's only when you taste it that you will truly know it. Certain things or realities in life you can't capture in words alone — like promises, actions speak louder than words — — they have to be experienced or acted upon in order to be appreciated. 

The Rebbe would say many times the way you become a kind person is by DOING kind things; it's when you DO great things that you become a great person. Beautiful words are important but not nearly as important as good and noble actions and there's a time and place for everything. There's a time for contemplation analysis, then there's a time for action and experience and knowing which belongs where is a big part of the secret of life.

When Ettie and I arrived here in Naples almost 14 years ago we came with literally nothing but the shirts on our backs and a desire and a will to make a difference in this community. No one rolled out the red carpet nor did we have the steps mapped out for us. 

But with G-d's help, by plunging forward we were able to bring the community together, enabling us to add program after program with participants along with supporters and in time we were able to acquire this magnificent center and build an award-winning preschool. 

Beautiful actions brought to fruition this place that touches hundreds of lives every step of the way.

It is with this same action that Alex and Carol lived their lives. It was this action first that motivated her when she decided to dedicate the center by accelerating the gift that she and Alex had discussed,giving it to something near and dear to their hearts. She saw how much the Chabad community needed it and took the next step, the big plunge forward and took the action in a swift and timely manner. Sitting in this very center dedicated in their names is an inspiring tribute to her beloved husband Alex — it's a living legacy of firmly establishing and continuing the love, teaching, sharing and caring that is doing immeasurable good today and will continue in perpetuity. 

This is the spirit that G-d encourages, when we face challenges not to look for excuses or rationalizations just plunge forward and do what we must do for the betterment of the quality of our own minds and those around us because then we open the channel for G-d's amazing blessings. I am certain that on this special Shabbas as we come together in loving memory of our beloved Alex, his neshama is deriving so much joy and pleasure from all that is here in both of their names as the Alex and Carol Glassman Chabad of Naples. As we gather together in the sanctuary inthe center that bears his name to mark his anniversary of passing, his special Yahrzeit, I know that his neshama is having an ascension in the heavens above and he's elevating all of our lives in the process and may his memory be an eternal blessing.  

The messages in these videos are timeless - as sincere an meaningful today as when they were uttered. 


Time: Our Precious Resource

Time:  Our Precious Resource 

Some years ago, a watch called Tikker came on the market. It was designed to show us how short our lives can be and by estimating our life expectancy, emphasize how we should make the most of each second as we watch them tick away.

Depending on how you live it, life can be both ephemeral and lengthy.

Recently my family and I attended the fantastic Celebrate Israel Day and while spending time wandering among the exhibits with my kids, we met a woman from our community we had not seen for a while. It was clear that she didn’t recognize my children and as I introduced them by name, she marveled at their grownup appearance. Partly to herself and partly to me, she commented how “time just keeps marching on”.

That’s something to which we can all relate: the ongoing passing of time. Time takes no breaks; it takes no pauses or rests. It just keeps marching on. A day becomes a week then becomes a month then becomes a year, and, before we know it, we find ourselves looking back at an entire lifetime that has passed, wondering where exactly it went.

Jewish practice has its way of dealing with the inevitable passing of time. It’s a curious exercise we do Between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot - we count time. Every evening we make a blessing and proclaim,” Today is the first day”, “Today is the second day,” until 49 days have passed and Shavuot arrives. What’s the purpose of this exercise? Are we counting just for the fun of it?

In the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot we know there will be exactly 49 days. There were only 49 days last year — there have only been 49 days for the last thousand years, and I’ll be willing to bet that there will only be 49 days this year as well. Yet, year after year, we count those same 49 days. It’s strange, right?

The answer lies in the etymology of the Hebrew word for counting—Sephirah. The word Sephirah has another meaning aside for counting—it means “to shine”. In fact, the English word sapphire is Semitic in origin, and is related to the Hebrew word Sephirah.
What does this all mean?

We cannot stop time. We cannot cause it to pause nor slow down its passage. What we can do, though, is illuminate the time we were given- we can make our time shine. How do we achieve that? By counting time. By being mindful of the time that constantly passes, and the infinite new opportunities every second brings. The more we acknowledge the immense gift behind every passing moment, the better we can unpack the unbounded potential it contains.

In the words of Maria Edgeworth, a famous English writer, “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”

A lifetime is a collection of years, a year a collection of days, a day a collection of minutes, and a minute a collection of seconds. When we treasure the value of a moment, and we see to it that it is utilized effectively, we create a minute, then a day, then a year, then a lifetime of mindful being and purposeful living.

There is a lot to be gained from counting time. The short moments our lives grant us are too precious to spend on idle gossip and useless hate. Life is too short to wait for the perfect mood, or to keep pushing things off until the perfect time.

Let us work together to put this into practice: “Today is one day”— all that exists is the present moment. We have the power to make sure it will shine. Let’s do it!



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