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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

The treasured memories

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“There’s only one thing more precious than our time, and that’s who we spend it on.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. How valuable time is. How scarce it often seems. And how best to treasure the small chunks of it we are given.
Things get a little quieter for us for two weeks in the summer during the (very rare!) break between Summer of the Arts and the start of Preschool of the Arts 2017-2018 and I get to spend more time with my wife and children. We travelled to NY to visit Ettie's parents, and to my hometown of Detroit to see my parents. One of the highlights was celebrating the birthday of Ettie's Bubby. May she live and be well.
The one thing that struck me over the past two weeks, is the importance of prioritizing quality time with my family. We want to give our children everything. We want to send them to the best schools, provide for them, and set them up for success in their lives.
But maybe there’s something more important than all of those things. Something that will last with our children well beyond their schooling and early careers. Something that will provide them with far greater security than any endowments.
Simply spending quality time with them.
After everything has passed, and all your children’s needs are taken care of, there’s only one thing that will really stick with them. The treasured memories of their time spent with you, your spouse and their siblings.
 Thank God, I’ve shared some very special moments with my family over the past two weeks. I hope you’ve managed to do the same.
On a more local note: Although Ettie and I are out of town, services will continue as normal led by Rabbi Levi. As well, this week we commemorate the tragic day of Tisha B’av, the day both the first and second Holy Temple was destroyed. Tisha B’av services will take place at Chabad on Monday night & Tuesday. Tisha B’av is a day to think about Jerusalem and our connection to the Holy Land. “if forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.” Take a few moments on Tuesday to think about your connection to Israel, to Jerusalem and to the Jewish people.
 

Building schmilding

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Dear Friends

I often think back to 2011, following a year of negotiations we were considering moving from a 2,000 square foot storefront to what seemed like an immense building. Even some of our closest & dearest friends and supporters worried that it just would not work...We’d be drowning in space! 

Today, with all of the bustling daily activity and our beautifully-attended Shabbat services (we will welcome a guest speaker this weekend), the full-house of happy campers all week, the grand performance yesterday, the award winning preschool, and more —  it’s amazing how we are bursting at the seams!

We take nothing for granted and thank G-d for how everything took root and unfolded. 

This updated (2017) camp picture reminds me of two words my father shared with me back in 2011: Building schmilding! Energized and excited, I could not wait to share the joy with my father. Excitedly I called to tell him, “We bought the building”, waiting to hear his “Mazel tov”. I am sure he said that, but what I heard and distinctly remember to this day, were his words: “Building schmilding”.  

These words remain the guiding light of our journey, the focus that we should never lose sight of our primary goal that is the impact we will have on the people and the children's lives, and the family we will now be able to create. It's not about the structure, it's the life that is celebrated within it.

Without a doubt I can reassure him that we listened. The building is now much too small and yet we manage to squeeze so much inside it: When there is room in the heart, there is room in the home. When there is love, the walls expand for the “Building schmilding" to accommodate what is needed.

Wishing you a beautiful Shabbat,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

Be Generous: No Time Off for Giving Blessings.

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Be Generous: No Time Off for Giving Blessings.

The last letter Barney received from his father...

Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean we should take time off from living well. What do I mean by that? Don’t neglect the basics.

In her bestselling book ‘My Grandfather’s Blessings’, Rachel Naomi Remen writes about visiting her grandfather every Friday afternoon. He lit candles, and said a quiet prayer. After talking to G-d, he rested his hands on top of her head and uttered a blessing, thanking G-d for making him her grandfather.

“These few moments were the only time in my week when I felt completely safe and at rest.”

Her family of professionals always struggled to be more, but her grandfather didn't care about such things. For him, she was already enough. He just thanked G-d that he had her as his granddaughter.

The memories were so vivid one might think this extended over a long period of time. Yet surprisingly her grandfather had died when she was only seven years old.

Years later when her mother was very old and unexpectedly started lighting shabbos candles, she told her mother about her grandfather’s blessing and how much it meant to her. Her mother smiled at her sadly and said, “I have blessed you every day of your life, Rachel. I just never had the wisdom to do it out loud.”

Are we making the same mistake? When was the last time, we told each of our children: “I am so thankful to G-d to have YOU as my child, I am so grateful to be your mom, or your dad”?

That is what Shabbat is for. A sacred time when we don’t look at what we lack, but rather how thankful we are for what we have, and when we recall the truth that the greatness of man is not in what he or she owns, but in who he or she is.

Recently, a few minutes before we started our Shabbat celebration, our dear Barney Edelkind offered to show me something special. Almost crying but visibly proud, he showed me the last letter his father wrote to him in 1945 while he was in the Navy. It said he wanted him to know, “My dear and loving Son, as a father I want to give you this blessing and I hope it stays with you forever.”

There was a paper from the prayer book, the Aaronic priestly blessings, “May G-d bless you and may he protect you." It was a letter accompanied by tears of joy and love from a father to a son, and Barney felt the love until this moment. He said while getting goosebumps, this was the greatest gift his father gave him. He cherished this blessing, just feeling special, secure, safe and loved.

One of the most memorable moments of my childhood occurred each year, moments before Yom Kippur began. As the sun set over the horizon and we all rushed off to shul, my father dressed in his Kittel and Tallis, looked me in the eyes, placed his hands on my head and in a tear-choked voice showered me with blessings. I could not hear his words, but I saw his tears, felt his tremor and sensed his love. I felt my father was blessing me with everything I needed: love, happiness, and success, the same blessings Jewish parents have been giving their children for the past 3300 years. Known as Birchat Kohanim, the priestly blessings are recorded in the book of Numbers, the blessings the Kohanim used to bless our people for millennia.

“Yevarechecha Hashem Veyishmerecha" - May G-d bless you and protect you‘ "Yaer Hashem Panav Eilecha Vichunekah “ - May G-d shine His countenance upon you and give you grace. ‘Yisa Hashem ponov eilecha veyosem lecha sholom" - May G-d lift you up you and grant you peace.

I remember those few minutes when I felt completely safe and at rest. I think of this now as we are in middle of the summer months. Bless your child, your spouse, tell them how special they are. Tell them how you thank G-d every day for having them in your life. This is the greatest blessing we can give and it extends past family, as Ettie Zaklos and I thank G-d for being part of this community.

 

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