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Rabbi Fishel's Blog



L’chaim Ruth!


Many of you may not be aware, that one of our treasured friends and supporters, Ruth Anderson, recently celebrated her 100th birthday! Although more people seem to be living longer these days, not many do it with such flair, joie de vivre, and enthusiasm. She lives independently at the Arlington where, with her friendly and outgoing spirit she is probably one of their best-known residents.

Over 250 close friends attended Ruth’s birthday reception. For weeks before the event Ruth was occupied busily designing and sewing the two outfits she wore for these events. When she isn’t sewing, knitting, reading, enjoying the pool, holding her own in a political discussion, she might be found having an afternoon of donut holes and coffee at one of her favorite places, where she is a frequent customer, or working at her computer.

Many of Ruth’s friends originate from the Naples Macintosh Computer Users’ Group where she has been a member almost since its inception. Some of her ‘newer’ acquaintances admit they were “picked up” by Ruth during visits to the aforementioned coffee oases, and have remained friends for years. 

It’s not difficult to find positive adjectives to describe Ruth - beginning with indomitable, kind, generous, clever, witty, - just to name a few.

At Ruth’s birthday dinner, a cousin of Ruth’s, a doctor of gerontology, captured the essence of her personality when he commented on the fact that genetics, as previously thought, do not account for longevity as much as attitude. He noted that people who live past 100 suffer all the same tragedies and losses as everyone else, but it’s how they react to them - with a positive attitude, curiosity for life, interest in others, and humor.

Ruth remains a steadfast Partner with an ongoing interest in and identification with Chabad Naples. As we begin this New Year, we remember the importance of a positive attitude, the importance of family, and above all to thank and to celebrate those people like Ruth who inspire all of us to be better people. We are so proud to wish our very own Centenarian Ruth Anderson a very Happy Birthday and good health in the years to come.

We can’t wait to celebrate year 120!

Mazel tov!

It may be one small step by man, but a giant step for G-d.

Dear Friends,

On Rosh Hashanah we are dedicated to change and to renewal. We try to make amends for the past and to start afresh for the new year. But what does change mean? Is it even possible?

In an ideal world, change can be a permanent and irrevocable improvement: we cannot go back to the way we once were. We become different people. 

Think of Chaim calling his old buddy Moshe, and getting an answering machine message: “You have reached my voice mail. Please leave a message after the tone. I decided to rethink my entire life, my priorities, and make many changes. If you don’t hear back from me, you are one of the changes.”

But, as we know quite well, this type of change, complete internal transformation, is not so easy. Sometimes it does more damage than good: Just knowing how hard it is to change, discourages us from even trying in the first place.

How often do we not attempt to do something because we fear failure?  Or give up our dreams because we are afraid we will never fulfill them perfectly?  Do we look at things as ‘all-or-nothing’, and therefore never embark on chores we may never fully complete? Do we deprive ourselves of the gift of an individual mitzvah that is so dear to us because we fear disappointment? Does fear of not getting it ALL right make us think we will get nothing right and it’s not worth the effort to try? Do we allow ourselves to be intimidated by thoughts of not succeeding, before we even begin to consider how to change? We feel that if we don’t get it all right, we will get nothing right, and it is not worth the effort?

Does this sound familiar to you?  How many of us will not go to the gym because we can’t do it every other day? How many of us do not work on our marriage, because it will never be perfect? How many of us do not mend our relationships with family members, because there are too many demons in the closet? How many of us will not make a spiritual, moral change because it will not be 100 percent perfect?

Perhaps what we need, is to redefine success and failure, trial and error.  A wise man once said, “If you never make a mistake, you are not really trying to improve things:  every experiment is not a success.  Your success lies in what you learn from the results of each experiment and how you proceed from there.”  If you truly want to improve, perhaps errors and mistakes could be considered positive stepping stones on the way to eventual change and success. Every little bit counts.

Rosh Hashanah is here to tell us that G-d embraces every act of change. If we regret one mistake and change that, G-d accepts it fully. Any step forward you manage to take, towards a better more inspired, G-dly life, is infinitely treasured by G-d. It may be one small step by man, but a giant step for G-d.

So friends, this Rosh Hashanah take that step and make one change — for a day, a week, a month. Whatever your struggle or challenge is, tackle it one day and one step at a time, just don’t stay in the same place you were yesterday. Broaden your horizons! Discover more! Learn more! Grow more – as a person and as a Jew.

L’shana Tova! 

Some of our exciting highlights ~ Treasures of Israel



Dear Friends,
Ettie and I were privileged to travel to the Holy Land of Israel with our family. We were fortunate to be sharing a very rare family break between summer camp and the school year, traveling with the children to explore and enjoy the treasures of our Jewish homeland.  As a family with young children it has been so special and such a memorable experience to visit the holy sites and watch them come to life before their eyes, sites which back home they knew as stories and history lessons.
In last week's Torah portion, we find our greatest Jewish leader, Moshe, begging God to allow him to enter the land, a privilege that he was ultimately denied. Reflecting on this idea, of how long and deeply our people have been connected to this land and how many thousands of years we have yearned and prayed for our return, we feel so thankful to be alive at a time when we can walk the streets of Jerusalem freely with our family as proud Jews in a Jewish homeland. We feel blessed beyond measure to have walked the same soil of our ancestors and visiting the places where Biblical Jewish leaders once led our people in ancient times.
We soaked up the one place in the world that connects our past and present history like no other.

Especially now, as the challenges in Israel make headline news, with fires burning in the south and tensions at the border, Israel needs us to show our support more than ever. I am still digesting my experience of visiting this oasis of Judaism during such turbulent times but, I want to share with you some of our exciting highlights from this amazing trip.

The first destination was the Western Wall where throughout our history it has been our special place, sacred for prayer. We requested special blessings for our special Naples community. Just touching those ancient stones and seeing Jews from every corner of the world was moving, but watching our children absorb the moment was the best, and will remain with us and them. What a nation —what a history! In just one day we were able to give them a ‘ crash course’,  by going to the Kotel. The first thing we did was pray with the kids, then we went to the tunnels where you can realize how magnificent the Western Wall really is. Then we went to pray at the graves of King David and Samuel. From these places you can see almost all of Jerusalem-- what an incredible sight! As it says in Psalms, Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains and is simply powerful in its magnificence. Jerusalem was and is the symbol of unity, hope, and love.

In addition to some crazy fun kid-centric activities like zip-lining and jeeping (what were we thinking! 😊 ), we also spent an incredible day together in the holy city of Chevron. We connected with the local Jewish population – an amazing, resilient community, as well as the inspiring Chabad Rabbi in Chevron, Rabbi Danny Cohen. We were blessed to speak to the IDF soldiers stationed in the city, bring them some food and words of support, and thank them for protecting Israel. Another one-of-a-kind highlight was being in Jerusalem on Tisha B’Av, when we were able to go to the Kotel, the lasting remnant of the destroyed Temple that we were mourning, and witness tens of thousands of people coming together to sing songs of hope and redemption. The Israel that we are experiencing here is one that is glowing with life and shining with spirituality and meaning. We are completely filled with awe and respect for these incredible people who, in spite of the odds, have such determination, hope and resilience.

While we were away we were thinking of our community and praying for all of you. We know that many of our families are facing various challenges and tests and we want you to know that we have davened for you for strength and blessings.

As wonderful as our trip was, it’s always good to be again surrounded by our Naples family, planning and preparing for another amazing year together. We hope you are enjoying a safe and healthy summer wherever you may be spending it.

Wishing you all a beautiful family Shabbat!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

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