Rabbi Fishel's Blog

International Convention for Chabad Women Leaders

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As we welcome Shabbos, I want to wish a very special L’chaim to my dear wife Ettie, who is spending this Shabbos in New York together with our daughters Chaya and Hinda.

This weekend is the International Convention for Chabad Women Leaders, and Ettie is getting the rare opportunity to gather with 3,000 of her peers from all over the world for a weekend of inspiration and growth.

For the last 30 years the conference has been held this week, because it coincides with the yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson, wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory.

This coming monday, the 22nd of Shevat marks the 31st Yartzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the beloved and saintly wife of the Rebbe. She stood by his side for over 60 years, as he took the helm of the Chabad movement and transformed the world.

Living in an ever changing world where ideals and beliefs change as quickly as the passing time, the Rebbetzin in her unassuming yet profound way taught us that we can each make a difference in our own way, and that we can all partner is the Rebbe's mission of uncovering the Garden that is withing this world as we know it.

The common saying that “behind every successful man is a woman” is not true in our case, as Ettie and I have proudly worked side by side for the past 15 years co-directing Chabad of Naples together as partners. It is with pride that I get to watch as my daughters join their incredible mother and learn from her inspiring leadership.

L’chaim Ettie! L’chaim for everything you do for our Chabad of Naples and for bringing so much joy and love into our community and our home. I hope you enjoy this very special Shabbos and are able to reflect and rejuvenate for another year of growth and leadership.

I look forward to seeing you in Shul tomorrow – your home away from home!


Oftentimes the little things are really big things.

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How do strangers become friends?  First of all, they gain our trust and make our lives just a little bit brighter and better.   My new friend James did that quickly.

During the week, I took Chaya and Hinda to participate in the children’s program of the Chabad Women’s Conference in New York.  It’s an amazing experience for them where they can interact with children of Chabad rabbis and rebbitzins from all over the world.

In the freezing cold weather, I thought I had placed my phone in my overcoat pocket, but when I looked for it later, I could not find it. After searching high and low with no success, my last ditch effort was to call the number.  How surprised I was that a very polite gentleman answered as if he had been waiting for my call, and in spite of my protests, he insisted on bringing the phone to me in the frigid cold weather.

So grateful to my new friend James for his kindness and for being such a gentleman.This act of thoughtfulness by a real mensch can make a day brighter and restore our joy in the goodness and pleasure of human kindness.

Seeing all the powerful leadership in the women at the Chabad conference lent an incredible warmth to the freezing weather.

It was special to have been there, and it is special to be back home!

I appreciate being back in Naples to enjoy a somewhat warmer climate and to be with the entire Naples family on the weekend! I look forward to seeing you in Shul – your home away from home!

How New Years Resolutions Work 

How New Years Resolutions Work 

Dear Friends, 

By now you have had the opportunity to test-drive some of your resolutions for the New Year.  How are they working for you?  Hey, we are only human, and although we may have the best intentions, we all know what can happen as time goes on.  Our success depends on how truly committed we are to make changes, and if  the changes we attempt are realistically within our capabilities.

While self-care is certainly part of creating a wholesome life, a New Year is complete when we also commit to focusing on spiritual betterment such as G-d’s desires and others’ needs.

A new year becomes hollow if it’s only about resolutions involving the self (think articles on “top resolutions for this new year”— joining a gym, starting a diet, saving money).
A new year becomes full and meaningful when it’s about first acknowledging the centrality of God in our lives and the importance of inviting Him in.
Against that backdrop of existential reflection, our resolutions will naturally reflect our desire to strengthen our relationship with God and increase the meaning and purpose in our lives. Certainly these should involve self-care, because we need a strong body and sense of well-being to have the strength to do for others- if I am not for myself, the book of Ethics teaches us, who will be for me? And if I am not there for myself—who will then be there for others? But our resolutions should also include committing to certain acts: calling a relative we don’t particularly like (it’s easy to talk about social justice but it’s truly actualized when we remember our own family members, including the ones who are hard to talk to); giving tzedakah regularly (this can mean having a charity box on our kitchen window sill and dropping in a few coins before dinner, remembering those who have less, and showing our children how to- in my mentor the Rebbe’s words- “train the hand to give”); and attending a Torah class (we can’t care about ideas that we don’t quite know…and this is especially accessible to us with our dear cyber friends Rabbi YouTube and Rabbi Google, all over the world-wide web).
The reason we so often fail to stay the course in our resolutions is that oftentimes, we’re fighting a battle we’re not strong enough to win- we bite off more than we can chew. But smaller, more doable habits slip right under this resistance.
They’re too small to resist. We see this when it comes to material commitments- do you know anyone who went from walking zero miles to five miles a day that still does that a year later? Someone who wanted to get their finances in order that had a paradigm shift in five minutes? But you likely know someone who increased in their exercise gradually and continues to exercise each day, or another who charted a new financial course with a lot of contemplation and care and small changes at first that led to a bigger transformation.
Spiritual commitments are no different- volunteering once a month at your favorite charity; a ready smile for the mailman; dropping those two coins into the charity box once a day; making the decision to begin each morning with gratitude for simply waking up…taken day by day, these small acts generate momentum and ultimately, reprogram our subconscious.
So how can we practically start implementing? By embracing one bite-sized mitzvah that can realistically stick. Allowing our essential oneness with G-d to glow in our day-to-day small actions.
We often underestimate the power of one mitzvah, of one commitment, of one change, of one move, of one gesture, of one act of love, kindness and holiness. We think it is all or nothing. But it was one loving interaction between Moses and G-d at the burning bush that completely impacted the Jewish future and all of humanity, and it can be one action today that can start an endless ripple effect of change.
My mother would always remind me of the saying from our sages- “Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah”- one mitzvah leads to another. (Kind of like the old story about eating peanuts: you just can’t stop at one!)
Once Moses made a commitment to the Jewish people, which began with his care and concern for single individuals, he ultimately was the messenger who delivered them all from a life of Egyptian slavery and despair.
Once we make a commitment to one small resolution, we are ultimately the messengers and agents of even bigger change and redemption for our world. It is bound to happen, because goodness is contagious- people get inspired to do good when they see good.
So where do we start? With one small, ultimately giant step. Shabbat Shalom! 
Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 


Never to lose your spirit

Dear Friends,

Do you know how the Jews reacted when Moses came to tell them the news that they will be leaving Egypt? Think they partied and danced? Not quite… “And they did not listen to Moses out of shortness of breath.

The Hebrew word for breath is Ruach. But Ruach also means “spirit”. This passage can be translated as "And they did not listen to Moses out of lack of spirit."

In the history of Egypt not a single slave had ever escaped. How could an entire nation ever walk free? Moses was a dreamer, they thought. It is just not realistic to hold out such high hopes, only to have them dashed yet again. And so the people were utterly despondent and spiritless and, therefore, they could not hear, i.e. absorb, Moses’ message.

It happens all too often. People become so set in their mediocrity that they give up hope of ever achieving the breakthrough. This is true for marriages, careers or our spiritual aspirations, we lose the desire to dream.

The Torah is teaching us never to lose our ‘spirit’, our hopes, our dreams and resolve!

Shabbat Shalom and have a great week ahead!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

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