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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

"Follow the leader!"


In this week's Torah portion, Moses requests of G-d that a successor should be appointed to lead the people after he passes away.  His student Yehoshua is chosen.

When describing Yehoshua’s qualities, neither his intellectual capabilities nor his powerful personality, or even his righteousness is emphasized.  He is described in a few words as “a man with souls in him”.  The commentaries say that it means that he had a unique way of interacting and connecting with every type of individual.

A real leader is not one who regards himself higher or better than others, but one who truly cares for each person and guides each one according to his or her needs.

Sometimes it's a video that's worth a thousand words. So grateful for this video I received recently, capturing this precious encounter.

Sometimes it’s a video that’s worth a thousand words, and I am truly grateful for receiving this video a few days ago.  The Rebbe assigned slots of  time which  he reserved to meet with people, to distribute to  thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike,  dollars intended to be given to charity.   It captures a precious encounter with the Rebbe:  the second adult in the video is my father, followed by my brother Chaim,  then my brother Yossi who just had his Bar Mitzvah,  and then me. All of us are receiving dollars from the Rebbe's holy hand. He cared for each person equally, never showing preference. 

This was the Jewish ideal of two people interacting with the intention to help a third. 

May we never lose sight of this goal.

"Follow the leader!"

Always take a step back

Parshah teaching: When Bilaam was unsuccessful with cursing the Jews, king Balak took him to a different mountain, where he could see only some - but not all - of the Jewish camp.

Why would that vantage point be more conducive to cursing the Jewish people?

Because when you choose to only see a part of the nation, you can always find faults and be negative. But if you choose to see the Jewish people as a whole, you're sure to see its overall beauty and splendor.

And the same goes with how we choose to view other individuals.

Always take a step back, take in the whole picture, and you'll see goodness and beauty everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.

Dear Friends, 

What a powerful weekend, filled to the brim with inspiration and encouragement, joining tens of thousands of visitors in NY as we prayed at 770, Chabad Headquarters, and visited the Rebbe's gravesite.

It's difficult to believe that 25 years have come and gone since the Rebbe's passing. And yet, a quarter of a century has not diminished the Rebbe's impact, the Rebbe's teachings, the Rebbe's light. The Rebbe's light and influence has only grown stronger, reflected in the thousands of Chabad Centers that have been established after his passing, and the tens of thousands, if not millions,  that have been touched by the Rebbe's teachings and philosophy.

Summer is a time of increased light and warmth; we have longer daylight hours, and higher temperatures. In other words, summer is a time when the sun is in fuller glory and effect.

That’s summer in ‘macro’; but this also applies to each of us in ‘micro’.

In a way, we each have our own internal seasons. We each also have our own internal ‘sun’: The soul.

There are times when we go through an internal winter, when our moral vision and priorities don’t express their full light into our daily lives. There are times when conscience and values are in relative hibernation, when the spirit is cold, and moral growth seems a part of the distant past.

Then there’s summer. Summer is about letting our internal sun shine. Summer is about feeling our own internal capacity for spirituality and warmth, a capacity that might recede in the face of a hectic schedule.  

So if we’re able to relax a bit from the everyday stresses and ‘get away’, then we need to use that to synchronize ourselves with nature; we need to create our own internal summer by increasing the light and warmth in our life.

We each have valuable relationships - with loved ones, with our community and with our G-d – and relationships need nurturing. So if you’re running on fewer cylinders this summer, and have some extra space in your brain and heart, those relationships could probably use some extra warmth.
You have an internal sun. Let it shine.
Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light and lots of sun:-)


values that personally inspire me

Dear Friends,

Tonight we begin to commemorate the 25th year of the Rebbe’s passing.  Since he did not name anyone to inherit his position, many wondered and worried about the future of Chabad.  In the ensuing years, Chabad’s exponential growth have proved those concerns to be insignificant.  Not only has his yahrzeit become a celebration of his life, but it is also about reflecting on and practicing  the beliefs that he stood for and cherished.  From the heart, I personally thank the  Rebbe for giving and instilling in me these ideas and life values which both Ettie and I try to live with and strive to pass to our children.

Here are just a few of the Rebbe’s values that personally inspire me, that really capture his legacy as a leader and mentor for all humanity.

1.       Look at the world in a positive way.  If you look through shattered lenses, that’s what you will see.  If you choose to see the world as a garden, you  will see the goodness that blossoms all around.  It’s amazing how the Rebbe was no stranger to pain and suffering, having lost family members to the Holocaust and having seen the terror of world War 2, and yet the Rebbe chose to see what was positive in the world. His constant reminders to be upbeat and see things in this way.  Even when stories in the Torah seem locked in negativity, the Rebbe found a positive, uplifting perspective.  

2.       Everyone has a powerful mission. The Rebbe would say that birth is G-d's way of saying you matter.  If we are here, we are here to make the world a better place.  No two people are the same.  Each one is irreplaceable and therefore there is no excuse:  you must stand up and be counted.

3.       The Rebbe encouraged women to take leadership roles in establishing and operating Chabad centers.  More than any other Jewish leader, the Rebbe empowered the women, strengthening the partnership between husband and wife in this mission. I think about this so often as Rebbitzin Ettie partners with me in this endeavor. From the ground up, we always planned together in every single way, especially in establishing the incredible preschool.

4.       Create leaders not followers. The Rebbe certainly wanted us to be humble, but wanted leaders who would implement the same vision and ideals but would use their own brand of creativity and inspiration.  Each Chabad center you enter, while it mirrors the vision, will have its own personal flavor  and its own areas of focus tailored to serve within its community.

5.       This is a big lesson for today's world:  the Rebbe implored us to regard other human beings not just as beings but as souls.  If we focus on what makes us the same, the divine that’s within us, we stop allowing the differences to divide us.  The Rebbe embraced each individual unconditionally.  In today's world of division, more than ever we need attitudes that are  non-judgmental  and accepting .

6.  On this 4th of July, I remember the Rebbe's constant gratitude to America as a kind country where liberty and opportunity reigned, a country where we can live proudly as Jews connected to one another and connected to G-d.

Thank you Rebbe for infusing such a powerful purpose in my life and the lives of countless others.  I am so grateful to be able to share your vision and philosophies here at Chabad of Naples where daily we endeavor to feel and share this sense of love and fellowship under an umbrella of our Jewish faith and culture.

This weekend, I will be joining an expected crowd of 75,000 people from across the globe who will gather to pay respects at the Rebbe's ohel resting place. It would be my honor to include you and your loved ones in my prayers on this day.  Please email me your name.

This Shabbos, wherever you are in the world, let's take a few moments with family or friends to learn some of the Rebbe's teachings, discuss the Rebbe's life and vision, and rededicate ourselves to the the values and causes that are close to our souls.

 In my absence on Shabbat, Rabbi Choni will lead the services,  and thank you to Clement Soffer for sponsoring the Kiddush.  Clement will also speak at the Kiddush about the essence of the menorah and how we can all be a beacon of light on this planet. Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos


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