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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

COMFORT IN AN UNCERTAIN WORLD

Dear Friends,

As the Hebrew month of Tishrei approaches, with many important holidays, it’s a good time to reflect on how our faith offers a safe, secure haven from stormy days in a chaotic, tumultuous world. In light of recent news, let us ponder deeper aspects of the High Holidays, as we automatically turn towards spirituality and seeking answers and purpose when life feels uncertain and threatening.

Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year, and yet we often find ourselves walking into the synagogue disoriented by the chaos in the world and the challenges in our personal lives. However, Rosh Hashanah is essentially about reflecting on our relationship with G-d, and His caring, loving presence.  Many of us have an unfortunate image of G-d as a powerful, stern man in the sky with a large stick.  This can intimidate us from connecting with Him as that compassionate, caring presence, or connecting with Him at all. As a Chassidic master once told a self-proclaimed atheist, "The G-d that you don't believe in, I don't believe in either. “

A question to reflect on: what was my perception of G-d in my childhood, and has this perception changed?

Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement and yet, G-d asks us to do something before making amends with Him: to make amends with our family and friends. When He sees that we are “loving whom your Beloved loves,” he is especially open to our prayers and requests.  After we have asked forgiveness from the people in our lives, we turn to G-d and acknowledge where we have fallen short this past year and commit to doing better in the year ahead. It is in this spirit of honesty and vulnerability that we can culminate Yom Kippur day with the holiest moments of the entire year, in an intense, intimate oneness with G-d in the Neilah Prayer. Perhaps before asking G-d for forgiveness, we need to forgive ourselves. Often, we are our harshest critics. We forget that making mistakes is part of what makes us human. G-d isn’t happy when His children aren’t treated kindly. You are one of G-d's children. We need to practice kindness within ourselves.

Some questions to reflect on: which friends and family do I need to make amends to? What character defects do I need to talk to G-d about?

Sukkot is that glorious season when we eat in a hut outdoors, surrounded by

G-d's bounty.  As we commemorate G-d's clouds of protection to the Jews in the Sinai desert, on all six sides, we affirm that then, and now, our security comes from more than stocks and bonds and solid roofs over our heads: it comes from G-d's will,  from His goodness. It is disconcerting and anxiety-provoking to face the fact that there are no guarantees in life, especially in today’s uncertain world. That's why we rejoice in our relationship with G-d-- we acknowledge that ultimately there is no reason to be afraid, because G-d is our ultimate provider, protector, and constant presence.

On Simchat Torah (the day immediately following Sukkot) we dance with the Torah closed. If we opened it, some might feel inadequate or intimidated by others who are more familiar with the text. The learning and doing can and must come later, for on this day, we all just rejoice that this gift of truth belongs to everyone, not simply to the Rabbi or the Rebbetzin or the learned scholars:  it belongs equally to every single Jew.

Some questions to reflect on: how have I made ideas, material things, and acquisitions my sense of true (or only) security? How can I make rejoicing in G-d's protection and presence a daily act of affirmation and gratitude?

A lasting high and real security don’t come from a promotion, social media, a new car, or a glass of wine. They're certainly wonderful to savor in the moment (and become meaningful when used in meaningful ways, as with family, or for G-d), but in and of themselves they don't spiritually sustain us.

This season is called the High Holidays because of the truly elevated, lasting purpose they give us, not for the promise of adrenaline rushes or everlasting bliss.

They give something better and deeper: they give us precious reminders of G-d's presence in our personal life, of His unconditional love for us, of His forgiveness, of His protection, of His guidance, and our ability to act with courage and kindness, tapping into our higher selves. In a world fraught with uncertainties, disappointments and pain, these Highs can serve as the foundation of faith and quiet security that lead to a deeply meaningful year.

With love and blessings,

Rabbi Fishel Zaklos

Let Shoshana be an inspiration!

Survivor.jpg

When the sun sets on Shabbat, August 10, Tisha B’av,  the saddest day the year begins.  This is when we fast and pray and refrain from of regular activities as we recall the destruction of both temples.  As we personally and as a community reflect on  our past pain and suffering, in spite of all that we have endured and experienced, it is amazing that  our faith remains as deep as can be.  One of the core principles in Judaism is the belief  that  better days are ahead:  a world of universal peace, and peace among humanity. 

This  picture which has been circulating  in social media expresses this in a powerful way.  It  is worth sharing,   to  give you strength in your own journey, in the midst of the hate, anti-semitism and negativity. Stand up and be counted!  Let Shoshana be an inspiration!

Be fruitful and multiply!

Words form social media…

“In front of her eyes she watched Mengele taking her mother. Shoshana Obitz herself survived Auschwitz. After the war, she met Dov, who lost his wife and four daughters in the camps. They married and came to Haifa. She worked as a seamstress and helped him run the chicken shop. Shoshana just celebrated her 104th birthday and asked for one gift:  that all her descendants come together to the Western Wall.

Am Yisrael Chai!

LET IT BEGIN WITH US

LET IT BEGIN WITH US

Thinking of the endless families and friends who are grieving their loved ones after these horrific shootings. We condemn them in the strongest terms possible and know that we have an urgent responsibility to do everything in our power to prevent this from ever happening again.

We cannot ignore that we live in troubled times and often a solution cannot be found at our fingertips, so what can we do about it? We can pray and offer comfort and solace to those suffering loss of friends and relatives, and pray for the speedy and complete recovery for the injured. But like so many, we ask ourselves, is that enough? Daily our hearts and minds are tugged to take action against the rampant hate that is circulating in the world. Glib words are quick band-aids that don’t suffice to heal and cure, when we desperately need to exhibit and exercise more love and kindness. As we all know, there are many ways to react to tragedies like these, whether it is emotionally, intellectually, politically, and so on.  

What I know for certain is that in times of such hate, our world desperately needs more love and kindness. let us take courage from the age-old Jewish adage “a little bit of light will dispel a great deal of darkness”. Please join me today in taking action, to combat the darkness by calling a family member, volunteering to help someone, leaving a note of appreciation for people just to touch base, spread comfort, and show you care! We can act by flooding the world with kindness and light. One act of goodness will beget another, one small flicker of light can multiply and hopefully begin to illuminate some of the darkest corners of our world. So let's put politics and arguments aside and take some time to look at each other with eyes wide open and hearts open even wider. It can begin with us

May their memory be for a blessing and may G-d grant strength to their families, friends and communities. And may we, and our elected officials be inspired by the Almighty with the wisdom, strength and humility to take all steps possible to never have to experience such a tragedy again.

With prayers for peace and security,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

Summer usually brings travel, and although many of us look forward to the destination, often the process of getting there can be frustrating and tiresome. Sometimes when embarking on a long trip, especially with children, it can be more enjoyable if we make frequent, enjoyable rest stops along the way. Refreshed, we can continue to the destination.

When the Jewish people set out on their journey to freedom, the opening words of the Torah portion say, “And these are the travels”. In reality, it should say “These are the encampments, the stops”, since that is what is being described.

Perhaps the reason is, although we have pauses in life, moments of resting quietly when we try to restore our strength, we still must remain focused on the journey. Angels are described as standing still but we humans are constantly moving and wanting to grow. It is said, life is like riding a bicycle: to keep your balance you need to keep moving.

Soon we will be bidding farewell to summer holidays and in a few weeks, school will begin, and then the high holidays and a new year will arrive. Even if we stop temporarily along the way of our trip through life, we should always keep on aspiring and keep our eyes on the destination.

Some of the precious moments that I enjoyed as a child going to shul were the five times during the year when we completed a book of the Torah and the congregation rose as one, after the Torah reader concluded the book, and we all said, ”Chazak, Chazak, Vinischazek” - Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened. We turned to one another and said, “You be strong and together we will strengthen one another.” When we complete the fourth book of the Torah tomorrow, Sefer Bamidbar, we will say, chazak chazak v’nischazeik - - Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened

Let us strengthen the course of our lives and encourage one another to keep moving forward. You may recall that we also shared these words when we completed our Unity Torah. Here is Yitzi saying those words.

This Shabbat let’s come together and strengthen each other. Wherever you are, with whomever you share this Shabbat, don’t forget your destination in life: rise and move forward towards your goals, inspiring, growing, and strengthening those around you to enjoy the pauses but not to forget to keep moving toward the destination.

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

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