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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

WE ALL HAVE A MISSION

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WE ALL HAVE A MISSION

In this week's portion, we start reading about the construction of the Mishkan, portable Temple, that the Jews build in the desert. In painstaking detail, we learn the precise measurements and materials that G-d wanted to be used in the construction. 

The amount of attention this building gets in the Torah text is astounding. This is because of the centrality of the Temple to the Jewish mission.

Building a home for G-d is the central theme of the entire Torah. Yes, the home described in this week's reading took the form of a physical structure in a specific place, but it is symbolic of the broader Temple that we are to build: making space for G-d in every area of our lives. Every Mitzvah is a sacred channel for the divine and builds a conceptual home for G-d in our world. G-d's role is to create the world; our role is to make a home for Him in that creation.

Often, as we become so preoccupied with everyday activities, we allow ourselves to become distracted and forget what is really important and relevant.  As Jews, we have an ongoing mission and responsibility: to maintain that role that G-d has created for us in this world, by constantly being aware of the world around us so that we may continue never forget to look after each other.

As we welcome Hashem into our lives and feel the resulting happiness, we can learn from one of our younger members how our relationship to others can make a difference.

We are so proud of one of our recent Hebrew School and Bat mitzvah graduates, Sadie Lipman, whose prize-winning essay placed first in the Laws of Life essay contest ahead of more than 1,000 entries.

Her topic of showing kindness and respect to others was written with courage, confidence, knowledge, and a personal touch that is both gratifying and humbling. And let us not forget to mention, a lot of writing talent!

I never tire of hearing how a perfect stranger, Chiune Sugihara, is responsible for my family’s existence by saving my grandfather’s life.

Although Sadie lives in better times, she shows sensitivity and empathy far beyond her years. We are so proud of her as we congratulate her for this outstanding essay.

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Sadie Lipman 

Community School of Naples

Stacy Keibler once said “Show kindness and respect towards everyone. Pure intentions make the biggest difference.” Pure intentions always come from the heart and often go against the advised actions. With pure intentions and an overall respect for humanity, one person can change the world. Chinese diplomat Ho Feng-Shan was one of those people.

Kristallnacht, one of the most horrifying nights in history, was the start of a time where Europeans believed Jews to be unwelcome and dangerous. Alarmingly, almost 200,000 Jews were living in Austria at the time, all in need of asylum. Out of thirty-two countries that gathered, only the Dominican Republic offered to help; however, they had a limit on the refugees they could take. In his own country of China, Ho was told the same. His value of the safety of 100,000 strangers outweighed his respect for his supervisors, though. He ended up writing tens of thousands of visas to help Jews flee danger. Because of Ho, thousands of Jews survived the Holocaust and were able to make homes in Shanghai and around the world. Despite his unwavering selflessness, Ho Feng-Shan was exiled from his home country as a result of his actions. Three years after his death, the Israeli organization Yad Vashem honored him with the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” granting all of his progeny legal citizenship in Israel.

Just a couple thousand miles away, a Japanese councilman called Chiune Sugihara did almost the exact same thing. He, too, was eventually ousted from his homeland, but even as he was on the train out, he was writing and throwing visas out the window! One of those visas landed in the hand of a man named Rabbi Moshe Rubin. Because of Sugihara’s altruistic actions, Rubin found his way out of inevitable death and created a home in the United States of America; the place that was welcoming to everyone. There, he made a family and eventually had a grandson named Fishel Zaklos, who moved to Naples, Florida where he currently leads a temple of his own. Rabbi Fishel, a man who wouldn’t even be alive if not for Sugihara’s work, became a very influential person in my own life. For the past five years, he has been my rabbi. 

Indirectly through Sugihara’s selfless choices, I have been affected. Without the kindness and respect that the councilman had for strangers he didn’t even know the names of, I would be a totally different person. From both Chiune Sugihara and Ho Feng Shan, I have learned selflessness, courage, and the importance of having an open and respectful attitude towards everyone, because if I do, I can change the world.

 

Happiness And Wellbeing

Happiness And Wellbeing

Now it may seem a little strange to us, to have to contemplate “working at happiness and well-being”, but as the month of Adar begins, that’s just what the Talmud advises: “increase and expand with joy and happiness”.

As we bless the Jewish month of Adar this Shabbas, and Wednesday begins this powerful month of joy and good fortune, we recognize it as a month of good luck,a "mazel'dik" month.

The Talmud says one should try to schedule an important court case in Adar for extra good luck, and that Adar would also be the perfect time to move into a new home, undertake a new endeavor in business, or try something new we've been meaning to do but were afraid to take a chance.

Even if we don’t have any major plans in our near future, we might consider this as a time to stop momentarily and reassess our lives: let’s appreciate a peaceful state of mind and tune in to being happier and to expand our world a bit by working at gratefulness and doing something extra or unique that we were afraid to attempt. Here is a special time, a great opportunity to tap into fresh beginnings and take advantage of new and exciting experiences!

Let us all bring this joyous spirit of excitement and experiment to our celebration of Purim in the Stadium, (no snowballs!) coming Tuesday, March 10th! Call the office to RSVP or register online:

Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

 

L’chaim Ettie!

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L’chaim Ettie!

As we welcome Shabbos, I want to wish a very special L’chaim to my dear wife Ettie Zaklos, 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.

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 17 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 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.

Although it is impossible for me, both literally and figuratively to fill her shoes, I will do my best to hang in and ‘hold the fort’ until she returns.

Look forward to seeing you in Shul tomorrow.

Shabbat Shalom!

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Parshah thought in honor of Rebbitzin Ettie and the thousands of Chabad Rebbetzins, "Shluchos" from across the globe.

In this week’s Torah portion we have the delivery of the ten commandments.

It is interesting to note in the scene at Mount Sinai, in the days leading up to that most awesome spiritual event in history, G-d gives Moses very specific instructions about conveying the message to the Jewish people: in preparation for the big event, He tells Moses to first address “Bait Yakov” – the women – and only afterwards the men.

The point was, that G-d knew the only way His Torah would be properly received and effectively transmitted from one generation to the next was through the enhanced qualities of vision and foresight, clarity and intuition, loving and nurturing, that women bring to the table.

This is a phenomenon that we have seen throughout the millennia, that there was a more internal, far-sighted, and soul-based influence wielded by our strong and competent Jewish women. These qualities have served as our nation’s greatest source of salvation and most effective engine for positive change and growth.

When we study the lives and times of the heroines of our history, women like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, like Chana and Devora, Ruth and Queen Esther, and so many others, the common thread among all of them was their keen ability to see beyond the difficult issues and challenges of the moment, to the bigger picture of what it’s all about and to act and lead the way with incredible boldness and selflessness.

This week Ettie is at the Chabad conference, attended by women hailing from around the world, as far away as Laos and Angola. As more than 3,000 Chabad women gather in Crown Heights, can you imagine the power emanating from there!

This is a special time to acknowledge, as we all know, the not-so-secret formula behind the success of Chabad and Preschool: it is Ettie

Playing to Win

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Playing to Win

The action photos of me playing major league football seem to be missing, so instead I respectfully submit one where I am less likely to end up with a concussion…..

This past his Sunday there was a major game and such an event usually  produces a powerful lesson.

As you watched the Super Bowl, or even if you only heard about it, there are different ways to consider the outcome.

A story about the Rebbe speaking with a student before his Bar mitzvah comes to mind. He asked him, if he was a sports fan and when he watched a game and his team was losing, if he left and went home.

The boy admitted he went home, disappointed, before a game ended. The Rebbe pointed out, that’s the difference between fans and players: players continue to play the game no matter what, not having the luxury of walking away until the game ends.

We are all players in the Super Bowl game of every day life as we have to respond to the universal message of continuing to play against all odds. We make a difference to our family, our friends, and to those who witness ‘our game’.

Every game has winners and losers, and that is not always determined by the score, as we know: it’s how we play the game.

As much as you may enjoy the game and enjoy the special family time, do not hesitate to get involved in a game as a player: step up and keep on playing your very best to the end.

The Rebbe’s goal was to reach out  and to remind  everyone to be a player in life, and that’s  why he envisioned this world dotted with  Chabad Centers  that are led by his students, creating a better brighter place for all.

And this is the message of this week's Torah reading.  When the Jews faced the sea in front of them and the mighty Egyptian army behind them, many froze and some wanted to return to Egypt, ready to give up.  But  G-d said one word: Vayisau….Move on. Keep on moving and journeying. March on, put one foot in front of the other and go forward, and that’s what Nachson did.  He went into the water and when it rose up to his nose,  that’s when the waters miraculously split.

When we play the game of life and forge ahead,  miracles will happen.

 

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