Rabbi Fishel's Blog

What does Freedom mean in 2021

Each year as the Passover season comes around it brings with it many gifts. Kneidels. Matzah. Spring cleaning. Kvetching about the prices. Mock Seders. Memories. The off-tune uncle ‘singing’ Ma Nishtana. And so much more…

One of the most important gifts it offers us is the spirit and theme of FREEDOM. It is the flavor of the season and rightfully so. Pesach is all about the privilege and responsibility that comes with liberty.

Let’s face it though. Freedom is not exactly the buzz word of 2021. There are many feelings pulsing through the hearts of us all; freedom is not high on that list. With the many restrictions and unknowns of the pandemic, we can argue that we are not living through the freest of times.

Add to that the anxiety many are feeling in this political climate and you are faced with the question: what is the message of Pesach for our time? What does freedom mean in lockdown? What does freedom mean if we cannot sit at the same table as our loved ones? What does freedom mean when we cannot even shake the hands, let alone hug, our friends and family?

Before I continue and offer a somewhat philosophical response, I must pause and allow the heart to talk first: my heart aches for the pain and loneliness that so many are facing for this long time. You are in my heart, and I ask you kindly to carry me in your heart as well. Our hearts beat as one.

Freedom can mean vastly different things based on which word follows it in the sentence.

Exhibit A: Freedom from…

Exhibit B: Freedom to…

Often when we speak of freedom, we mean ‘freedom from’. From tyranny. From rules. From anything I don’t want to be enslaved to.

Freedom to is not about where I am leaving, but where I am going. Rather than looking back at where I am leaving, I am looking forward to where I wish to be.

It is the second freedom which is never taken away from the human being. No matter our circumstances we are given the total freedom to choose our attitude, our perspective, and our behavior.

This Passover season reminds us that we alone can decide whether to choose freedom or not. We can choose to embrace optimism. Hope. Faith. Love. Empathy. Reflection. Joy. Peace. Forgiveness.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells the Jewish people “choose life!” You might ask, “but isn’t that the obvious choice?” Not really. Choosing ‘life’ is more than just choosing to live. It is about choosing to ‘have a life’ – a life of freedom. That is a big choice to make.

Life and freedom are synonyms. Choosing freedom is choosing life. 

At the same time, we continue to pray for ‘freedom from’ Covid, incivility, pain, hardship, financial struggle, sickness, death, loneliness, war… the list is infinite. But perhaps it is also simply, the freedom we ask G-d for: Next year in Jerusalem. 

As we sit at our Seder table this year, let us remember that freedom is handed to us in gift wrap. Will we open it? 

We wish you and your loved ones a Kosher, Happy, Inspiring (and Healthy!) Passover!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos


Never too young to do a mitzvah!



Never too young to do a mitzvah!

When a call goes out for volunteers to help with a project at Chabad Naples, we are never disappointed both with the quantity and the quality of the people who step forward.

This was the case about two months ago when we heard about the problems people were having trying to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

We began putting together a team to assist anyone who needed help securing an appointment or assistance in getting there.

From the onset many of our dear members led by Bruce and Sue Yankow and Thais Wulkan Alcalay began working tirelessly to help, and still are to this day.

But sometimes help comes from unexpected sources. That’s when one of our Hebrew School students, young Tori Fuchs volunteered.

When Tori heard about this endeavor a few weeks ago, she told me she is handy with computers and she wanted to help with securing appointments as well, and that she would do everything she could to get them.

We divvied the lists of people and for a few weeks she has been working non-stop to make as many appointments as possible, taking on one group after another.

This week when I met her at Hebrew school, I thanked her as I have received many calls from people, grateful for what she has accomplished on their behalf. When I asked Tori how it was going, she said she was “tired but I am so happy to do it”. She wakes up early, when the enrollment begins online, and gets working on it.

We are so proud of our Hebrew school student Tori for taking this on! What a thoughtful mitzvah project, preceding her Bat Mitzvah, and how amazing to take the initiative to be help and think of others!

We said that we couldn't guarantee success but thank G-d we have been able to help almost everyone who reached out to us, to get the vaccine.

We are so grateful for our success and wish to thank all those who gave their time and energy, helping us to help others.

If you know someone that still needs help, please let us know, and either Tori or others will call you and help get it done. In general, if you know someone who needs help in some way, please contact us: we are here to help at Chabad Naples.


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