Rabbi Fishel's Blog

It doesn't take courage to be a pessimist

Dear Friends,

Happy Birthday, world!

Make a Birthday wish!

Now enjoy the apple and honey cake! And have a happy sweet new year.

That pretty much sums up Rosh Hashanah. It's the day we celebrate the fact that we have a world. The Milky Way. The Planet. Nature. The animal kingdom. You and I – the human beings.

"Hayom Harat Olam" – today is the world's birthday, we announce after blowing the Shofar. And that is why we celebrate.

We celebrate by spending hours in the synagogue praying (and listening to awesome sermons, of course) and then spending many hours around the dining room table replete with familiar familial antics.  Let’s be honest: no one does a New Year celebration the way we do! 

A cynic might ask: "What about this world is worth celebrating? Have you seen how broken society is? War? Sickness? Mental health crisis? The collapse of families and communities? Are you naïve?"

Yes, I am frustrated by the agony around me. Sometimes I pinch myself to remind myself that this is not a movie. But, at the same time, I am hopeful for our future. Frustration without hope is like a joke without a punchline: it leaves us empty.

When G-d created Adam and Eve, He did so knowing the complexity and darkness that is part and parcel of the human condition. He was well aware of how humans can harm themselves, each other, and the world they inhabit.

At the same time, He knew (and Created) their potential for love, grace, forgiveness, redemption, generosity, holiness, empathy, joy, and light.

In the words of our sages: the human is half animal and half angel. We have incredible potential for the highest or lowest of creation.

Rosh Hashanah is when we celebrate G-d's belief in us, as much as our belief in Him.

Each morning when we wake up, we traditionally say the words of the Modeh Ani prayer, in which we thank the Creator for restoring our lives to us:

"I thank you, living and enduring King, for You have graciously returned my soul within me. So great is Your faithfulness."

Read that last sentence again. "Great is Your faithfulness." Whom does the Almighty believe in?

You and me. People. Messy and complicated homo sapiens.

Each day we wake up is another day that G-d tells us, "I believe in you. You are up to the task. The world needs your light and love. You can bring healing to this hurting universe; go make a difference!"

To be honest, I sometimes wonder why G-d keeps believing in humanity. I sometimes struggle to believe in our potential to get things right. Our history is packed with evil, stupidity and apathy.

But then I look at the many special souls living around me in this corner of the world, and I regain my faith. The incredible acts of kindness that occur daily in this G-d-given community give fresh and inspiring meaning to the term "the Sunshine State”.

Could that be why it’s called the Paradise Coast?

And I look at history and see the majesty, saintliness, and heights that we have climbed.

After the last few years, I contend that we could all do well to work on regaining our confidence that the best days are ahead of us! It doesn't take courage to be a pessimist. It takes courage to believe.

I believe. 

In G-d, of course – that's the easy part.

I believe in you.

I believe in myself.

That is tough. 

But I am in good company. G-d does not make mistakes. He believes in me. I'll trust His judgment.

We are thrilled to invite you to celebrate the High Holidays at Chabad Naples.

Whether you joined us in the past or not, we look forward to welcoming your entire family this year at your Chabad Naples family. Please RSVP at today so we can plan accordingly!

We take this opportunity to wish you and your family a Shanah Tova U'metuka - a good and sweet year, a year filled with happiness, blessing, success, naches and all good things. May this year be a year of growth, a year of prosperity, a year of peace and serenity in Israel and beyond.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos  


The Path to a Beautiful Life Ahead

Dear Friends,

The great Jewish comedian Sam Levenson,  describing his family’s Jewish American experience said,  “My folks were immigrants who bought the legend that American streets were paved with gold. When my father arrived he discovered three things:

 1.   The streets were not paved with gold.

2.   The streets were not even paved!

3.   He was the one expected to do the  paving!”

This is a timely metaphor for our emotional development. In youth’s hopeful dawn, we feel noble stirrings within and dream of realizing them on a global scale. And yet,  so often as the years tick by, dreams slip away and we fall into the abyss of mediocrity where the temptation may be  just to give up. As 19th century philosopher Thoreau once observed, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

There comes a time of honest self-reckoning, possibly your very own ‘Aha moment', when we must take stock of unfulfilled dreams and realize that we don’t have to give up. Hard work is required to live life to its maximum potential, by  improving and “paving” our spiritual and physical well-being.

I believe this truth is reflected in the daily blasts of the shofar, that we blow in preparation for Rosh Hashanah which started today.

Several centuries ago, the renowned Rabbi Horowitz (known as the ‘Shelah'), once brilliantly explained how the sound of the Shofar is a parable of life:  The Shofar blasts begin and end with a tekiah — a whole note, yet in between are the shevarim and teruah — broken notes.

We are gifted at birth with magnificent potential. Along the winding path of life, via mistakes, weakness, pain, failure and more, we may become shevarim, (temporarily) broken. Yet, we can spiritually become whole again and commit to self-improvement.

During the month of Elul, the shofar acts as our spiritual alarm clock. We wake up! Step up! And increase our number of mitzvot each day. You, and you alone, hold the power to shape your life’s path with a destiny to “pave” and build a beautiful road ahead.

Wishing you a month filled with strength and meaning.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

Slow Down for the New Year

Dear Friends,

I often hear from people, how busy they are, how much time they don't have to get more involved, and it reminded me of a story.

The great Chassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev, once saw a young man running down the street. The Chassidic master stopped him and asked, " Where are you running?" The fellow answered, "To make a living, rabbi." To which the Berditchever responded, "So how do you know that your living lies in that direction and you're running after it? Perhaps your livelihood is to be found in the opposite direction, and you're running away from it?" 

So often, we get busy with things we are certain are so important, but along the way we are actually running away from the things that really matter.

So as we approach the New Year, let's slow down and take a moment to figure out what is truly important in life, what we want our children and grandchildren to remember in 50 years, and get involved - or more involved - in the community and Jewish life.

With best wishes for a sweet New Year and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

We are all blessed

Dear Friends,

Once upon a majestic peak, a group of passionate mountain climbers embarked on a relentless journey to conquer the towering summit. Their years of dedication and preparation had honed their skills as they endured the harshest climates and scaled countless smaller mountains. Finally, the moment of triumph arrived as they reached the pinnacle with exuberant pride.

To their bewilderment, they discovered a young boy perched casually on a rock, seemingly untouched by their grueling struggle. When asked how he arrived there, the boy calmly responded, "I was born here.

This simple reply carries a profound message. It reminds us that each of us is born with unique gifts, akin to being born atop a mountain. These innate abilities grant us access to heights others might labor tirelessly to attain. But do we recognize and appreciate this head start?

In this weeks Torah portion, Moses warns against falling into the trap of entitlement. We must not forget that our strengths are ultimately bestowed upon us by a higher power. While hard work and dedication warrant recognition, we should acknowledge the head start we received in life.

Yes, we may build upon our talents and accomplish great things, but let humility guide our hearts. Acknowledge the divine gifts we possess, and our achievements will be bathed in gratitude rather than arrogance. In doing so, we embrace the essence of our journey—climbing with grace, recognizing the blessings that lie within. Shabbat Shalom with Love & Light,

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos

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