Rabbi Fishel's Blog

The New Year Starts with You

The New Year Starts with You

Dear Friends,

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is upon us once again. It inaugurates a month of rich, colorful, meaningful holidays, with a spirit that ranges from the solemn to the ecstatic. With it comes opportunities for fresh beginnings, personal growth, and new resolutions. We enter the month of Tishrei with the intention of embracing new resolutions, engaging in self-transformation, and uniting with those around us to cultivate a more cohesive community.  

A good way to predict the success of our resolutions is to look at the scope and scale of what we want to achieve. Should we aspire to become a completely different person, or maybe single-handedly solve world hunger, we are not likely to get too far. Implementing and maintaining change is achievable when we take on smaller, immediately attainable goals. We are more likely to keep to our plan when we connect these goals with something real and tangible.

For example, if you want to kindle greater sensitivity or kindness this year, select one specific compassionate action that you will start doing. If you are concerned about world hunger, volunteer at a nearby soup kitchen. If you wish for a deeper connection to your Jewish identity, incorporate one small, new Jewish ritual into your routine. Gradually these steps will pave the wave for a more significant transformation.

This story will help illustrate:

A father once gave his 10-year-old daughter a puzzle of the map of the world for her to put together. Ten minutes later she handed in the puzzle, perfectly completed. The father was amazed. “How did you know where to put everything, and to do it so fast?” The child had a simple explanation. “Daddy, I am really not so good at geography, but I noticed a picture of myself pasted to the back of the map. I figured if I focus on putting myself back together then the world will come together too.”

As we navigate our daily lives, it is apparent that we are living in a world rife with discord, marked by political turmoil and disunity, in Israel and around the globe.  Thus, the importance of self-improvement takes on a profound meaning.  The idea that "First, I need to change myself, then change the world" resonates deeply, encouraging us to acknowledge our own shortcomings and biases before attempting to heal larger divides.  

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the world's problems, but the lessons from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur teach us that success lies in focusing on manageable, attainable goals.  By connecting our aspirations for personal growth with tangible actions, we can navigate a path of meaningful change.  And as we put ourselves back together, piece by piece, we can join together with our friends, family, and neighbors to build a stronger, more unified community on a local, regional, and global scale.

This Rosh Hashanah, dream big, but remember that change starts within each of us and that progress takes place in small steps. And then, not only will we see our resolution withstand the test of time, but we will also see a gradual change in the world around us until we speedily merit that time promised by our prophets of old, a time of world peace, perfection, and tranquility.

May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life for a Shana Tova Umetukah, a good and sweet new year for all.

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

Let's begin this beautiful year together

Dear Friends,

Capturing a Beautiful Beginning: Meet Scott and Michael Weinstein, a father-son duo in our beloved Chabad Naples family who are always radiating warmth and love.

Michael is an exceptional and sweet young soul - every Friday we exchange heartfelt 'Good Shabbos' messages via WhatsApp, a tradition we've cherished for three years now without fail**.

But yesterday held an even more special moment. With the Jewish New Year on the horizon, Michael and Scott decided to embrace a new practice: daily tefillin.

Father and son wanted to do one small thing as they prepare for the High Holidays. You often hear in life to "not sweat the small stuff", but in Judaism, it's the small actions that bear cosmic significance.

I think the smiles in the photo say it all about the meaning and significance of this special Mitzvah. The Weinsteins' aspiration is to master the art of tefillin so that they can eventually perform the ritual without guidance.

As Rosh Hashanah beckons, let's all seek meaningful ways to elevate ourselves. It need not be tefillin; it can be any meaningful practice. I am happy to help you explore new ways to connect to your Judaism. Whether you seek guidance or companionship on this journey, let's begin this beautiful year together.

The path may be small, but its impact is boundless.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Fishel & Ettie Zaklos 

** Michael reminded me that while he messaged me every week without fail, I did miss replying on many occasions. Just like I encourage others to do, I will also be increasing my efforts to work on myself this Rosh Hashanah, and will do better on sending him a Good Shabbos message (and many other resolutions as well:)) - a lesson on consistency I can learn from Michael.

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.