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Rabbi's Blog

Rabbi's Blog

Thoughts and Musings by Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky

Anti-Semitism... What can we do?

Anti-Semitism... What can we do?

In recent weeks, we have experienced a wave of anti-Semitic acts throughout the USA, including a bomb threat right here at Houston’s JCC. Thankfully an arrest was made earlier today and we thank the law enforcement and all those addressing the issue from a security stand point.

What about the rest of us? What can we do?

In a bit over a week we will celebrate the exciting holiday of Purim. At that time, Jewish people spread throughout the Persian Empire, were threatened with total annihilation. The evil Haman, a despicable Jew-hater, had gained the favor of the King. Together they decreed the execution of the entire Jewish people.

Jewish people were well integrated into Persian culture. Their leader, Mordechai, held a prestigious position at the kings’ court, and had been a trusted advisor to the king for years. What’s more, the Queen herself – Esther – was Jewish!

You would think that the threat should have first and foremost been dealt with by utilizing these connections. Yet, when Mordechai and Esther learned of Haman's decree, the first thing they did was lead the community in prayer, repentance and good deeds. Only after days of fasting and introspection, did Esther use her position as the wife of the king and attempt to influence him to obliterate the decree against the Jews.

Now, if Esther wished to impress her husband, she should have gone to a beauty parlor – why was she busy fasting?

Yet, Mordechai & Esther knew that the survival of the Jewish people, despite everything they’ve been through, was miraculous. It is our connection to G-d, and His Divine Providence, that allows us to survive and thrive, despite all odds. Indeed, they certainly did utilize their influence, but that came only after strengthening their connection to G-d!

Today, while we certainly must employ every natural means to combat the ugly Jew hatred rearing its head, we must first and foremost strengthen our connection to our Judaism. Internalizing that it is G-d who is the source of all our blessings.

So let’s take action! Think of one more Mitzvah that you can improve on or introduce into your life, and take the plunge!… I am here to help, so hit me up, if necessary.


An annoying delayed flight?

An annoying delayed flight?

On Monday of this week I traveled to New York for the day. When I got to Hobby Airport I discovered that my flight was delayed 45 minutes due to the weather. My initial reaction was: "Ugh!"... but it did not take long for me to realize just how timely this 'schedule delay' really was.

At the terminal, I walked past a fellow wearing a necklace with a Star of David. I said hello, he was Jewish. With tears in his eyes, he told me about his recent cancer diagnosis and trip to MD Anderson from his home in Florida.

I suggested that we do a Mitzvah together. We wrapped Tefillin and prayed. His wife joined us in saying the Shema and together we prayed for a speedy recovery.

I posted a picture of us on Facebook Hobby airport.jpgand many others from around the world joined in praying for this special man (add your message to him by clicking here).

This story moved me so deeply. It also reminded me, yet again, how in the Journey of life, there are no coincidences. Each step is part of a master-plan. Usually we trudge along with that belief in the back of our minds, but some moments help to highlight and remind us of this eternal truth. 

That a 'schedule delay' can really just be an opportunity for a Jew to connect and pray for healing, and of course, experience an 'Airport Bar Mitzvah'! 

Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky


You and Only You!

You and Only You!

I recently had coffee with a woman who expressed how insignificant her Jewish practice seemed to her.

I hear these similar sentiments all too often:

 “A packed synagogue of Jews praying may be awesome, but when I stand there, often feeling lost in the crowd, I wonder if my individual prayer even matters at all!”

The Real question is:

“Do my Mitzvot really matter to G-d? Or are they just a bunch of fuzzy, feel good, traditional platitudes?”

This sort of reminds me of another question I get all the time: “Rabbi, what’s it like having so many children?”

The answer is: “They’re a great bunch, but I only have one of each.”

As parents, we know how we infinitely love each of our children. Would we trade one in for anything? 

Judaism uses this same parent/child dynamic to explain the relationship between a Jew and G-d.

“Each Jew is like G-d’s only child.”

I one heard a story of how a 93 year old Grandmother cries every Friday as she lights her Shabbat candles. Her grandson once asked her: “Why do you cry each and every time?  I can understand if it’s a special occasion, but to tear up each time? I don’t get it…”

She explained to him that she cries each week because of what her grandfather told her when she was a little girl:

“Each time you light the Shabbat candles, G-d is present before you and answers Amen to your blessing; and after lighting them, as you uncover your eyes to welcome Shabbat, He turns to you, embraces you and wishes you Shabbat Shalom.”

“So how can I not cry?” she concluded.

I think about this story often, and now, with the Jewish New Year approaching I’d like to share its powerful message with you:

You’re not one of millions of Jewish women lighting Shabbat candles. You’re not one of millions of Jewish men wrapping those Tefillin. To our father in Heaven, you are the only one! It is you and only you.

This year, consider approaching your Jewishness with the thought that no one can light your candle, no one can give your charity or say your prayer. Only you can.

L’Shana Tova!

Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky

Trouble Reembracing Routine?

Trouble Reembracing Routine?

This week, Mendel returned home from overnight camp in Michigan. And as of yesterday, all the kids started their new year at school and we are all starting to adjust back to our routine! (Check out Esty's 'back-to-school' video here)

Many other friends have also returned home this week and are getting ready to re-embrace their routines at home.

So, how do we keep it fresh even as the sights, sounds and relaxation experienced at our paradise-like vacations, begin to fade?

Here’s an idea: Try to think of small positive resolutions that can be incorporated into the daily grind and routine. Small consistent outlets to invest ‘vacation energy’ into, to bring it home and make it last! Inserting small doses of volunteerism or spirituality can really help breathe new life into our schedules, commitments and work. Try it.

My Facebook Post

My Facebook Post 

A few hours ago I posted this short message on Facebook:

Friends... Bellaire Hebrew School is in need of a new iPad for the upcoming school year, if you are up to this generous Mitzvah please send me a private message. Thank you!

Within the hour, we already had two people who came forward, one of whom already personally dropped off a brand new iPad which will be used to enhance the Jewish education at Bellaire Hebrew School.

Thank you so much to Liora and Jerry Cohen for the gift in loving memory of your dear son, Justin. This act of instinctive kindness is so heartwarming and may all the enhanced high-tech Torah learning be a great merit for Justin's soul. Thank you so much as well to Paul and Donna Silverman.


Today is the 1st day of the Hebrew month of Av; we're almost at the peak of the " Season of Mourning", when we mark the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem and other national tragedies (see below for Tisha bav program ).

The Talmud says "Anyone who has not seen the reconstruction of the Temple in their time, it is as if they actually witnessed the destruction of the Temple in their time". In simple terms, we're not just mourning a tragedy of the past, we must take responsibility to rectify that tragedy in the present.

The Mitzvah’s that we do, the Tzedakah that we give have a direct impact on the state of the world - society suffers from strife and destruction, and charity has the ability to reverse, repair and rectify that trend.

So, like the Cohen’s, you too can join in the reconstruction of the Temple, by performing an act of goodness or kindness and hopefully very soon we will witness the rebuilding of the Temple in our lifetime!


Do You Matter?

Do You Matter?

It is not uncommon for people, often young people, to ask themselves: "What value does my life have”? Or, they think to themselves:  “The world would be perfectly fine without me”.

Thankfully, once a year on our birthday we get a strong reminder about the Jewish perspective on the value of life!

Here it is from Esty… 


Elie Wiesel and my Rebbe!

Elie Wiesel and my Rebbe

Last Shabbat the world lost who President Obama called "the conscience of the world." A champion of the human spirit, a symbol of hope and an author of unmatched eloquence.
It is not by coincidence that his family concludes Shiva as the world readies to observe the 22nd Yahrtzeit of the one whose guidance and inspiration would deeply impact Elie Wiesel, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, my Rebbe.

Their first encounter, which Wiesel called “transformative," lasted until the early hours of the morning, during which they discussed some of Wiesel’s works, and what Wiesel referred to then as his “anger at G‑d."

From their first meeting in the early 1960s, Wiesel formed a deep relationship with the Rebbe, whom he considered to be his spiritual guide and with whom he engaged in deep correspondences regarding G‑d, life after the Holocaust, issues of personal faith and family matters.

Understandably, Weisel was hesitant to marry and have children, for how can he welcome a child into a world, home to the evil atrocities that he himself was witness to. It was the Rebbe who persuaded Wiesel to marry "if you will not marry and bring more Jewish children into the world, that will be a victory for Hitler." Enough said.

Weisel recalled years later: “The greatest bouquet of flowers I ever received was from the Rebbe for my wedding.”

What the Rebbe did for Weisel, breathing new life into a shattered soul, he did for world Jewry after the Holocaust. When Jews and Jewish leadership saw a bleak future for Judaism in a post Holocaust world, the Rebbe would turn darkness into light. He encouraged his students to find a community anywhere in the world in need of Jewish education and leadership, move there, make it your permanent home and transform it into a bastion of love, pride, wisdom and Jewish celebration.

Motivated by our personal encounters with the Rebbe in our youth and by delving into his vast legacy of life-enriching teachings ever since then, Esty and I are blessed with the privilege to have responded to the Rebbe's call, making Bellaire our family's permanent home, and sharing the wisdom and beauty of Judaism with our community.

Over the next 24 hours I encourage you to glean insight and inspiration from the Rebbe's teachings and by so doing, you too can be his ambassador by making yourself, your home or office a source of Jewish inspiration to others.

Click here to learn more about the Rebbe.

Shabbat Shalom and have a great week!

Rabbi Yossi and Esty Zaklikofsky

Bat Mitzvah!

Mazel Tov!  

We wish a very warm Mazel Tov to Ingrid and Dr. Jacob Nurko on the occasion of their daughter Andrea's Bat Mitzvah; to be celebrated this evening at The Shul. 

This week the Torah reminds us about true Jewish spirituality. Sometimes when we think of connecting to G-d, we imagine it being limited to Prayer, Torah study or rituals. In truth however, authentic Jewish spirituality must also reflect itself even in our most mundane daily encounters and experiences: Being a 'Mentch', helping others, holding the door open, passing the salt and smiling - are all examples of true integrated spirituality!

Andrea, a graduate of the Bellaire Hebrew School, exemplifies this Jewish ideal to the maximum. She spent many months deep in study in preparing for this special day, growing her knowledge in Torah and Judaism. Yet, with her super caring heart she is always sensitive and kind to anyone around her in need, always there to help with a nice word or a helping hand.

Mazel Tov to the entire family and Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Esty Zaklikofsky

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

The Shul’s Inaugural Gala Dinner was a magical evening and will surely be remembered forever! The positive energy, feelings of love, friendship and solidarity were felt by everyone in the room.

We congratulate Mauro, Steven, Andrea, Kenny, Erika and Mannie for their well-deserved honors and we thank them for their devotion and love. We look forward to celebrating many more beautiful occasions together.

We were thrilled by the participation and address by Ambassador Danny Danon.

Words alone cannot adequately express our feelings of gratitude towards each and every one of you we have had the privilege of getting to know over the past five years. Thank you for welcoming us so warmly to the community. Thank you for joining forces with us in our efforts of sharing the joys of Judaism with every individual in our community. Thank you for all that you do to help The Shul and its mission to grow and expand, enriching the lives of thousands of people with the message of goodness and kindness to all.

If you are proud of the amazing success of the first five years of The Shul, you might as well turn around and pat yourself on the back. You are The Shul of Bellaire.

We could not have done this without the outstanding leadership of our Gala Chairs Dana and Kenneth Katz, who skillfully led this effort together with an amazing, selfless group of people who made it all happen:

Karen Feldman, Elyse Freed, Nancy Freed, Courtney Haas, Roslyn Haikin, Jacquie Jaffe, Julie Kaplow, Sharon Katz, Monique Kaufman, Diane Kraitman, Donna Lane, Dionne Miller, Deborah Rose, Ellen Taer, Ilana Unterhalter, Denise Yudovich, Jennifer Zach, Nephele Zimmerman.

Thank you as well to Elisheva Golani (Photography), Abraham Hakakian (Plants N Petals), Sholom Laine (The Print House), Syma Levy (Oulala!), Rabbi Betzalel MarinovskyLevi Marinovsky (MKT), Randy McKinney (Photography), Ruchie Stillman (coordinator), Jenny Tavor (Catering) and a very special thank you to Stephen Zimmerman (La Colombe d’Or).




Feature on the International Chabad News site CLICK HERE

Presidential Greeting here.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Rabbi Yossi and Esty Zaklikofsky


Own it!

Own it! 

Can you think back to the most recent time you received a beautiful new gift? The thrill of unwrapping, receiving a kind gesture and being pleasantly surprised...

Surely, you’ve also heard the analogy of how the Torah (G-d's manual for life) is the greatest gift which G-d has given to the Jews. While this is certainly the right idea on some level, in essence, the Torah is more like an inheritance than a gift.

Why? Gifts are given for a reason (usually). An inheritance is automatic. It’s a birthright.

The Torah is “Morasha Kehilat Yaakov” – The inheritance of every Jew and each Jew has an equal share and ownership of this most awesome inheritance!

I always loved this idea, and feel so empowered by Torah study for this very reason: More than unwrapping a gift, I am taking ownership of my inheritance.

«First Name or Friend», I invite you to join me this Thursday for the incredible “Jewish Course of Why”. Through this 6 week course we will explore 50 fascinating Jewish questions that will entertain, illuminate and inform.

The truth is, it’s yours already, so why not own it?



An Empty Menorah?

An Empty Menorah?

Chanukah begins this Sunday evening, is your Menorah ready?

Typically we use a Menorah that has eight candle holders (plus the shamash). But in the first few days the Menorah always seems very empty and incomplete. Wouldn't it be more logical to kindle these flames in single candlesticks, so we can avoid that empty feeling?

Here’s the deal, the Menorah brings together two perspectives 1. Focus on the present and 2. Aspirations for the future. Successful growth - spiritual, intellectual or emotional - must always combine two very different approaches. On the one hand we should always appreciate the infinite potential of our soul and its unlimited capacity to grow into something much greater than we are now. True growth is not just a small token improvement, but rather a fundamental dramatic change of mindset and attitude. On the other hand, we cannot implement this change in one go. While the ultimate goal is drastic change, it has to be accomplished by taking one step at a time. 

This is the lesson of the Chanukah Menorah. We light one small flame at a time, representing small and responsible steps. At the same time we stare at the empty candle holders, reminding ourselves of the greater goal.

See y’all on Monday at the Bellaire Chanukah Festival!

Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky


I cried yesterday!

I cried yesterday as I watched the live webcast of the wedding of Techiya Litman to Ariel Beigel in Jerusalem (see it here).

Their wedding was postponed after Palestinian terrorists murdered the bride’s father and brother less than two weeks ago. The bride’s father, Yaakov Litman, and 18-year-old brother Netanel were shot dead in a November 13th terrorist attack.

Techiya and Ariel were due to be married on November 16, just four days after the attack, but the celebration was postponed as the Litman family sat shiva (Jewish mourning period) for Yaakov and Netanel.

In an incredibly profound transformation of grief into joy, the bride invited the ‘entire Israel’ to her wedding. The public wedding invitation, which the couple posted on social media, begins with the biblical quote: “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy, for I have fallen but I have gotten up” (Micah 7:8).

The wedding was moved to the Jerusalem Convention Center where thousands joined the couple for the celebration, including wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Jewish communities from Melbourne, Australia, Ottawa, Canada and many in the USA sent representatives to attend the wedding in Jerusalem, in a beautiful display of Ahavat Yisroel.


Tomorrow in my sermon we will further expound on this incredible display of Jewish resilience.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Treasures of Another Kind

Treasures of Another Kind 

A student goes to visit a Jewish sage, and is astounded to see the sage has virtually nothing in his home. The rabbi’s transformative explanation (in the Youtube link) for his apparent lack teaches us all we need to know about our life’s priorities.

Watch the video by the 8th Day band

Journey of the Soul - a fascinating new 6-session course launched last night. We began to explore the mysteries surrounding the spiritual dimensions of our existence.

Besides for providing answers to life’s biggest questions, Journey of the Soul will inspire you to remain focused on the parts of life that really matter; it will assist you in becoming more in touch with yourself, with your soul, and with your spiritual dimension; and it will help you discover a new-found relationship with your loved ones who are no longer here with us in body.

Why is such a class important for you to attend? Because with each passing day it becomes more apparent than ever, that only by addressing the spiritual components of life are we capable of bringing peace and harmony into the material realm of our existence.

You can still join click here to register.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy, Busy, Busy! 

Quite often, people tell me: "Rabbi, I do want to study more and attend Shul, but I just don’t have the time!”

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

We tend to get busy with things, important things, but along the way we may be running away from other things - that really matter.

So as we approach the New Year, let's slow down and take time to reflect on what is genuinely important in life. Are we running towards, or away from, our true priorities, goals and values? 

May we all be inspired and determined to make this New Year THE Year! 

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky


When are we going home?

When are we going home?

Our family recently moved into a new house, just a few short blocks from where we used to live.

On a few occasions since the move, our 3 year old daughter Chana has been asking:

“When are we going home?” Even after we explained it to her: “Chana dear, this is our new home”, she still continues: “But when are we going back to our real home?”

With the High Holidays around the corner, there are certainly some exciting elements to look forward to, but there is definitely a dose of dread some may feel about the hours we will be spending in Synagogue.

Can Jews feel at home in a Shul? Absolutely!

That is because a Shul is a place where a Jew belongs! Why is that so? Because even if it’s been months or years since the last visit, G-d wants us to be there. (Sort of like your mother wanting you to come home for Thanksgiving dinner. Because she wants it – that’s why you belong there.)

On Rosh Hashanah, G-d requests of each of us: “Please coronate me, make me your King!”, He wants us to show up. Although initially, you may not get the warm and fuzzies upon entering the Synagogue, know that deep down you are fully in tuned with G-d, like a child to his/her parent. 

Keep this message in mind before you go to Shul on Rosh Hashanah, and when you get there it may actually feel like home!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi Zaklikofsky


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