5 Things I Learned from Rabbi Noah Weinberg
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5 Things I Learned from Rabbi Noah Weinberg

5 Things I Learned from Rabbi Noah Weinberg

Insights into fixing oneself and fixing the world.

by

Rabbi Noah Weinberg was a once-in-a-generation giant who deeply impacted thousands of people around the world, teaching what it means to be a human being and a Jew.

Here are five key lessons I learned during 20 years as his student.

(1) Responsibility

Rabbi Weinberg always said: “When I’m gone, then you’ll grow up.” (He was told this by his own teacher, older brother Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l.) This message was that we’d been relying too much on him to get the job done; after his passing we would “grow up” – i.e. take responsibility and step up into the role of a leader.

Rabbi Weinberg made the story of Moses a constant refrain: “In the place where there is no man, be a man!” (see Exodus 2:12, Avot 2:5). By accepting responsibility to further the Almighty’s plan, we merit the Divine assistance to get the job done.

(2) Persistence

Rabbi Weinberg always spoke about how, prior to starting Aish HaTorah in 1974, he had many failed attempts to build a successful organization. He would quote the verse, “A tzaddik falls seven times and gets up” (Proverbs 24:16), and say that the key to becoming successful is precisely the act of falling and getting back up.

When Rabbi Weinberg failed, he would always engage in a rigorous process of self-evaluation, then make any readjustment to accord with God’s will. With deep belief, he would say: “The Almighty can do anything. We just need to want it badly enough.”

(3) Empowerment

The Talmud says: “Who is powerful? He who empowers others.” Rabbi Weinberg was enormously influential, not because he clamped down on others, but rather because he empowered them. He found a role for everyone, assisting and encouraging them to achieve their full potential.

In Jerusalem, he formulated the Aish Yeshiva as an incubator for creativity and innovation – producing groundbreaking Jewish initiatives such as the Jerusalem Fellowships, SpeedDating, the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, Hasbara Fellowships, HonestReporting, and Aish.com, to name a few.

(4) Peace and Unity

In deciding whether or not to do something, Rabbi Weinberg’s only consideration was whether it would constitute a Kiddush Hashem – an infusion of God-consciousness into the world. His sole gauge was whether an action produced more peace and unity as defined by the Torah.

Rabbi Weinberg lived by these principles throughout his personal life, and made them the cornerstone of Aish HaTorah. If an action would contradict the ideals of peace and unity, Rabbi Weinberg was willing to back down.

(5) Objectivity

The Talmud says: “Make God’s will, your will.” Rabbi Weinberg taught that the only way to discern “the Almighty’s will” is through a relentless process of self-evaluation. In order to attain this objectivity – and see where personal self-interest may be creeping in – he taught these principles:

  • Consistency: We must check ourselves regularly, using the tool of Cheshbon HaNefesh (self-evaluation). Minimally one should set aside 10 minutes a day; Rabbi Weinberg did so constantly.

  • Trusted advisor: Find someone who knows you very well – a spouse or close friend – and ask them to point out where your sense of objectivity is falling short.

  • Torah perspective: Whenever confronted with a serious decision – especially one with implications for Kiddush Hashem – we need to use the Torah as our guidebook and consult with Torah scholars. At the same time, Rabbi Weinberg insisted on “thinking for yourself” – by first formulating your own idea of the best option moving forward based on the Torah. Only then would he give feedback.

Perhaps most inspiring of all, Rabbi Weinberg taught that achieving this clarity and pushing toward our goal of peace, unity, and Kiddush Hashem is the greatest pleasure we could have in this world.

Published: January 11, 2014


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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) Kelly Rebekah ben Maimon, January 14, 2014 11:07 PM

What wonderful smile..

Thank you Rabbi Simmons, for sharing key lessons Rabbi Weinberg passed on. What a wonderful smile he had, and it is clear to see he was a shining light (fortunate to be witnessed by all those, who met him) and not as you say "because he clamped down on others, but rather because he empowered them." London, England

(5) Mattityahu, January 14, 2014 9:51 PM

Time for us to take the baton!

I am so glad this article was written. I have been thinking a lot about Rav Noach tz"l lately and his powerful messages and the energy he put forth in saying them. Most significant - Love of Almighty (He always said the Almighty), Yichud Hashem (only he could say it right) and of course Kidush Hashem. The last was definately the above and be all. And he was right. If you learn the Chafetz Chaim book of Mitzvot which I carry with me everywhere and I recommend everyone else do the same, Kiddush Hashem and Lo alanu, Hillul Hashem are the most important of all Mitvot. Think about it, was is the generally considered the most important mitvah - vchay behem! "To live in them and not to die in them." We michalel Shabbat which carries a death penatly normally to save a Jewish life. Meis mitvah the most important of all mitvot. Pidyan Shvuyim. OI Toomod. However, one mitvah trumps even this mitvah and it is Kiddush Hashem. In a time of shmad when the goyim put a gezerrah against mitvah observance and one is told to do a small Rabbiinic aveira in public, one must die rather than transgress. This because we are only here to give honor to the Almighty. This is the message Rav Noach gave forth. Kiddush Hashem! Kiddush Hashem! Kiddush Hashem! Kiddush Sham Shemayim! Anyone who remembers him will know here him speaking as they read these words. He loved Jews and empowered them. He believed in every Jew and when you sat in his office in front of him you felt ashamed that you were not reaching your potential and vowed secretly on the spot to do tshuva only to forget a day later! Rav Noach wouldn't. He would walk up to you and say are you working on what we talked about?! Huh! We have to give this to a new dor that never saw a Rav Noach or Rav Yaakov. We who witnessed greateness have an achruot to transmit it to those who weren't there. Go for it! Live your greatness! Remember what Rav Noach said. It is harder to live for the Mitvot than to die for them. Was he ever more right?

(4) vernon leininger, January 13, 2014 10:39 PM

this is fantastic and I read it every day!

(3) Anonymous, January 13, 2014 5:12 PM

Great!

This article is great. Thanks for posting!

(2) Nancy edelstein, January 12, 2014 5:05 PM

Rabbi Weinberg was such a loving source of light to me and the world which enabled us to find our way home to Gd. What a beautiful gift to this world that he was brave enough to fulfill his purpose with such a joy of life. He is truly missed and so appreciated

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