With thanks to the Almighty, the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me was that Jack Rajchenbach introduced me, a struggling Yeshiva bachur from Skokie and Tifrach, to Reb Noach back in 1971. There has not been a single day since meeting him and deciding to be his talmid (student) that I have not thanked the Creator for this incredible merit.
And there has not been a single day that I have not beaten myself up for not being real, for not being disciplined, for being arrogant. And I learned from our beautiful Rebbe, to enjoy that too!
Here are some pieces of wisdom that I remember from those early days.
1. Don't set your goal to learn all Torah and to do all mitzvos. Set your goal to be an Oved HaShem, servant of God. This will bring you to all the rest.
2. Loyalty. Above all, once you are a friend, once you make the decision to be a friend, you are committed. That means absolute loyalty and trust. That means that if your friend asks you for something, you do it. You trust that he has considered the request and the inconvenience and has opted to make the request. So you must do it.
3. Being a follower of Torah means you are a diplomat, you are the Almighty's representative to the human race. You ought to be filled with a humbling sense of awe, yet confidence as to your mission. You look and live the part. When you come into contact with people, be a Kiddush Hashem. That means that your being draws people to God. If not, go back and reexamine your principles.
4. Learning. Peshat – the simple meaning of the text cannot be contrived. Work at it till it is clear! The Torah must be talking to you. Use the 48 Ways to hash and rehash till it is clear. Don't read your ideas into the Torah, let the Torah teach you.
5. Reb Noach told me on several occasions that the key to bringing someone close to Torah is the relationship. You have to love Jews. If being with Jews does not energize you, you are doing something wrong.
6. Perhaps the most powerful thing Reb Noach told me was that doing the will of the Almighty is energizing. He said that if you do a mitzvah and you don't have more energy after doing it than you had before doing it, you are doing it with the wrong attitude.
If you are like me, the enormity of our beautiful Rebbe's passing has not yet sunk in. Last week we talked of seeing each other again soon. There was such confidence. My head has been smashed in. My heart is beating with a heaviness.
Rebbe used to tell us at staff meetings that our goal was not to make the students like us, but to help them to become better than we are.
We are stuck now, but we have each other. We can no longer rely on Reb Noach to do the job. And the greatest tribute we can give him, the greatest things we can do to add to his merit is to fight for Klal Yisrael as he would have continued to do.