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My Final Encounter

My Final Encounter

What I learned during my last 10 minutes with Rabbi Weinberg.


When Rabbi Weinberg first became ill, my wife asked me, "If you had 10 minutes with the Rosh Yeshiva, what would you ask him?" For days I didn't even want to think about the question. Who could imagine, God forbid, only having 10 minutes. Rabbi Weinberg was always there for us.

A few months later I had, unexpectedly, what would be my last private time with him. It was at the cafeteria at Shaarei Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem. The disease was progressing and treatments were taking their physical toll. If his son Yehuda hadn't called me over, I might have walked by without even recognizing my beloved Rosh Yeshiva.

I had my 10 minutes. I started by telling him what my wife had asked me. Having been part of Aish HaTorah for more than 12 years, his core ideas and teachings were well known to me, so I asked not for new insights, but rather ideas on how to internalize and actualize all he has taught me over these years. I realized that I fall so short of living to his expectations of greatness, it is frightening.

He told me that one of the main reasons we don't reach our potential is impatience. We try waking up and saying to ourselves, "What am I living for?" But if we don't see changes after a few days, we tell ourselves "This doesn't work," and give up.

Persistence is the key. Don't give up if we don't see changes immediately.

His advice: Wake up everyday and ask, "What am I living for?" and "How am I going to get there?" Persistence is the key. Don't give up if we don't see changes immediately.

His own life attested to this. Aish HaTorah was not the first organization Rabbi Weinberg founded in order to battle apathy and assimilation among the Jewish people. He started many. And most of them failed. He often spoke – joyfully, no less -- of his failed attempts. Relating back, this surely was one of his ways of encouraging his students and supporters to keep moving forward although "success" may seem hidden.

The second thing I did was ask the Rosh Yeshiva to remind me of a tool he often recommended we do. One of the most basic, yet most empowering ideas that I learned from Rabbi Weinberg is that we are God's children. He is the ultimate Father in heaven, and treats us as such. Rabbi Weinberg suggested we sit on the floor five minutes a night and try to feel the pain the Almighty must feel knowing His children are so far from Him. Through this process we'll become open to new ideas on how to awaken the Jewish people to their mission.

Rav Noah was nearly in tears as he spoke about God's children drifting away. For him it was real. He felt it. He knew it. He lived it.

On the way home, I realized he hadn't reached that point because he tried a few times and gave up. His advice for persistency came from his experience.

May we all use this incredibly difficult time of loss to redouble our efforts in learning, integrating and activating the life teachings and yearnings of our great teacher and leader Rabbi Yisrael Noach ben Yitzchak Mattisyahu.

February 7, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 9

(9) Laya, July 29, 2010 12:45 PM

posted on the fridge

I just made a sticky note and put it on the fridge with the two questions: What am I living for? How and I going to get there? (It's next to the question by Zelig Pliskin: How can I make what I'm doing meaningful?) Thank you. It's these kinds of "tweaks" that change the trajectory of a life.

(8) Anonymous, February 9, 2009 11:59 PM

Thank you for the inspiring, practical and relate able article!! MAy all of Klal Yisroel learn from RAbbi WEinberg,z"l and live his dream.May all Of Klal Yisroel live in peace together with out assimilation! AMEN!!

(7) Annette, February 9, 2009 10:45 PM

we are blessed orphans of the Late Great Rabbi

I asked for patience and persistence, and I got aish, Rabbi Weinberg 'failed' his way to success - how humble of him, how humbling for me to remember this pattern on my own journey, for all of us... great road to follow, don't you think? let's not be afraid of our failures, the tribulations learned along the way will give us the courage, patience and persistence to survive, and to succeed, I thank G-d for giving us both Rabbi & Rebbetzin Weinberg, soulmate parents to so many of us, pillars of fire in our lifetime, Let's 'pick up our socks' and walk the walk together, we are not alone, G-d loves us too. The greatest compliment to the Weinbergs is not in feeling sorry for ourselves at no longer having the beloved Rabbi with us, but in continuing his legacy even long after they're gone. That's why he lived. He taught us to fish so we could feed ourselves. So let's eat. And let's be patient and persistent. And remember: let's be grateful out there!

(6) Ben Shafat, February 9, 2009 2:06 PM

Thank You for the article please write more!

I never met the Rav but I am definitely attached to the teachings he left behind and all of the shiurim I listen to online. I am saddened by the loss and find it hard to "up my game" in his zechus (merit). Until just now, I never knew R' Weinberg failed at anything. I know it sounds silly but sometimes we hear of greatness and figure, "well they're great but I'm just a simpleton who messes up and isn't as successful as them (and never will be). I'm not saying people should think they're better than the leaders but the lesson to be learned is that nobody is perfect yet people can do so much. Pretty much, the lesson from this article to me is that no one if perfect but look at how much one can do. R' Weinberg reached out to countless numbers of people (you don't know how many people get inspired from this site!)and it didn't come on the first attempt to help people - there were some programs which didn't work but R' Weinberg persisted and thats what made him R' Weinberg and made Aish a success. The greatest chizuk (continued inspiration) from R' Weinberg now that he is no longer with us physically, is the the idea of not giving up even when we mess up, not being down by setbacks, and just plowing through the tough times because eventually you'll get through it and the results will be gold. Just do your best being a G-d fearing person, a good person, and when things don't go well - try again. That's what R' Noach would've done...

(5) David Yaffe, February 9, 2009 5:24 AM

Thank You

Thank you for listening to your wife and thank you for sharing this. Blessings-

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