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I Wanted that Fire

I Wanted that Fire

Rav Noach himself was the living embodiment of the fire of Torah.


In 1982, a young woman in St. Louis met an Orthodox Jew for the first time. His name was Rabbi Noach Weinberg. As she recalls that first meeting: "He had this fire of excitement about him. I wanted that fire."

The last time I saw Rav Noach, z"l, was on December 29, 2008, at the annual Aish HaTorah dinner in Jerusalem. The Rosh Yeshiva, having fallen and broken his shoulder and thigh bone, was in the hospital. No one was sure if he would make it to this event in his honor. Then the MC announced Rav Noach's entrance. He was rolled in a wheelchair, his shrunken frame and his short, wispy beard barely recognizable to all of us. The several hundred people present rose and started to applaud. The applause went on for a long, long time, as I stood there, clapping and crying.

I was not crying because of his illness and pain. I was crying because of the sheer greatness of the presence emanating from that wheelchair. It filled the hall like a palpable entity. It was like the time I was flying from Calcutta to Darjeeling. I intermittently peered out the plane's window at the foothills of the Himalayas below me. At one point when I again looked out the window, I was shocked to see a white giant of a mountain almost as high as the plane itself, completely filling the view, totally out of proportion to the rest of the mountain range -- gigantic, majestic, awesome. It was Mt. Everest.

Rav Noach Weinberg, even in his diminished physical state, was an Everest of a human being. When a microphone was placed in front of his wheelchair and he started to speak, the passion in his voice was unabated. And the fire in his eyes blazed like always. My heart was kindled by the fire of his enthusiasm to go out there and change the world.

Rav Noach's greatness was out of proportion to the rest of our generation.

In the immensity of his vision, in the magnitude of his impact on the Jewish world, Rav Noach was totally out of proportion to the rest of our generation, dwarfing us like Mt. Everest dwarfs the rest of the Himalayas. If he were editing this piece, he would no doubt have struck out that last sentence. At his funeral one of his sons, in the midst of his eulogy, declared: "What would he say about these eulogies? He would say, 'Why are you eulogizing me? Every one of you can be greater than I was.'"

An Aish rabbi who visited Rav Noach some 30 hours before he died told me that the Rosh Yeshivah was, until the end, giving directions for how to deal with issues vital to the Jewish people. Eager to hear the great man's last words, I asked, "What else did he say?"

"He said that we aren't doing enough."

Certainly he felt about himself that his every-minute-packed schedule and his 50 years of unremitting toil and effort on behalf of the Jewish People were "not enough," not enough to stem the tide of assimilation, not enough to reverse the trend of intermarriage, not enough to introduce every Jew to the beauty of Torah.

Aish HaTorah means "the fire of Torah." Rav Noach himself was the living embodiment of that fire, filled with passion to ignite every Jewish soul, burning with zeal to kindle the love of God in every Jewish heart. A fire, by its nature, never rests.

When God first charged Moses with the mission to redeem the Jewish People, He spoke to him from the midst of a burning bush. The Torah tells us that the "bush burned with fire but was not consumed." The physical frame that was Rav Noach Weinberg has been consumed. Whether the fire will continue to burn is up to each of us.

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February 7, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 11

(11) Beverley Pekema, February 11, 2009 11:25 PM

Kindle the Fire

Just like they keep the fire (torch) going in the Olympics, so too may the fire of the love of Torah as demonstrated by Rav Noach, ever be kindled.

(10) eli morhayim, February 11, 2009 4:52 PM


I am from turkey me and my friends owe a lot to rabbi really sad for rabbi but we are sure that he is in now gan eden.

(9) naomi sokol cohen, February 10, 2009 5:02 PM

I listened to his tapes as a teenager!

sarah yoheved- i grew up listening to the 48 ways to wisdom tapes- they are still so relevant- He seemed so 'with it'- he understood where people were and able to lift them up from there- His words applied from ffb to secular- may his memory be a blessing - by our living inspired - thank you!

(8) Yosef, February 10, 2009 10:48 AM

An imeasurable loss for the generation

I first met Rav Noach z"l, about 4 years ago on an Hasbara trip to israel. It was before i was a baal tshevah and when the trip leader introducted the Rosh Yeshivah I had no idea who he was, how great his acomplishments were, and how many lives he touched. When the time came for questions knowone raised their hands so i stood up and asked the Rav if he thought all the problems were israel were being caused by the jewish peoples lack of faith. It was almost a trick question, being hostile to religion at that point i was expecting and hoping the Rav to answer "yes, son you are right, hashem is punishing us because we are not obeying him", i was suprised, when the Rav smiled back at me and starting giving facts about the jewish people, the high percentage of jews who fast on yom kippur and will refraim from eating bread on peseach, the overwhelming percentage fo our people who say they believe that their is a g-d who created an sustains the world. In a few words Rav Noach z"l made it clear to me that Hashem loves the jewish people unconditionally, while the true meaning of my brief interaction with the Rosh Yeshivah didn't sink into much later when I began to realize how "big" of a Rabbi he was, I am nonetheless greatfull for the chance to have me him. When I mentioned to a friend a few months ago that the Rosh Yeshivah needed prayers and tehilim for his health, my friend simply replied, "the generation is so weak, we can't afford to lose him". Rav Noach z"l literally saved the lives of thousands of jews, his warm smile, and his passion for life brought many including myself back to torah and away from a life of misguided spiritual falsehood. Rather than mourning the Rav, I hope Klal Yisrael will celebrate his life and his message, that life is precious the jewish people are special and holy and they should let the torah guide their lives to complete spiritual fullfillment and ture happiness.

(7) Anonymous, February 9, 2009 6:59 PM

THank you that was very to the point and inspiring!!!!!!

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