The person I am today is due to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Noach. He was my spiritual father. The fact that I am married with six amazing children, dedicating my life in the rabbinate, doing my best to change the world and make it a better place, is all because of him.
Every major and most minor decisions that I have made in the past 25 years were influenced in some way by this incredible mentor.
He taught me how to view the world, and then he set me free on it. Until the last few months, he was always available for a check up, just to make sure I was on the right path. (I would have done myself a great service if I checked up a little more often!)
When I was 16 years old, I was a happy kid who believed in God and wanted to have a positive influence on people's lives. The "angel" had taught me that.
I met Rav Noach in 1984 when I was still 17. This was the beginning of and incubation period that would last 7 and 1/2 years. I grew up "spiritually" in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Rosh Yeshiva and some of his greatest students would be my rabbis, teachers and friends.
I learned so many things from the Rosh Yeshiva, it would be impossible to recount and record them all. I will do my best to share some of the highlights of wisdom that he taught me.
Rav Noach lived every moment with ambition, meaning, and purpose.
When I first arrived at Aish, Rav Noach was teaching the "48 Ways to Wisdom" class. It was for beginners. One of the wisest men on the planet would spend his time with the rookies who know nothing about Judaism!
Rav Noach taught that everyone has a pivotal role in the Jewish People, and each person should know what their role is. In a war there are medics who triage in the field and there are surgeons in the hospital. In the eyes of people it might be more prestigious to be the surgeon, but what counts is how we look in the eyes of the Almighty. The Jewish people are at war with assimilation, there is nothing wrong with doing triage in the field if you are fighting for the Jewish people. If that is where you can help the most and that is the need of the Jewish People that is what you MUST do!
He taught all the time that there is nothing we can do for God, and that He created us for our pleasure. That the opposite of pain was not pleasure, but no pain – comfort. The most meaningful things in life require effort – pain – to accomplish them.
Rav Noach lived every moment with ambition, meaning, and purpose. He was joyfully connected with the Almighty at every moment.
If you're going to be strict on any mitzvah, it should be to be happy at all times.
Rav Noach taught me that if I was going to be strict on any mitzvah, it should be to be happy at all times. Through this, one can achieve true love of God, the ultimate point of life and the greatest pleasure.
To fear God means to look forward to the rewards of doing the commandments, not just to be afraid of the smacks that the Almighty will send us when we are negligent.
He taught me that the mitzvahs are tools and the Torah is a road map to how to get the most out of life. To look at people as souls, not as bodies. To see their inner potential and show them how to achieve their greatness.
He had so many short, meaningful sayings, like: "If you don't know what you are willing to die for you have not yet begun to live!", "Clarity or death!", "Nobody wants to be mediocre," "Life is filled with opportunities, strive for greatness," and of course, "A happy wife is a happy life!"
He taught me that the answers to all of life's questions are found in the Torah and you have to know what you know and be clear on what you don't know.
He taught me that the first step to being an intellectual is to define your terms. And there are so many things to define! For example, a definition for love: Love is an emotion one feels when they identify and appreciate the virtues in another human being.
Definition of happiness: the emotional state one achieves when they appreciate what they have. Or joy: the feeling when one anticipates future good.
And that love and happiness are not happenings, but obligations. And Rav Noach taught me how to fulfill these obligations. The happiness game and the love game have become part of my personality.
The Rosh Yeshiva gave me the tools and inspiration not to be judgmental, to search for humility and flee from anger. (I'm still working on implementing these!)
The Rosh Yeshiva taught me never to give up trying.
He gave me the value that I and my children should know all of the Torah, starting with the 613 mitzvahs. (Still working on this too!)
And perhaps most importantly, the Rosh Yeshiva taught me never to give up trying. That if you do the right thing you can't lose. With the Almighty's help, you can accomplish anything!
In trying to imbue me with a sense of taking responsibility for the Jewish people, the Rosh Yeshiva imprinted on my soul, "If you take care of the Almighty's children, He will take care of your children!" and finally "The Almighty loves you, more that you could possibly love your own children."
The realization that there will be no more check ups in this world from my dear rebbe has created a profound sadness.
I do know that he would want me and all of his students to do our absolute best to continue to live meaningful lives, fight the war of assimilation, live with joy, and bask in the splendor of the Almighty. The example set by the Rosh Yeshiva continues to be my role model and inspiration.
Thank you God for giving us Rav Noach. He showed us how to recognize Your love, and was Your agent to teach us how to strive to become a great Jew.