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Rav Noach's Students Remember, Part 3

May 8, 2009 | by

Moving stories and reminiscences from students around the world.

Jumping for Joy
By Elisha Mandel

When I first heard that my rebbe, Rav Noach Weinberg had passed away, I was dumbstruck. I sat in stony silence, attempting to digest the news. Similar shock and disbelief was apparent on the faces of the thousands of bereaved attendees at his funeral that day. Who could comprehend a world without Rav Noach? His legendary gusto, wisdom, sense of purpose and mission are completely irreplaceable.

The Rosh Yeshiva was a seeming mass of contradictions: he was a dreamer yet practical; a visionary yet firmly rooted in reality; demanding of himself and of others yet very lovable; charismatic yet humble; opinionated yet open minded. How can one man be so all-encompassing? How can one man live with all these contradictory traits and still build a movement with his indelible imprint on every project or idea or new initiative?

There are two possible answers. Rav Noach always focused on what was the Almighty's will. That was the sole factor that dictated his actions and personality, whether that meant being tough here or soft there, to push here or to relent there.

The second aspect was his unadulterated, pure belief in the potential of every human being, no matter how untalented or unsophisticated the person may seem. He firmly believed that every moment in a person's life is a moment of great opportunity.

I vividly recall meeting him one morning as he pulled into the Old City parking lot, opening his car door, taking his bag from him, and saying good morning. I guess I was in full blown pre-coffee, pre-8:30am grumpy mode, because he looked at me and gave me a nice slap on the cheek! "What's wrong with you? Why aren't you jumping for joy?!" he asked incredulously.

"Well, Rebbe, I think I'm happy. What do you mean?"

"When a person wins the lottery," he replied, "they jump up and down. You know why? Not because they won 200 million dollars, but because they won endless opportunities, the world is open to them. You're young; opportunities are endless, and for that, you should dance with joy!"

Our rebbe, leader and mentor is gone. Let's learn from him and walk with the Almighty. Let's dance with joy at the great opportunities and responsibilities the Almighty presents to us, and fulfill the Rosh Yeshiva's dream of tikun olam, and bring the brotherhood of mankind closer to its magnificent potential. Each of us needs to step up and become the leader he desired us to be. Let us begin. After all, it's what the Almighty's wants.

A Lover and a Fighter
By Rabbi Chananel Weiner

Rav Noach knew how to fight. He was all fight all the time, but he was simultaneously all love all the time. How could he be both, a lover and a fighter?

I used to storm in to his office frequently with questions, issues that bothered me and things that just didn't make sense. Once we got into a Talmudic teaching "make for your self a Rabbi" it says in the Ethics of our Fathers (Pirkei Avos 1:6). I got the part about needing a spiritual guide in life, someone that has been there before that can help us with all that we will face, but I didn't understand the essence, or the need of the statement.

Rav Noach explained to me what it means to have a rabbi in your life. It means to think about the issue to the point you think you have it figured out and then present it to your rabbi and fight him on it, tooth and nail, until you see the breadth of his comments are greater than yours and the wisdom in acting on his recommendation. Don't just take what he said because he said so; take it because you understand it to be right.

Rav Noach challenged us and he wanted us to challenge him. He fought us to fight him, to make the teachings real.

He taught us how to fight with the biggest weapon of all -- love. Love for our fellow man. Caring beyond the norm. These were Rav Noach's calling cards; these were his weapons of mass affection.

Rav Noach taught us to care. He would always ask, "What if your kid was sick, would you be able to raise money then? Do the research? Find the doctor?" He loved, and he cared, and this was how he fought. He taught us to fight with love.

Rav Noach showed us that with God in our corner, we can do anything. Thank you Rav Noach, I will miss you dearly.

Be Happy
by Lori Palatnik

I write this, sitting beside my husband, on a plane headed to Israel, to stay for 48 hours in order to go to the shiva of the man we loved liked a father, and who we know loved us back like his children.

When we would visit over the years and see him, he would invariably say, "Nu, let's see some pictures of my grandchildren." You would take them out of your wallet for him to see, and he would smile, and lovingly tell you, "I'm confiscating this one." And slyly slip it into his inside suit pocket.

We all thought we had that special relationship with him, and the impact on our lives was so deep, it had to be .

But we just spent the day in Monsey, New York, before boarding the plane. Both my husband and I were invited to speak at an educational retreat for students and young professionals at Ohr Samayach. One of the rabbis who had brought the students came over to us and told us the following story:
Almost 20 years ago I spent three months at Aish HaTorah in Israel, learning for the very first time. I was not sure about my commitment and went to Rabbi Weinberg to tell him I was heading home to "take a step back."

Rabbi Weinberg looked at me and said he wanted me to remember only one thing. I figured, oh no, he's going to tell me to keep the Torah. I was shocked when he said:

"Be happy. The Almighty loves happy people."

That had a greater impact on me than anything I had learned to that date. I did return home, but eventually became a very committed Jew, determined to help other young Jews also know the joy of Torah; the joy of being happy and being loved by God.

Love People
By Eliezer Blatt

One day, a man came up to the Rosh Yeshiva's office. His face was distorted and had large blisters on it. He told me that he was going into the hospital for brain surgery and that the doctors told him he had only a 50% chance of surviving. He requested to meet the Rosh Yeshiva because he was told to get a blessing from a tzaddik (a righteous man) and someone told him Rav Noah was such a man.

I know that Rav Noah, in his humility, didn't see himself as fitting for this title and usually shied away from this type of thing. With trepidation, I announced the guest to the Rosh Yeshiva, and the man entered. After about 10 minutes I entered the office to serve him a drink, finding the two men in a long, loving embrace. After the man left, I re-entered Rav Noah's office. He was standing by the window with tears streaming down his face. He felt this man's pain. We cried together.

A few months later, the man returned after a successful operation and the two men embraced once again. And this time we all cried with tears of joy.

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