How Rabbi Noah Weinberg’s Warmth and Wisdom Reached This Confused Jew.
I am one among so many who have benefitted from his wisdom, dedication and love for Judaism and his fellow man.
The first time I ever heard Rabbi Noah Weinberg speak I was hooked. His tone, his language, his way of addressing an issue; I felt like he was talking directly to me and answering the issues I was grappling with and experiencing.
I grew up in an observant family but moved away from Judaism due to what I perceived as a child to be sexist views in Judaism.
Eventually I became as secular a Jew as they come. Three times a year I dusted my Judaism off and paraded it out for all to see, and then quickly stuck it away for another year.
But when my children were born I was determined to give them a Jewish home and a Jewish education. I even sent them to Solomon Schechter Day School. We joined a temple and in 1989, celebrated our B’Nai Mitzvah together – mother and two sons.
But something happened when my mother died in 1995. My whole world fell apart. One son became a born again Christian and one son became very distant from any religious connection. It was only through the help of the Cantor from my synagogue that I started to set my feet rooted in my heritage and began to rise out of my abyss.
By 2005 I was celebrating Shabbat each week, trying to not eat milk and meat, definitely no pork, and reading the Torah on a regular basis. Although I didn’t accept either of my son’s choices, they were adults and I had to concentrate on me. My friends and family all thought I was going from one extreme to the other, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. Even though I knew it was still a long road to reclaiming my Judaism, I knew I had to keep going.
That year I was searching online for anything that might be that bridge to the next level in my spiritual path… and there I found Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory. Inspired by his talks, I searched for anything with his name on it.
I discovered that he had traveled a long and sometimes shaky road to becoming the founder of Aish HaTorah. His wisdom and love for every Jew enabled him to reach people of all ages and different religious backgrounds.
By the time I found Rabbi Weinberg’s large collection of work, I was a rather confused and lost Jew. I devoured his “48 Ways to Wisdom,” and started listening to the audio collections. I read his articles on numerous Jewish sites and eventually became a regular at Aish.com. His concepts that life was beautiful and filled with joy were a revelation from the solemn religious teaching I had experienced. It was truly liberating!
But the turning point for me was watching his videos. I found a new level of understanding. Just watching the Rabbi speak; his natural ability to connect with each person, the way he moved as he discussed deep issues, his style that made a serious subject into a questioning joke, and the smile that followed, and his manner that just commanded your attention.
Rav Noah saw potential in everyone, even when they didn’t see it in themselves.
He taught that Judaism doesn’t require all or nothing…baby steps are okay. He saw potential in everyone, even when they didn’t see it in themselves, and that was my connection too! So many years had passed and I was in such a bad place. Could I really scratch my way out and connect to the person that Rabbi Weinberg inspired in me?
Just looking at his face gave me hope. There was a light that shone from his eyes; he exuded a simple grace and a warmth in his smile that said, “Pay attention, he knows what you need!” Even today, 10 years after his passing, I can still see his face and be moved to a place that inspires me to be better and to push on.
I continue to read and listen to the Rabbi’s enormous library of work, and use the book, “Wisdom for Living, Rabbi Noach Weinberg on the Parashah,” as a source for my weekly in-depth understanding of the Torah portion.
On this 10th yahrzeit of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, I am one among so many who have benefitted and are still benefiting from his wisdom, dedication and love for Judaism and his fellow man. He is sorely missed, but his memory is truly for a blessing!