> Rabbi Noah > Reflections

Legacy of Wisdom

May 8, 2009 | by Shalom Schwartz

Invaluable insights for living received from Rav Noah Weinberg, zt"l.

  1. Know What You Know
  2. Define Life
  3. Recognize the Purpose of Life
  4. Choose Life
  5. Live It

Know What You Know

    1. Clarity or Death.
    2. b) If you don't know what you're living for, you can walk right by it without seeing it.
    3. c) If you don't know what you're living for, you're a walking zombie.
    1. The battle for life is the battle for sanity.
    2. We're all crazy. A person doesn't sin without a spirit of insanity entering into him. It is crucial to always be conscious of the fact that we're crazy. Then we will not become total prisoners to our insanity.
    1. The most virulent disease in the world is ignorance. Ignorance can kill you. For example, if you don't understand yourself, your purpose and the meaning of your life, it can lead to suicide.
    2. Ignorance is also the most contagious disease. It spreads throughout entire societies and is extremely difficult to combat, especially since the victim is usually not aware he has been infected.
    1. We all have the intuitive ability to recognize truth. Check it out. (The angel taught us the entire Torah before we were born.)
    2. In the end, we all must rely on our own judgment of what is true. This is a merit and an obligation. Don't forfeit it.
  1. There are many prerequisites for knowledge. One is the willingness to face reality: to see things the way they are; not the way we desire to see them.
  2. We are all brainwashed by the values of the society we live in. If you grew up in Red China, you would think like the overwhelming majority of Red Chinese... unless we search for truth, we will necessarily remain products of our environment.
    1. Logic obligates us. God didn't give us our minds to trip us up.
    2. Lead with our mind.
  3. If you don't know yourself, you don't know anything.
  4. The key to greatness is doing a spiritual accounting. Every day, set aside time to ask these questions:
    1. What am I living for?
    2. Review your day and ask: What do I need to change?
    3. What am I going to do about it?

Define Life

  1. Life is a science. Learning this science requires defining concepts like: love, good, free will, etc. These ideas are not based on subjective experience but rather on wisdom. The science of living can, and must, be defined and taught as a prerequisite to living correctly. It is objective and available to everyone.
    1. Love is the emotion of pleasure we feel when seeing virtue, beauty, and good, and identifying the person with that quality.
    2. Love is a choice and an obligation, not a happening.
    3. Love is identifying the person with their virtues and excusing their faults. Hate is identifying a person with their fault and excusing their virtue.
    4. We can work on loving by proactively recognizing the virtues in others.
    1. a) Happiness is the emotion of pleasure we feel when appreciating what we have.
    2. Happiness is an obligation to ourselves, to others, and to God.
    3. We can work on happiness; we must count our blessings.
  2. Joy is the pleasure we feel when anticipating good.
  3. Awe is the pleasure we feel when seeing our insignificance in the face of overwhelming power and majesty.
  4. A leader is someone who takes responsibility; who undertakes to solve problems and, unlike followers, doesn't wait to be told what to do.
  5. The essence of free choice is to choose life over death, reality over escape. Choose life.
  6. A fanatic is someone who says, "I'm right and don't bother me with any reasonable arguments to the contrary." However, anyone who believes he's right and is passionate about it is unfairly labeled a fanatic.
  7. Humility is not the same as meekness. Moshe was the humblest of all men -- he was far from meek. Humility is knowing:
    • Everything I have is from God
    • The only thing that matters is doing the will of God.
  8. Senseless hatred, sinat chinam, is hating people for their mistakes.
  9. The essence of Fear of God is seeing the consequences of our choices, both the reward and the punishments. It is the essential means of facing reality.
  10. Marriage is a holy bond that unites two halves of a whole.
  11. Divorce is like an amputation. It may be necessary, but the cost is enormous and painful.
  12. Freedom is the ability to do what we all really want to do: to grow and develop. License is the ability to do anything, without concern as to whether it is good or not.
  13. Belief is based on reason and is the foundation of Judaism. Faith is based on an emotional "leap", a blind acceptance, and undermines the basis of a relationship with God.
  14. Torah means instructions. Torat Chaim means that the Almighty gave us His Instruction Manual for Living. By following these guidelines, we can fulfill our purpose in this world.
  15. The Hebrew word "Chet" is often mistranslated as sin. Sin has negative connotations about the committers of sin that are not based on Judaism. "Chet" actually means to miss the target, to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.
  16. The essence of entertainment is self-discovery.
  17. Being created in the image of God is to have free will. That is what makes me a human being. Until I figure out how to use that power, I have not unlocked the key to my humanity.
  18. Some people believe there are no absolutes. But the notion that there are no absolutes is, in itself, an absolute.

Recognize the Purpose of Life

  1. The Almighty created the world for our pleasure. There are five levels of pleasure, each of which provides an opportunity to connect to our purpose on a different plane.
  2. To consider pleasure the opposite of pain is a sign of decadent society. Pain is the price we pay for pleasure.
  3. The opportunity to create Kiddush Hashem, to sanctify God's Name, is everywhere.
  4. The urgent need of our generation is to combat the Chillul Hashem, the desecration of God's Name, caused by the assimilation of the Jewish People.
  5. For a religious Jew, not to be living with joy is a Chillul Hashem.
    1. Everyone wants to be good. Everyone is willing to die to do the right thing.
    2. It's more difficult to do the right thing by living with God, than to do the right thing by dying for God
    3. .

    4. You have to know what you're willing to die for, in order to know what you're living for. Live it.
    5. If you don't know what you're willing to die for, you haven't yet grown up.
    6. If you haven't lived for that which you're willing to die for, you haven't fully lived.
  6. Life, itself, is a gift. Be thrilled to be alive. Live a little!
  7. Take pleasure in doing the right thing. Take pleasure in fulfilling your obligations. This is the pleasure of a life of meaning, which provides one with self-respect.
  8. It is greater for us to come to God (to emulate Him), than for God to come to us.
  9. Our actions can bring the entire world to perfection or God forbid to destruction. We make a difference through everything we do. The entire world was created for me; it is both a gift and a responsibility.
  10. The physical world was given for our pleasure; learn to enjoy and thank God for it.
  11. Every human being has moments when they feel: Is it worth it? What's it all about? Don't be afraid of these moments; use them to get in touch with your purpose in life.
  12. The Six Constant Mitzvot are the goal commandments of all the 613. They describe the state of being we all strive for.
  13. We can learn from everything in the material world to fulfill our purpose in living
  14. We can do all the mitzvot and still miss the point, as it says in the Torah "...because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy." The Torah is for our own good, our own pleasure – appreciate it.
  15. The greatest gift you can give anyone is the gift of themselves, their own independence. The one thing that a parent can't do for his children is to be them. They have to choose to be themselves.

Choose Life

  1. The choice between life and death, reality or escape, is a choice that we make every moment of our existence.
    1. The battle of free will is to choose to be a soul – not a body.
    2. Our minds are like computers. They can be used in the service of the Yetzer Hara – the evil inclination, or in the service of the Yetzer Hatov, the good inclination.
    3. .

    4. Do what you want – not what you feel like doing.
    1. Secularism is the opiate of the people. There are many serious problems in the world. How much can one person do to change it? If the Almighty were to help you, could you change the world?
    2. When people say to a young idealist, "You'll grow up," what they really mean is, "You'll give up." Don't ever grow up by giving up.
    3. Don't suffer the world's problems -- change them. Everyone secretly wants to be Mashiach. It's just that most have given up.
    4. Trust that the Almighty is waiting and he is able to give it all.
    1. God is not a bluffer. The threat of nuclear war should wake us up. We should ask where are we going, what went wrong, what has to be changed...
    2. Our people are experiencing a spiritual holocaust. This is more serious than a physical holocaust. The ones who know that the Torah is true are the ones most obligated to take action.
    3. We need to ask how to make the difference. Not just a difference.
    1. Teach what you know.
    2. Take responsibility for what you know. Teach it – it'll change you.
  2. There are 3 primary drives in people: Chaim, Tov, Bracha. Deepen your self awareness by discovering the primary drive of your soul and the primary drive of your body. Identify them in others to understand and effectively communicate with them.
  3. The two commitments: "The buck stops here," and "no quitting," empower a person to live responsibly.
  4. "The mitzvah of learning Torah is equal to all other mitzvot" and "Learning brings to action." This teaches us to always lead with the mind and realize that the Torah has answers to life's problems. We must study the problem (learn Torah) and it will lead us to implement solutions (bring to action).
  5. God grants wisdom to the one who undertakes to fulfill His will. You will get what you need when you take responsibility.

Live It

    1. Know the power and potential for greatness in every human being (a little less than the angels). The human being is like an atom bomb whose detonator is free will.
    2. We're not born great. But we're all born with the potential for greatness. We use an infinitesimally small percentage of our mind's power. We can choose greatness. We all want it. No one says, "I wish to be mediocre."
  1. Every Jew wants to, and can, respond to Torah. "Jews are thirsty to do the will of God." If you give a thirsty person a glass of water, won't he drink it?
  2. Every effort has an effect. If we persist, even seemingly insignificant efforts will cumulatively combine to create breakthroughs (as demonstrated by the story of Rebbe Akiva and the rock).
  3. It's not enough to believe in God; we must work to attain five- finger clarity that He exists. But that's also not enough. We must constantly be working on assimilating that reality and making it real, bringing it into your emotions, in order to walk with God.
  4. To waste time is to demonstrate a lack of value for the gift of life. We don't throw nickels out the window. So we shouldn't throw five minutes out the window.
    1. To pray is to exercise your free will. Do everything in life with prayer and as an expression of prayer.
    2. Pray to God and rely on Him to come through.
    1. a) Every human being is loved by his Creator.
    2. "I am for my Beloved, and my Beloved is for me." The way to open up and feel God's love is to love Him, first.
    1. We can understand the message the Almighty is sending us through his Providence. He is the master teacher.
    2. There are no accidents.
  5. The essence of Shabbos is to know and feel God's love.
  6. All of Torah is – to do – to change yourself and the world. When you learn, always ask: What am I going to do about it? Then go do it.
    1. All of the Torah is given to us to be achieved. We can really love God and fear him. God does not give a commandment that cannot be fulfilled.
    2. We have an obligation to learn and know the entire Torah. Therefore, we can know the entire Torah.
    3. There is a quantitative and qualitative dimension to know the entire Torah. The Talmud says "One should first learn Torah and then get married." This is a demonstration of the quantitative dimension of learning Torah.
    4. The Torah teaches us how to learn. Learn the Rambam's Laws of Learning Torah and do what it says.
    5. If Hashem gave us 20 mitzvot, would you know them? Is 613 too many?
    1. The 48 ways are a comprehensive system to integrate Torah and any insight, skill or knowledge into your life. Each of the 48 Ways is a tool to integrate every aspect of Torah, every aspect of wisdom, every aspect of life, into our lives. Each of the 48 ways can be understood as a question.
    2. The two most important of the 48 ways are: Learning in order to Teach and Learning in order to do.
  7. The study of wisdom is different from other educational processes in that it is not a gathering of new knowledge, but rather a striving to live by that which you discover you already know.
  8. We all need to make yourself a rav, to fulfill our purpose and not get caught by our subjectivity.
  9. When it's important enough, people will pay to receive correction. Love rebuke. Ask a friend what your 5 biggest faults to correct are.
    1. Love people. Live a little!
    2. The greatest way to become beloved is to love others.
    3. Don't think that when you're angry with someone, you don't love them.
  10. Men and women are different species. Their needs and wants are expressed and fulfilled differently. Realize it. Live it.
  11. We can't fulfill our mission alone. We need partners, teamwork, organization, professionalism, and unity.
  12. Be real.
  13. Organize what you know in order to teach it. Change the world.

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