Rabbi Noah Weinberg Transformed My Relationship to Judaism
My Orthodox high school wasn't working for me anymore. Then I discovered the wisdom of Rabbi Noah Weinberg.
It was at that scary time when my adolescent self had outgrown my childhood perception of God and I hadn't yet found the proper adult replacement.
I was in tenth grade and school was a growing nightmare. Not knowing why, and since nothing seemed to make sense and no one had any answers, let alone acknowledged a question, there was no reason to continue in what I perceived to be a farce.
I was just an average girl, in a regular Orthodox high school. But it wasn't working for me anymore.
And that was when I found the Torah wisdom of Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt"l.
My mother, sensing my growing angst, pulled out a slender volume from the bottom shelf of the bookcase. It was called The Eye of the Needle, a title that intrigued me.
My mind was blown. This was the first time my Judaism was presented in a way that captured my mind, and consequentially my soul.
My mind was blown. This was the first time my Judaism was presented in a way that captured my mind, and consequentially my soul. And I wondered, those who leave their heritage in a haze of confusion and ignorance, have they a clue to what a treasure they are abandoning?
Our Torah is known as Torat chaim, literally "instructions for living" and the Torah Rav Noah introduced me to guided me on my detour between child and adult.
The next year, armed with my newfound knowledge of God, I knew that my previous school wasn't where I belonged anymore.
In September, I walked into my new school. It was absolutely crazy, extraordinarily difficult and caused quite a stir in my community, but it was the best decision I have ever made.
I would come home each day exhausted. My new school was so many times larger than the one I had previously attended, as well as more challenging academically, but the joy of Torah was there.
And through it all, I continued my search for wisdom. As Rabbi Weinberg writes, "Treat a wise man with … respect and fidelity. If he gave you one piece of valuable wisdom, there is a very good chance he has lots more to share." (Rabbi Noach Weinberg’s 48 Ways to Wisdom, page 137)
And that is what Rav Noah was for me.
I think that of all his teachings, the most profound influence on me was the joy of living that permeated his works. In his chapter on joy in 48 Ways to Wisdom, Rav Noah writes, "Life is bursting with reams of pleasure, but we get distracted and worried, allowing ourselves to dwell on the daily aches and pains. Don't wait for a brush with death to remind yourself, 'Thank God I'm alive!' Connect to the joy of being alive every day."
Concurrent with true happiness comes gratitude, a trait I first learned to integrate into my life when reading What the Angel Taught You. "The secret of happiness is to really appreciate what you have." I've faithfully followed this, allowing gratitude and thankfulness to God a place in my day, and I'm reaping the benefits.
And then of course there's the meaning of life. Can we actually know truth with clarity? It's as simple as this: do you think God would make the meaning of life too difficult for us to understand? "Realize that if you search diligently, sincerely, with the willingness to find the truth, you will find the truth. And if you don't have truth, it's because you haven't searched thoroughly enough." (What the Angel Taught You, page 97)
This past winter, I took my first trip to Israel. The spirituality was thrilling and the land was beautiful. On my first visit to the Kotel, I finished praying and stepped back from the Wall. When I turned around there stood the magnificent Aish HaTorah building. Against the midnight sky the white stone building looked simply beautiful.
I felt my journey had brought me full circle.
Two days later, my friend and I were touring the Old City of Jerusalem and it was love at first sight. The narrow alleyways, the charming courtyards, the Churva, the Cardo, the history, the pathos, the land, it was almost too much. We capped off the tour by sitting in on a class at Aish HaTorah, learning inspiring words of Torah with a fantastic view of the Kotel right outside the window and appreciating the incredible teachings I’ve learned from Rabbi Weinberg. It's a sliver of time I captured somewhere in a deep place in my soul.
I've learned that life is not about arriving; it’s about settling in for the search, always seeking out wisdom and striving to apply the timeless truths of Torah to my life in the 21st century. Rav Noah also taught me that I share responsibility for the entire Jewish people, and I dearly hope to teach Torah to others someday.
I'm 18 now, finishing up my last few weeks of formal Jewish education. But thanks to Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, I know I will always carry with me the fire of Torah.
Photo Credit: Anshie Kagan www.anshie.com