Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have heard a number of people mentioning the death of a Rabbi Weinberg in Jerusalem. The death of a rabbi in Israel isn’t usually something people here in my circle speak about. Could you please fill me in on what was special about this rabbi?
The rabbi you are referring to is the late Rabbi Noach Weinberg, of blessed memory, who passed away Thursday, Feb. 5. It’s hard to put into words what this rabbi meant to the Jewish world. In many ways, a lot of what the Jewish world is today is due to his single-handed efforts to make a difference. In much of the Jewish world we take for granted that there are yeshivot for ba’alei tshuvah, or returnees to Judaism. We couldn’t imagine being without aish.com or the renowned Discovery seminars. These and much more were the products of the love, dedication and genius of Rabbi Weinberg.
In the 1960s R’ Weinberg co-founded the first full-time yeshiva especially tailored for those who had no background in Judaism. People thought he was crazy, that it couldn’t work, and told him so. R’ Weinberg persevered, and today Ohr Sameach is still going strong, with thousands of former students throughout the world, a number of offshoot yeshivot in Jerusalem and North America, and outreach branches throughout the world. In 1974 he founded Aish Hatorah (Fire of Torah) Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Besides the main branch in Jerusalem’s Old City, Aish operates nearly 30 full-time branches on six continents. The Aish Discovery seminar and other programs are attended by some 100,000 Jews annually. The Aish Web site, offering informative and inspiring articles and a vast array of information on Jewish heritage, history, law and philosophy, attracts over 2 million hits monthly. All this was launched and overseen by R’ Weinberg. The list goes on, such as the Jerusalem Fellowships program started in 1985 which has brought over 10,000 college students to Israel; and intensive activism for the cause of Israel, bringing to the world the awareness of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism through honestreporting.com.
All this flowed out of R’ Weinberg’s intense love for the Jewish people and every individual Jew. His non-judgmental approach and unconditional love for every Jew became the benchmark for the outreach efforts of countless institutions and organizations. In DATA, my own organization, we kicked off our outreach efforts in Dallas with a Discovery seminar over 15 years ago. Many who attended are still involved in Jewish learning today. Many of our rabbis and students, like tens of thousands around the world, listen avidly to the many available tapes of R’ Weinberg’s lectures, which have given them a Jewish worldview on virtually every subject of Jewish interest.
Reb Noach, as he was affectionately known, was a scholar who spent many years deeply steeped in Torah study under the leading sages of the past generation. He lived and breathed his tremendous concern for what he called the “spiritual holocaust” of the Jewish people, causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of Jews to apathy and assimilation, which literally did not let him sleep. He infused this feeling into his staff and thousands of students, and it has spilled over to all of us involved in Jewish outreach throughout the world. In this way, many of us who did not study under R’ Noach directly are still counted among his students.
R’ Noach’s love and concern led him to find a mode of expression for the Torah such that today’s Jews would see its beauty, depth and meaning for their lives. He taught that G-d wants us to enjoy life, living every moment to the fullest, and that every Jew should actualize their potential greatness.
I recommend all to go onto www.aish.com and read or view some of the outpouring of articles and short videos eternalizing his memory, as well as selected teachings from this colorful and amazing human being and Jew.
Rabbi Weinberg often used to say, “Think of something you’re willing to die for, then live for that thing.” We should all continue his great legacy, to be the greatest Jews we can possibly be, and inspire all those around us to connect to their Judaism and Torah study in meaningful ways, with joy and commitment, ensuring a bright Jewish future.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Rabbi Fried,