Pull 'Em Off!
When my turn came, Rav Noach said, 'Lazer, I'm going to teach you something that you'll need to know wherever you'll have to go around the world...'
by Rabbi Lazer Brody
Certain poignant moments leave an impression on your soul that profoundly influences the rest of your life. Let me share with you one such moment.
We were thirteen young men in the graduating Class of 1992 from the Aish Hatora Rabbinical Kollel. This special program was created by the true Jewish visionary of this century, our esteemed and beloved Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Noah Weinberg osb"m. We had the best teachers, such as our Rosh Kollel Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz shlit'a and our meishiv (rabbinical tutor who answers difficult questions and gives individual help to students) Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Lerner shlit'a. As the Rosh Yeshiva instilled in us, we felt like we were a select group with the task of changing the world. I can't count the times that "Rav Noach" as we affectionately called him asked us, "What are you going to answer when the Heavenly Court asks, 'What did you do to change the world?' I want my guys to have a good answer!" he'd say in his delightful jargon that was a mixture of Brooklyn and Baltimore.
At any rate, before the ordination ceremony began, Rav Noach took each one of aside to give us his individual blessing and marching orders. He was sending many of my classmates to fill rabbinic and outreach positions abroad. He knew that I didn't want to leave Israel; as the only IDF veteran of our class, I had invested too much blood, sweat and tears in our beloved homeland to ever want to leave. Most of my classmates were in Jerusalem at the Kollel to learn for a few years, then planning to go back to their home in the States, Canada or to the UK as soon as they received their ordination. I had been in Israel already for over twenty years, with no intention of leaving, even temporarily. The old Yiddish expression says, a mentsch tracht un der Aibishishter lacht – a man plans and Hashem laughs. That's exactly what happened with me. When my turn came, Rav Noach said, "Lazer, I'm going to teach you something that you'll need to know wherever you'll have to go around the world..."
"Around the world?!?" I thought. Hey, the Rosh Yeshiva knows that I do not intend to leave Israel. Sure, my classmates are becoming Aish rabbis abroad and fulfilling other important positions like my learning partner "Rabbi Dave" Felsenthal in the OU, but we often spoke about my doing kiruv (outreach) within the IDF, the Israeli Police or the Israel Prison System (which is what I first did after graduation). Yet, I dared not contradict Rav Noach – he knew what he was talking about.
Then came the moment I'll never forget. Like a loving father, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Whenever you meet a fellow Jew who doesn't yet know anything about the Ribono-Shel-Olam (Hashem), imagine that he's on the train to Auschwitz and you have exactly five minutes to pull him off..."
Wow – what a responsibility! The Rosh Yeshiva was telling me that the responsibility of bringing every Jew I ever meet closer to Hashem was exclusively on my shoulders! If I don't do it, he or she might be on their way to spiritual oblivion, Heaven forbid.
After comparing notes with my classmates, it turned out that after discussing our personal plans with each of us, Rav Noach gave each of us the same charge – "Imagine that every Jew you meet is on the train to Auschwitz – pull 'em off! If you don't, maybe no one else ever will."
In his own beautifully poignant and down-to-earth way of putting things, Rav Noach was teaching us how every Jew must take responsibility for every other Jew; and, that's before all of one's other prodigious responsibilities as a spiritual leader and guide.
My own esteemed and beloved rabbi, teacher and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush shlit'a goes a step further. He taught me – and demands of me – to take responsibility for every other human I meet and to make sure he or she knows about the Almighty and the faith we must have in Him. And it's not only with me, it's with all his other students too. You're welcome to join us and help pull humanity off the train to oblivion.
Rabbi Lazer Brody was born in Washington, D.C. in 1949. After receiving his bachelor's degree in agriculture from the University of Maryland in 1970, he moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defense Forces regular army, and served in one of the elite special-forces units. He is a decorated combat veteran of two wars and numerous of counter-insurgence and anti-terrorist missions on both sides of Israel's borders.
Rabbi Brody is the English-language editor of Breslev Israel's highly popular English-language website at www.breslev.co.il, and the founder and director of Emuna Outreach. Between Breslov Israel and Emuna Outreach, he devotes his time to spreading emuna and particularly the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev around the globe.
"Lazer Beams," Rabbi Brody's award-winning daily web journal, has been instrumental in helping tens of thousands of people around the globe find joy and fulfillment in their lives.