It was amazing to host so many of you on Shavuos for Aish’s All-Night Learning Program. We had over 1000 participants studying the Almighty’s wisdom. The highlight was a sunrise minyan on the roof of the Dan Family Aish World Center. While I spent Shavuos in New Jersey, I came to Israel for a few days immediately following the holiday. Ironically, through two stories I experienced this week I was able to glean the true meaning of dedication to Jewish wisdom.
Ten months ago Aish restarted our women’s educational division which was formerly called EYAHT. Today our two flagship programs, Aish Aspire and Aish Gesher for Women have been wildly oversubscribed. As we are currently leasing our facilities, I went to visit a potential site of a future building project with Aish COO, Hillel Scheinfeld. After viewing the site we stopped in at the current facilities to compare what we had just seen.
During our short visit, we met one of our Aish Aspire students. She shared how amazing the program has been for her Torah growth. The young woman studies all day and then at 5pm she works remotely until midnight. I was amazed by her dedication to continue her Judaic studies. She is putting in 16-hour days. How many of us would sacrifice so much time getting closer to the Almighty. I left the seminary truly inspired.
The following day we were blessed to host the celebration of the adorning of tefilin (phylacteries) for the first time of Shaya Gibber, son of Rabbi Yaakov Gibber. Rabbi Gibber is the spiritual leader of the Boca Jewish Center/Shaaray Tefila which is one of the largest and most dynamic synagogues in South Florida. His real claim to fame is that he played a leadership role years ago at Aish under the guidance of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt’l. As we spoke about his career at Aish he told me he had to share the following story with me about how Rav Noach changed his life and ultimately was responsible for his success in Boca.
Rabbi Gibber ran the Aish Essentials classes that were open to the public all day long. When he first started, he scheduled himself to teach the 9am slot at the start of the day. One time, he walked in to find only one person there. Given that he had so many other responsibilities, he canceled the class that day.
The next day, as he was walking through the building, he heard Rab Noach’s voice booming passionately from one of the classrooms. Eager to see to which group Rav Noach was teaching, Rabbi Gibber stuck his head into the classroom. He was surprised to see just one person sitting in the class. A few days later, Rabbi Gibber went to his weekly personal study session with Rav Noach. Rav Noach closed the book, raised his voice and said: “To save one soul is to save the whole world.” Rabbi Gibber got the message. It doesn’t matter if you are lecturing to 500 students or to one. Conveying the Almighty’s wisdom is essential to everyone.
Rabbi Gibber went on to tell me that when he was offered his current position, the shul had under 30 families. He remembered Rav Noach’s words and accepted the position, ultimately building it into the spiritual powerhouse it is today with over 350 families!
These two stories penetrated my heart deeply. This young woman’s sacrifice working 16 hour days to stay at Aish Aspire so she could fulfill her Judaic potential is superhuman. Rav Noach’s message to Rabbi Gibber of the importance of every Jew was and continues to be the cornerstone of Aish.
No Jew left behind must be our focus. We must continue to build digital and physical spaces for our Nation to grow their hearts. Hearts that yearn for the Almighty. Hearts that yearn to change the world. Hearts that yearn to build a better world. I want to truly thank this young Aish Aspire student and Rabbi Gibber for teaching me the power of One!