Today, we are all familiar with Rav Noach Weinberg and the incredible work he accomplished in initiating and revolutionizing the kiruv movement. But when he first set out with the dream of creating such a movement in the 1960s, he was met with fierce resistance and skepticism. He himself related that in 1966, when he first opened Aish HaTorah, people would point at him and say “there goes Noach the crackpot! He thinks he can get non-religious people to want to adopt a Torah lifestyle.”
Yet, despite the challenges, he persevered; and today, his influence has changed the lives of thousands of people. If we count the grandchildren of those impacted by his efforts, the numbers probably surpass a million people.
Rav Noach related that the great Torah leader, Rav Lazer Shach, attended the bris milah of his son Yehudah. This was during the early years of Aish HaTorah. Rav Shach looked around the room at the students of the yeshivah, and couldn’t believe that they were all baalei t’shuvah. It was clear that he was inspired.
Afterwards, Rav Shach was asked to address the student body. He exclaimed that if one man could murder six million Jews, then one man can save six million Jews.
Rav Noach could very well have been speaking about himself. Countless individuals and beautiful families have been connected to their heritage because of Rav Noach’s indefatigable efforts.
There are many lessons and reflections to be gleaned from the surreal events that have taken hold the world over during the current coronavirus pandemic. One of those lessons is a reminder about the effect and influence of every single individual.
As the disease first began to spread, every time someone contracted it, it was immediately publicized to all who might have come into contact with the individual during the previous two weeks. Anyone who had any contact, even remotely, was asked to immediately self quarantine for two weeks.
There is surely no justification or rationality to blame the victim, who is suffering enough with the symptoms of the disease. To hold him or her responsible in any way is utterly preposterous. However, the implication is mind-boggling. One person, a sole individual, unwittingly instantly caused a profound effect on the lives of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, just by being exposed to them for a few moments.
What does that mean for us?
Each day, we interact with scores of people. Whether we realize it or not, we have an effect, and leave an impression, upon each person we interact with. Most of the time, we hardly realize the effect we had, but that doesn’t mitigate it at all.
There is a well-known phenomenon referred to as the butterfly effect. It is the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a cascade of events that, weeks later, can cause a tornado in Texas. It essentially asserts that one small change can set off chain reactions that cause far more significant changes; one small incident can have a lasting impact in the future.
On a spiritual and social level, there is no doubt of the veracity of that theory. We are far more powerful and effective than we give ourselves credit for.
As we are compelled to step back from the bustle of life, to try to contain the pernicious virus, we should realize that we are always emitting vibes that affect others. May Hashem heal all those who are sick, and free us from the fear and limitations that have become necessary. And when we are able to re-emerge into society, may we all be a source of encouragement and positivity, so that anyone who has come into contact with us in the last two weeks has been positively touched and warmly affected by the love and friendship that emanates and resonates from us.
May we recognize just how many lives we touch just by being who we are. We aren’t only one in a million, but we are one who can affect a million.