This Shabbat:

Friday Candle Lighting: 4:29 PM
 Shabbat Ends: 5:26 PM

Torah Message:

A Lover of the Land

“And these are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham: Avraham begot Yitzchak…” (25:19)

It is difficult to speak of someone as great as Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt”l. Together with his life-long partner Rabbi Nota Schiller (lblch”t), Rabbi Weinbach created an institution that brought thousands of Jews back to Torah. I had the privilege to work for him for more than twenty years and I would like to highlight just one of his many talents. Ohr Somayach has been the gold standard in Jewish education. One of the reasons for this has been the tremendous diversity in the faculty, from world-class talmidei chachamim and leaders of their generation in Jewish thought to professors of philosophy and linguistics and media and communication experts.

To take such a diverse mix of talented people and keep them performing as a team is no mean feat. Rabbi Weinbach knew how to get the best out of everyone. And I think one of the reasons was his humility and his self-confidence. Many bosses follow the principle of divide-and-rule. This betrays insecurity. Rabbi Weinbach was always happy that someone could do something better than him. As my father a”h used to say, “You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself.” If you’re hiring the “dream team”— let them excel!

Rabbi Weinbach once published a book (among his many) on the mitzvah to love Eretz Yisrael. It was a combination of sayings from our Sages about places in the Land of Israel, together with photographs of those places. The writing was Rabbi Weinbach’s, but the photographs were from stock sources. At the time, I was working on a black-and-white art photography book with many photographs of Eretz Yisrael. When he showed me the book, I was disappointed by the stock color photographs. Some were a bit fuzzy. Not being the most diplomatic of people, I impertinently pointed this out to him. He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. As far as I could tell, he wasn’t insulted or hurt in the least.

“And these are the offspring of Yitzchak son of Avraham: Avraham begot Yitzchak…”

Why does the Torah repeat that “Avraham begot Yitzchak” if it already wrote “Yitzchak son of Avraham?”

The primary characteristic of Avraham was kindness, and that of Yitzchak was strength. The emphasis in the verse here is to teach us that kindness and strength must always go hand in hand. Kindness without strength can lead to indulgence and excess. Strength without kindness can lead to intolerance and insensitivity. Happy were those who worked for someone who combined those two qualities with a smile that seemed etched in his face! The eighth yahrzeit of Rabbi Chona Menachem Mendel Weinbach zt”l will be on the 27th of Kislev.