Dear Aish Family,
The stream of famous visitors to the Aish HaTorah Dan Family World Center is sometimes overwhelming. Yesterday we hosted multiple Israeli Ministers including Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman. It seemed like the security brought their own security!
Earlier this week we hosted a famous American Comedic entertainer named Conan O’Brien. He was in Israel to see the country and promote Israel through his television show. At Aish, we feel it is important to create a Kiddush HaShem (Sanctification of the Almighty’s name) and demonstrate the dignity and holiness of the Jewish nation.
One of the questions that I am asked many times is what do you speak to these celebrities about. I must admit, it depends on who it is and what the circumstances are. In this case, I would like to share my conversation with Conan with all of you.
Conan and I had a moment when we were both standing by the glass on our roof and looking over the Temple Mount. I told him that while I have not seen his show, many years ago I watched a commencement address he gave at Dartmouth University. Over the years I have found graduation speeches to be interesting and thoughtful. Someone recommended that I listen to his talk.
I have never forgotten what he told those graduates. Apparently, Conan had just suffered from a very public firing which was humiliating. He reflected on that time in his life to the young people in front of him. He said “Nietzsche said whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What he neglected to mention is that it still almost kills you.”
Whenever we find ourselves in a low moment of pain or embarrassment everyone tells us that we will become stronger from the encounter. As Jews, we believe that the Almighty sends us life tests so that we can pass them and become stronger people. What Conan highlighted was that while all that is true, it is still painful. I have comforted many people with his line over the years. I would tell them yes, it will make you stronger but I know you are in pain and I am here for you.
I thanked Conan for sharing that deep thought with me all those years ago. He told me he was very touched and for once in his life, he was a bit speechless. We then went down to the Korda Family Hall of Notes where he wrote a note to place in the Western Wall and we said goodbye.
While I don’t know if our conversation had any lingering effect, I was proud that at Aish we always have conversations based on values, human kindness, and the Almighty’s wisdom. We must constantly find ways to better ourselves and grow. Most importantly, if someone has said something that inspired us, we must thank them personally. I would encourage all of you to take a moment this weekend and thank someone for a piece of wisdom they related to you. You owe it to them and it will make their day.
Warm regards and good shabbos!