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Rabbi Chaim Coffman
Rabbi Coffman has helped people from all across the spectrum to prepare themselves properly for Orthodox Conversion to Judaism. His students admire his vast knowledge and appreciate his warm, personal attention and endearing sense of humor.
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Welcome to Rabbi Chaim Coffman's Blog!

I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, Beyond Orthodox Conversion to Judaism.

The conversion process can be a lengthy and daunting one to say the least and I want you to know that I am here to help you through it.

I have been teaching newcomers to Judaism for over a decade and over the last few years I have seen that conversion candidates really lack the support and knowledge they need to navigate the conversion process and successfully integrate into the Orthodox Jewish community.

I created my mentorship program in order to help make this whole experience as smooth and as painless as possible! (Can't do much about the growing pains, though ;)

Feel free to get to know me a little through the posts on my blog and visit the mentorship and syllabus page if you are interested in possible joining us.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your search for truth and spiritual growth.

Looking forward to meeting you,
Chaim Coffman

My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch

In case you were wondering why I have all of these articles written by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, he is my Rebbe, and one of the gedolei hador (greatest Rabbis of our generation).

Rav Sternbuch fully endorses me and supports my mentorship program.

He is the address for all of my halachic or hashkafic (practical and philosophical) questions that I or my students may have.

The articles are based on his weekly talks on the Torah portion that the Rav gives in Jerusalem in his kollel. As a member of the kollel I get first dibbs on the photocopies and I type them up for my blog so you can all benefit from the Rav's erudition and insight.
Thursday, March 17, 2016

Parshas Vayikra: But I only did it by Accident?

"Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel saying 'When a person will sin unintentionally from among all the commandments of Hashem that may not be done, and he commits one of them" (Leviticus 4:1)

Here the Torah tells us a person that sins unintentionally has to bring a sin offering. Why should someone have to bring an offering if what they had done is not intentional? Although they were not careful, does that obligate them to bring a sacrifice?

If we look a little bit deeper we can understand that even by doing something by accident is akin to a rebellion against G-d. Although they did it by accident they still transgressed and should have been more careful. The Vilna Gaon learns that it is only possible to do transgress the Torah by accident if they had not done sinned on purpose. What an amazing statement!

This is what it means to transgress something by accident that it wouldn't have been possible if a previous transgression had not been done on purpose! They are therefore responsible and punished albeit on a lower level but nonetheless they are taken to task for what they have done since they have become a receptacle for sin.

We should take this to heart and remember that we all make mistakes but there is the miracle of teshuva (repentance) that a person can do. We can't live in the past and beat ourselves up for what we have done because we will have no future if we do. We won't be able to function properly because we are too busy feeling guilty for our previous actions!!

If we transgress something by accident on shabbos for example we should increase our awareness of shabbos by learning the laws more thoroughly...and showing its importance. We use shabbos here as an example but it could refer to any mitzvah that we transgress by accident. The more we learn the laws we are supposed to keep and internalize their message, the less likely we are to be lax in their observance and not come to transgress them by accident!

That would mean that we have to know everything about everything! Yes that may be true and a tremendous task but that doesn't mean we don't have to do this! We have to strive for excellence in everything we do and live the Torah we hold so precious to us!

This is easier said than done but we have to start somewhere! We need to focus on the things that we do every day especially the laws of blessings and shabbos. There are numerous things that we have to know and the more we learn about them the more we will keep them!

May G-d give us the strength to keep His Torah and love them and want to keep them even more.

Parshas Vayikra: Jews are Responsible for One Another!!!

"He called Moshe and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel and say to them 'When a man among you  brings an offering to Hashem from animals from the cattle from the flock shall you bring your offering'". (Leviticus 1:1-2)

Why is the word you here used in the plural? Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit'a in Ta'am V'Da'as explains that the you here represents all the Jewish people. That means that even though the Jewish people are spread out over the world, nonetheless when one Jew is in pain it is as if the entire nation feels it. After all, when someone G-d forbids go missing or someone is sick, the entire Jewish nation rallies around and learns for them, prays for them...

It works the other way as well unfortunately if G-d forbid a Jew transgresses or makes a desecration of G-d's name then the entire Jewish nation is at risk for repercussions! We see that by the story of Purim where Haman's anger is not just vetted out against Mordechai but rather the entire Jewish people Haman wants to eradicate! How careful we must be as G-d's ambassadors as we are viewed by the outside world. Even the slightest thing we may do could cause a desecration of G-d's name.

Here is a true story unfortunately that will illustrate this point. There was an orthodox Jew that sold merchandise which wasn't as advertised. A woman bought some merchandise and after washing it once, some of the designs came off. Upset she went back to where she bought it and complained to the owner. What transpired next is horrific!

The woman says you advertised this as something that it is not. How could you as an orthodox Jew mislead other people? The Jew answered, "who told you to put orthodox Jews on such a high pedestal?" Obviously this is the wrong answer to give someone especially if you are trying to bring them closer to Torah? (pun intended!)

What will this woman now think about orthodox Jews? Probably nothing very nice and I am sure she will be fuming at what has transpired. Therefore whenever we do something in public how careful we must be!! Many people will not look at this as an isolated incident but they could then condemn the entire group. Unfortunately many make the mistake and lump a whole group together based on a few people's actions.

Normally we call that racism but in this case the Jewish people are all intertwined. This is why this is so important. A Jewish leader whether they are a layman or a rabbi have to be even more careful in a public setting of how they act and carry themselves. We certainly don't want to lose our composure because then when others see that this "rabbi" did this, they will say "well if he can do it why can't I?" This is called a desecration of G-d's name which the Rambam tells us in the laws of repentance that a person has to repent sincerely for what they have done, go through Yom Kippur, suffer in this world and then die, and only after that do they get atonement.

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Parshas Pekudei: We put our best foot forward and G-d does the rest

"They brought the Tabernacle to Moshe the Tent and all its utensils; its hooks, its planks, its bars, its pillars, and its sockets" (Exodus 39:33) 

The Midrash tells us that the children of Israel were not able to erect the mishkan (tabernacle) and G-d helped Moshe get it up. Although it was too heavy for Moshe to lift up by itself, G-d told him to do it and He would help. We learn from here Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit'a explains in Chochma V'Da'as that we have to put our best foot forward and try to the best of our ability and G-d will bring help and finish it.

Rav Sterbuch tells the following story of what happened to him when he was younger. When he was a student in the yeshiva Eitz Chayim in London, the monetary situation was tenuous and they didn't even have bread to eat! One day, Rav Sheneider z"l the head of the yeshiva told him to go out and knock on doors to try and get people to donate to the yeshiva to help it since it was in such dire straits. Each night he went from one house to another without any success; this one wasn't in the house, another one said they gave enough already to other causes, others said what do you need a yeshiva for in the first place...In the end not only did he not bring in any money but the travel costs were another added expense that the yeshiva had to pay!!

The next day while he was learning Rav Shneider was looking for him and he was terrified to speak to him. He thought he would be reprimanded for not helping the cause and he was embarrassed. He saw Rav Shneider tremendously happy and he screamed out to me "Great job! You were very successful for the yeshiva!!".

He thought there must be some sort of mistake since he didn't bring in any money and even caused the yeshiva to lose money! Rav Shneider screamed and said, "What don't you have any faith in G-d? You went to help out and G-d already sent a lot of money today from a different source! Rav Shneider meant that even though you personally were not successful in bringing in any money, you went out and put your best foot forward and G-d brought in the salvation through another channel but it was based on your own effort!

This is an unbelievable story for a number of reasons. This teaches us that even if we work hard to the best of our ability, we have to put out the effort and G-d will send help from somewhere even if we didn't even go there or speak to anyone in such a place. How many times have we been helped out or received something which we have no idea where it came from?

This is the answer. We put our best foot forward and G-d helps from somewhere else based on your effort!! This is unbelievable and we have to always remember what G-d does for us and see how our efforts even if not successful brings in the salvation that we need!

Parshas Pekudei: Charity Strengthens the Peson

"A beka for every head, a half shekel in the sacred shekel for everyone who passed through the census takers, from twenty years of age and up for the six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty" (Exodus 38:26)

The money that was pledged for the mishkan (tabernacle) and the bolts that strengthened it are considered like it was given for the mishkan itself. We learn from here Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit'a explains in Chochmah V'Da'as that one who helps support Torah is like the Torah itself. This means that when someone supports Torah, they get the mitzvah of the Torah itself!!

Rav Sternbuch explains that we have no idea of the merit that we will receive in the future for helping support Torah. The Torah is a tree of life to those that grasp it. How do we understand this? The language of to grasp (l'machzikim) is in the causative form. This means that it is not us that we are strengthening the Torah but really the Torah that is giving us strength.

This means as much effort as we put in learning Torah, the more the Torah gives to us. It is our spiritual life that keeps us going. Rav Sternbuch explains further that if a person supports a specific Torah institution and sustains it and worries about its continuity the merit they will receive is like the "eitz chayim" (the tree of life). The fruit of this tree gives fruit forever and even after the person has passed away.

Even if a person donates to a particular Torah institution but they don't take full responsibility for it, worrying about its continuity... they still get tremendous merit even though it is not similar to the merit of "eitz chayim".  The idea is that we should donate according to our means and even if we don't have very much to give, we need to learn to stick our hands in our pockets and help others.

Jews are among the most generous donators out of any ethnic group. They give well above according to their small size in the world population. If we have the means to give (even if it is not a lot) we have to be thankful that we can do so. No one wants to be on the receiving end of help from others and they should remember what their special purpose is in the world.

This means that we have to continue and help others and help sustain Torah institutions so they can continue and educate Jewish children which will guarantee that the Torah will continue to the next generation. The single greatest obstacle to that is assimilation and intermarriage. The reason this occurs in such a dramatic fashion is because of lack of knowledge in Torah. Many would not throw out their precious heritage if they really knew what it was about and what it represented!

If they understood that it is worth millions in spirituality, they wouldn't be so quick to throw it in the garbage. After all, if we would put a high monetary value on it, do you think it would be tossed out so quickly? This is the message of the mishkan; give, give and give some more and have a portion of Torah that can stay with you even after you die!

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Parshas Vayakhel: How to have a happy marriage

"The men came with the women, everyone whose heart motivated him brought bracelets, nose-rings, rings, body ornaments all sorts of gold ornaments every man who who raised up an offering of gold to Hashem" (Exodus 35:22).

Why is it that the women whose hearts desire to bring rings and bracelets and the like must come and donate it with their husbands? Are they not allowed to come themselves and give it? Don't they have their own independence?

The Talmud tells us Bava Kama 119a that we don't accept a great charitable gift from a woman unless she has permission from her husband to give it. This is in fact the reason that the husband had to come with her! It could also be that since the husband enjoys seeing his wife decked out in fine jewelry, it would be forbidden for her to donate them without his consent.

This is an incredible idea if we think about it. The reality is that a woman prides herself on the jewelry that she has and certainly she is looked at in high esteem from her husband who enjoys seeing her wear them. At the same time, she doesn't have the right to just give them away, even for the sake of building the Temple because it may interfere in her marriage in a negative way. Don't husband and wife go out of their way to please each other in any which way to keep the marriage going strong?

There are many issues today that can kill the sizzle of a marriage. One of them is that the longer a person is married, the more things that they take for granted from their spouse. They get into a rut so to speak and a marriage can spiral out of control if it is not worked on. Just like a flower that needs water otherwise it will die, so to a marriage if it is not properly worked on and cultivated will also die!

Every husband and wife have to take time out of their day to just be together and talk and discuss things without the hustle and bustle of running a household. They need to spend quality time and continually work on cultivating the relationship. This takes great work and effort but isn't it worth it to have a blossoming marriage even after many years?

The problem is that live drags us down and is difficult with each passing year. Nonetheless, we have to persevere and remember the important things in our lives and make them a priority. If we don't our families are at serious risk. Like anything else, the more we work at something the more satisfaction we have even if it is hard. We should always look at the good our spouse has done for us instead of focusing on the negative.

We all need to be better and strive to reach higher levels. The most basic level is to treat our spouses with the respect they deserve and that will lead to a healthy, happy marriage.

Parshas Vayakhel: Don't try and Take what does not Belong to You!

"Moshe assembled he entire assembly of the children of Israel and said to them 'These are the tings that Hashem commanded to do them. On six days work may be done but the seventh day shall be holy for you, a day of complete rest for Hashem whoever does work on it shall be put to death" (Exodus 35:1-3)

The word תעשה (te'aseh) is written with the vowel tzeiri (like an ay sound) instead with a patach which an ahhh sound. Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit'a in his work Chochmah V'Da'as explains that G-d decides how much a person is going to make for the sake of his livelihood and regardless of what they do, they will only make that amount that G-d wants them to. Also, the famous Maggid from Kelm says that it is not fitting to say "be'ezrat Hashem" (with the help of G-d) because G-d does not just help but rather we should say "birtzos Hashem" with the desire of G-d. The reason is because G-d wants us to be successful and we are only His messengers fulfilling His desires.

Rav Sternbuch then brings in an idea he heard from Rav Elchanon Wasserman may his blood be avenged to explain this idea. The foundation of belief in G-d Rav Wasserman explained is that one is not allowed to try and take what does not rightfully belong to them in this world. This means that a person is allotted a certain amount of money that they will make and regardless if they work more, at the end of the day they will end up with what G-d decided that they should have.

This means that even if they work many hours overtime thinking they will make more money, the truth is that if they are destined to make less then G-d will send them difficulties to offset that. Whether it is with doctor's bills or appliances need fixing, they will cause a person to lose out and get exactly what G-d had allocated for them. This is truly amazing if we think about it.

This means that although I have to put my best foot forward when it comes to making a living, G-d reassures us that no matter we do and how hard we work we will get exactly what He wanted us to have in the first place. Therefore, a person should pray like he needs to, keep the mitzvos as he should and not do anything that will cause him to transgress while trying to make more of a livelihood since he will only get what he deserves.

Practically speaking livelihood is a decree from G-d and if He wants you to be successful you will be and if not not. This means that no matter what you do, if G-d doesn't give you the blessing you will in fact struggle. This does not mean we don't have to seek advice from others and we have to do everything in our power to succeed but we also have to realize that there is a limit. We also need to find time to study and learn while setting out on this endeavor.

We should really try and maximize the amount of time we learn and realize that everything comes from G-d. At the same time we have to be realistic in our goals for livelihood and put our best foot forward. This is not always easy but if G-d sees that we are sincere and trying to do His will, He most certainly will help and make you successful!

Shabbat Shalom

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Parshs Ki Tissa: Breaking Shabbos to Save Someone

"Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, 'Now you speak to the children of Israel saying, 'However you must observe My Sabbaths for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations to know that I am Hashem, who make you holy'" (Exodus 31:13).

The Or HaChaim HaKadosh in his commentary on the Torah learns from this verse that a person is allowed to break shabbos for the sake of a sick person whose life is in danger. The rationale is that you break shabbos for him now so that he will be able to keep shabbos in the future. This means that since his life is in danger now, we do what we can to save him because we know that saving his life will allow him to keep shabbos in the future. What if he doesn't observe shabbos though, is there still an obligation to save him?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit's in Chochmah V'Da'as brings a difference of opinion among the later commentaries whether we are allowed to do such a thing and it hinges on the fact of why they are transgressing the mitzvos if I am allowed to break shabbos.  If they transgress because they are not interested in G-d's law and are rebelling against Him then there would be no obligation to break shabbos to save them. If on the other hand they don't keep shabbos because they were never had a proper Jewish education then it should be allowed to save him. The issue is that even if we look at this person like someone who has not been educated properly at the end of the day they still are not going to keep shabbos so why would I be allowed to break shabbos to save him?

If for example there would be a child that's life is in danger and they live in a city where the majority people are non-Jews, there would still be an obligation to save him because of the command to live by the Torah and not die by it! Even if there is a doubt whether this person is a Jew or not, it seemingly would be important to save them because of this principle even if they won't keep shabbos in the future. There is another opinion that even if the person is truly evil, there is still a mitzvah to save them because maybe in the future they will repent and come back to Torah!

This is truly amazing because we see how far repentance can come for a person. We don't look at who they are per se but rather that by saving them, could change their whole perspective on life! How many times have we heard of people that have been in life threatening situations only to be saved and eventually come back to the fold. This doesn't always happen as the evil inclination doesn't want that, but it happens and awakens a person who could be so far from Torah.

From here we may say that the Torah is cruel G-d forbid.  How could there even be a question if someone's life is in danger that you wouldn't break shabbos to save them? The answer is that we don't understand how important shabbos is. If after all, they won't keep shabbos in the future, that gives me enough of a reason to save them? The answer is that we are allowed to save them but it is really based on a technicality. Not only that but the Torah says that you have to live by it and not die by it.

Therefore the Torah looks at shabbos observance as so vital that if a person doesn't keep it then if there life is in danger on shabbos, why should someone break it to save them? At the same time, we could say that if a person wouldn't do it and others see them walking away from it, that could cause a tremendous desecration of G-d's name and would therefore be permitted, whether it be a Jew or non-Jew.

This has often been misinterpreted and misunderstood by people to quickly retort that the Torah is cruel and backwards G-d forbid and doesn't make any sense. When we delve further and see how deep and important it is, we realize its sweetness and timely message!