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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, January 28, 2010

Rav Sternbuch on Parshas Bo

Maintaining Elevation: Staying Up when Inspiration is Down
By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

The following was written by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis based on a drasha given on leil Shabbos by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rosh Av Beis Din of the Eidah Hachareidis of Yerushalyim.

Making Fun of Paroh

“…you should relate to your children and grandchildren that which I was ‘hisalalti’ in Mitzrayim, and the miracles that I did, for I am Hashem.” (Shemos 10:2)
Rashi explains that “hasalalti” refers to the mockery the Almighty made of Mitzrayim. On one day, Paroh declared, “Hashem is righteous, and myself and my nation are evil.” Yet a short time later, after the Almighty removed the each plague from Egypt, Paroh forgot everything that happened and returned back to his previous arrogant denial of G-d.
The Torah instructs us that the correct way to convey this irrational behavior to tell our children is to depict Paroh as foolish and fickle. However, this episode seems like a minor suspect of the major miracles of the ten makkos. Why does the Torah place such an emphasis on remembering this?
If we look closely at what happened to Paroh, we can understand that we also experience similar patterns in our lives. When we have a crisis, we pour out our hearts to Hashem in tefillah, begging him to rescue us from our straits. Yet, just as soon as we find our salvation we find ourselves slipping back to our old ways, and Hashem is once again the furthest thing from our minds.
Remembering Paroh’s foolish behavior can help keep us aware of our own hypocrisy. We will realize that even when things seem to be good, we are still utterly dependent on the Almighty’s constant protection and mercy. This will prevent us from making the same mistakes as Paroh.

The Secret To Staying Inspired

After Hashem has directly intervened in our lives by saving us from harm, rescuing us from a crisis or some other act of Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence), we will certainly feel uplifted and close to Him. However, if we let nature take its course, we will inevitably forget what happened almost immediately. How can we maintain the lofty awareness of Hashem’s greatness that we achieve during our moments of inspiration?
The Zohar reveals that we are obligated to regularly revisit and recall our memories of these sets of Divine kindness. Constant reflection on the awesome acts of love that the Almighty performs just for you will ensure that these acts become etched on your heart and make a permanent impression on your world view. This is the deeper meaning of the mitzvah of remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim daily.
In addition to remembering Hashem’s kindness, there are other measures that help us maintain a constant and unwavering connection to our Creator.
The strongest force that pulls us away from serving Hashem properly is our sins. If we want to maintain our elevation, we should know that every effort we make to avoid an aveirah (sin) is a huge step in the right direction.
In the sixth chapter of Hilchos Teshuvah, the Rambam writes that Paroh was not the only person to have his heart hardened by Hashem. Anyone who habitually transgresses sinks into impurity and creates blocks between himself and his Creator. These locked doors make it much harder for him to return to the Almighty.
Even with the doors of teshuvah slammed shut a person can still use a spiritual crowbar to pry them open. However, the deeper a person has immersed himself in sin, the harder it will be to get through the gates of repentance. Righteous individuals constantly worry if perhaps they have overstepped the bounds, and therefore are always doing teshuvah to maintain their closeness to Hashem.
In another section, the Zohar writes that a person who has sunk into transgression will have difficulty concentrating on his tefillos (prayers). His mind is bombarded with foreign thoughts, and this disturbs through teshuvah, and then he will be able to return to praying with the proper intention.

Signs of Blood

When the Bais Hamikdash stood, we brought the Korban Tomid daily. These sacrifices erased our transgressions and helped us to maintain an elevated state. Now that the Bais Hamikdash lies in ruins and we ware in golus, what can we do on a daily basis to protect ourselves from the strong undercurrent in our society which pulls us downwards so forcefully?
On the night of Yetzias Mitrayim, Hashem revealed the secret to us. Every Jewish family was obligated to perform a bris milah on all of the males, and to wipe the blood of the Korban Pesach on their doorposts. These two signs protected them from the fatal power of makkos bechoros (killing of the first-born).
The blood of milah and on the doorposts is a lesson for all generations regarding how we can remain elevated despite the downward pull of golus. Blood represents mesiras nefesh, completely giving ourselves over to the Almighty’s will, even when this is difficult. Such acts ensure that we will stay on the elevated level that a Jew is meant to strive for, even when the tides around us are pulling us in another direction.
It is particularly noteworthy that the Almighty instructed us to place the blood on the door. This is meant to be a reminder to us that if we want our homes to be a place where the Divine Presence will dwell, we must stand guard over what we let into the house. Radios, newspapers and the internet are especially threatening as they can subtly introduce foreign ideas wrapped in the guise of essential information and convenience and these can be completely antithetical to Torah ideology.
This is what the Torah means when it foretells that your children will ask, “What is the avodah to you?” In the thick of golus, the korban Pesach and the service of the Bais Hamikdash may seem antiquated and irrelevant to our children. We are instructed to answer them that just as the Jews acted with mesiras nefesh and were saved from the depths of Mitzrayim, so too, in every generation, a prodigious effort to swim against the tide which pulls us downward will allow us to maintain our elevated state.
For this reason, when Moshe Rabbeinu told the Jewish people that they would have Jewish descendents, Klal Yisrael expressed deep thanks to the Almighty. The Jewish people thought that when they would be exiled into foreign lands, their descendants would stray from the path of Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu told them that if they would internalize the message of the Korban Pesach and act with mesiras nefesh in golus, they would be protected from harmful influences.

Potential for Greatness

Rav Sternbuch relates what when he was thirteen, he entered yeshiva in England. During his first week there, the rosh yeshiva, Rav Shneider, gave a shiur to the entire yeshiva; during which he told the students that he expected them all to become gedolei Yisrael (great rabbis) like Rav Chaim Brisker.
One of the young bachurim (students) responded in shock to the rosh yeshiva’s words: “How can we be like Rav Chaim Brisker?! I don’t have a father like the Bais Halevi, and I am not gifted with the genius of Rav Chaim!”
The rosh yeshiva explained that he did not expect the boys to reach the same level of Torah learning as Rav Chaim. Certainly, Rav Chaim was given exceptional parents, intelligence and other advantages, which enabled him to reach the level that he did. This was not expected of everyone.
Rather, every bochur who channels all of his energies towards reaching his potential is considered a gadol. Since he has done everything in his power, Hashem considers him to have fully fulfilled his obligation to strive for Torah greatness. This was the rosh yeshivah’s expectation of each of his talmidim.
The world we live in today is filled with powerful distractions and temptations that tug at our hearts and minds from all directions. Maintaining our moments of inspiration, teshuvah and mesiras njefesh are the best defense against foreign influences and the most important step towards reaching our personal greatness. These are the keys to maintaining the high as we count the days until this bitter golus ends.