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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.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rav Sternbuch on Parshas Shemos

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

“Even thought the shevatim were counted during their lifetime by names, they are counted again after death. This is to show the Almighty’s fondness for the Jewish people, who are compared to stars which are called to appear by name as the pasuk says, “He takes out his hosts by number and He calls all of them by name.” (Rashi, Shemos 1:1)

What is the deeper meaning of the comparison between the Jewish people and the stars?

Perhaps it is that the stars appear as tiny, distant dots in the night sky, yet in truth they are vast entities many times larger than the world around us. So too, the neshama of every Jew may appear insignificant to the untrained eye, and yet it is a vast entity, as is the reward the neshama will receive for the mitzvos it guides a person to perform.

Just like each star has its own unique name, every Jew has his own unique purpose in this world that no one else can duplicate. Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk remarked, “When I get to Shomayim, they won’t ask me why I wasn’t the Baal Shem Tov. They will ask me, since I was Elimelech of Lizhensk, why wasn’t I Elimelech?”

The parallel between Klal Yisrael and the stars becomes more relevant as we draw closer to the end of this long and bitter golus (exile). During the daytime, the sun illuminates the world and no other light is visible. Starlight only appears at night when the entire world is dark.

As we travel deeper and deeper into the darkness of the golus, the light created by each mitzvah a Jew performs appears brighter and more powerful. A mitzvah that in previous generations would not have been especially significant today fills the world with radiance. We now have the opportunity to reach great spiritual heights in a way that in previous generations would have been impossible.


The first six parshiyos of the Book of Shemos are commonly refered to as Shovavim, an acronym for Shemos, Vo’eirah, Bo, Beshallach, Yisro and Mishpatim. These weeks, when we learn about the miracles of Yezias Mitrayim and the giving of the Torah, are a special time for teshuvah. What is the connection between the themes of these parshiyos and teshuvah?

When the Jewish people initially came to Mitzrayim, we were under the leadership of Yaakov Avinu. He made sure that re remained a separate nation and did not assimilate with the Egyptians. Yaakov’s guidance imbued us with the spiritual fortitude and protected us from the negative influences of our surrounding environment.

However, after Yaakov’s death, the Jewish people experienced a rapid fall, until we reached the 49th level of impurity. Had we continued to fall, we would have reached the point of no return. The Almighty took us out of Mitzrayim and propelled us on an upward ascent until we received the Torah on Har Sinai.

The route that we traveled when leaving Mitzrayim is a process that every Jew faces when doing teshuvah Even if he has fallen to the lowest level of impurity, he can still pick himself up and aim for the highest levels of holiness. True repentance lights up his neshama and illuminates the world with the Almighty’s radiance.

The Torah hints to this special process in the pasuk, “Mikrah kodesh zecher ‘yetzias mitzrayim.” Ikrah kodesh when we sanctify ourselves through teshuva, zecher l’yetzias Mitzrayim, is a hint to what happened in Mitzrayim,” where we lifted ourselves up from the depths of spiritual degradation.

Friend or Foe

TheTorah writes that a new king arose who did not know Yosef. Rashi explains that Paroh was really the same king, yet he revised his decree. What was the nature of this gezeirah? (decree)

Throughout our history, the Jews have been challenged by two types of challenges. At times, the nations are friendly to us and welcome us into their society – providing we drop our religious beliefs. During other periods, we were persecuted and tortured for being Jewish.

Paroh adopted both of these strategies. Initially he decreed that Klal Yisrael should be invited to mingle with the people of Mitzrayaim, but the Jewish people resisted this temptation and remained aloof. When Paroh saw that his plan had not borne fruit, he changed tacks and was gozer backbreaking labor.

This type of two-pronged strategy continues to be repeated to this day. When the State of Israel was first founded, the Satmar Rav and the Chazon Ish discussed how this would affect the future of Torah Judaism. The Satmar Rav feared that the Zionist drive towards a socialist state was so strong that they would institute one discriminatory decree after another, aiming to eradicate the Jewish character of the Land of Israel.

The Chazon Ish agreed with the Satmar Rov, that there was definitely a possibility but it was not his primary concern. He was much more worried that the Zionists would lure religious youth to join them through friendly means. These types of tactics are much more insidious and effective and potentially had the ability to eradicate religious Jewry.

Political Images

Even after Paroh started resorting to violence and cruelty, he still tried to offer logical political excuses for his reprehensible behavior. Paroh only decreed the murder of the male babies, who he claimed presented a potential military threat to his nation, but he graciously agreed to leave the female children unharmed. This ultimate plan was that the Egyptian would marry the remaining Jewish women, and this way he would effectively wipe out the Jewish people.

In contrast to Paroh’s attempt to whitewash his true intentions, the Torah tells us that Shifrah and Puah acted in an opposite manner. These two righteous women single-handedly saved the Jewish people from annihilation. They were rewarded with batim, houses – descendants who were Kohanim and Leviim.

One would think that such a valiant act would automatically receive a vast reward. Yet the Torah tells us that had they acted to receive honor and glory, they would not have received such a significant reward. Only because they acted out of fear of the Almighty were they compensated so immensely.

Emunah Peshutah

The Medrash writes that Moshe Rabbeinu made an agreement with his father-in-law, Yisro, that their first son would become a priest to avodah zarah. Amingly enough, Moshe agreed to this stipulation. Micha, the child of Moshe Rabbeinu’s firstborn son, Gershom later became an idol worshiper. How could Yisro have made such an offer and how could Moshe Rabbeinu have accepted it?

The purpose of this “deal” between these two great tzaddikim was certainly not that their offspring should actually worship idols. Yisro had come to the truth of Torah through a long intellectual search and felt that this had strengthened his beliefs. He wanted at least one of his grandchildren to also follow in this path.

Before the Almighty gave us the Torah which prohibited avodah zarah, Moshe Rabbeinu could agree to such a stipulation. However, belief based on philosophical proofs is not always strong and can easily be toppled by a clever argument.

In truth, the highest level of trust in the Almighty is emunah peshutah, simple faith. The Yaavetz, one of the Roshionim who lived during the times of the Spanish Inquisition, writes that many of the Jews who built their belief systems on philosophical proofs succumbed during those difficult times. Those who had emunah peshutah, simple faith, were able to stand up to the challenges they faced.

In today’s world, we do not face the terrible choice between giving up our beliefs or dying for them, boruch Hashem. Yet we must nonetheless strive to attain emunah peshutah and complete the clarity regarding the reality of the Almighty’s existence in our everyday lives. By making the smallest opening in our heart for teshuvah, we take a significant step towards this exalted level.