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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, February 25, 2010

The Art of Taking: Reward In this World for Mitzvos Tzedakah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Giving and Taking

“Speak to the Jewish people and have them take for Me terumah” (Shemos 25:2)
One of the primary mitzvos of Purim is distributing matanos la’evyonim, distributing gifts to the poor. While the halachos of reading the megillah are intricate, giving tzedkaah appears fairly straightforward. As long as we give two poor people enough money to buy a minimal Purim seudah, we have fulfilled the mitzvah.
Giving tzedakah involves much more than taking out a checkbook or reaching into our pockets to pull out some coins. How we give money has a major affect on the mitzvah. In order for our tzedakah to have the maximum impact, we should try to understand the deeper significance of this mitzvah.
The Torah instructs Moshe Rabbeinu to tell the Jewish people, “Take terumah.” Wouldn’t it be more accurate to write that we should “give” tzedakah for the building of the Mishkan? By using the word “take,” the Torah reveals a special aspect of this mitzvah.
When we give tzedakah to those who need it, Hashem responds by elevating us to a level where we are enveloped by His kedushah. The purer our intentions and the more we give for the sake of His honor, the more kedushah we will be imbued with by our tzedakah. In essence, when we give we are really taking.

Taking Trumah

In the next verse, the Torah reverts back to the standard phraseology of “giving.” This refers to someone who does not have the correct intentions; rather, he must force himself to give. The Torah describes this as terumaschem, “your gifts,” for they are not infused with the kedushah of the Divine Presence that the other gifts, given with more purity of heart, contain.
The use of the word terumah when referring to tzedakah teaches us a crucial aspect of this mitzvah. Food grown in Eretz Yisrael is forbidden to eat without first separating terumah. So too, before giving tzedakah, one’s money should be treated as level, untithed produce.
Terumah literally means “lifting up”. Giving money to tzedakah elevates one’s wealth, raising it to a higher dimension. Inevitably, this causes people to experience more bracha in all of their financial endeavors.

Heartfelt Offerings

“…every man who offers his heart should take My terumah.” (Shemos 25:2)
The Zohar writes that tzedakah only has the proper impact if one is an ish, a man of giving. Contributing to charity in a way that does not meet the high standards of the Torah seriously detracts from the mitzvah. Only by working on oneself beforehand can one hope to achieve this level of giving.
The Medrash states that after the Jewish people said, “Na’aseh venishmah,” we received the commandment of terumah, to give tzedakah for the Mishkah. Just as we accepted the Torah unconditionally we must also be prepared to give tzedakah without any strings attached. When we do so, Hashem responds in kind and deals with us in an elevated manner.
Rav Sternbuch describes an incident that took place with the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish once had a visitor from London staying with him, so he decided to use the opportunity to find out more about the background of his talmid, Rav Moshe Sternbuch, who was also of English descent. He asked his guest to tell him a story about Rav Sternbuch’s family.
The man replied that Rav Sternbuch’s father was very careful about giving tzedakah in a way that would protect the honor of his guests. He would slip some money into their wallets before they would leave. This way they would not have to feel embarrassment about receiving charity.
The Chazon Ish heard the story, but was not satisfied. He was searching for a deeper aspect of the nature of Rav Sternbuch’s family. He asked his guest for another story.
The visitor related that when Rav Sternbuch’s father was sick, he promised to give a certain sum of money to tzedakah if he recovered. A short time later, he reconsidered what he had promised and decided instead that he would give the money whether he recovered or not. He decided to give the money right away – regardless of whether he would get better or not.
After the Chazon Ish heard this story, he was placated. His guest had now sufficiently portrayed the family Rav Sternbuch came from – a family who performed the mitzvah of tzedakah properly. This accurately reflected the chinuch that the Chazon Ish knew Rav Sternbuch must have received as a child.

Brass and Diamonds

“…this is the terumah that you should take: gold, silver, brass, diamonds” (Shemos 25:3,7)
The Torah seems to list the materials of the Mishkan in descending order of their value: gold, silver and then brass. It is therefore surprising that the Torah only lists diamonds after all of these other items. Why are these precious stones listed last?
In truth, all wealth belongs to Hashem. He does not need our contributions and merely lets us appropriate own wealth to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah. The amount of reward we receive is equivalent to the effort and sacrifice required.
While diamonds are certainly more expensive than any of the metals listed, in another aspect these first three items were actually more valuable in Hashem’s eyes. Diamonds and other precious stones fell together with the mann, and bringing them was not considered such a sacrifice. At that time, giving up one’s gold, a silver and even brass was considered a much greater contribution.
The Baalei Tosafos explain that gold is symbolic of giving when one is healthy, silver when sick and brass when one is close to death. The effort exerted when giving tzedakah is not measured merely by how much of a financial strength it is, Hashem values one’s donations much more when they are giving from a healthy state and not motivated by illness or troubles.
On Purim, we are directed to give unconditionally to whoever asks for our assistance. In fulfilling this mitzvah, we have a chance to take for ourselves and bring Hashem’s light into our lives. Let us make the most of this special opportunity and infuse our homes with this exalted level of kedushah.

Strengthen Yerushalyim

The holy city of Yerushalyim is currently being assaulted by the non-religious political entities that are in control of the local government. In the palace of the King, Shabbos desecration is being supported and encouraged, Hashem, Hashem yeracheim (G-d should have mercy). Each day, the situation becomes more and more dire.
In addition, the anti-religious government is promoting the activities of the non-Jewish missionaries. This is being carried out under the guise of promoting tourism, yet it poses a grave threat to our holy city. What can we do to stop this devastation?
Anyone who has political influence should use it to stop what is taking place. In doing so, he will sanctify Hashem’s name and return Divine glory to the city that houses the place of the Bais Hamidkosh. Every Jew should make his voice heard in protest over this chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name).
Whatever one can do to strengthen the study of Torah and the fulfillment of mitzvos in Yerushalyim will sure aid this cause. The more kedusha we imbue into Yerushalyim, the stronger we will be against an enemy whose desire is to uproot every trace of sanctity from the home of the Shechinah. Every mouth should be directed in prayer and all eyes should be raised towards the heavens in search of mercy during this difficult time for Klal Yisrael.
Saturday, February 20, 2010

Eved Ivri

Desperate Heart said...

"On the other hand, the degradation of living with a non-Jewish maidservant should make it clear to him that he did not act according to the elevated ways of the Torah. We hope that by the time his stay with this family ends, the slave will have internalized both of these outlooks and be able to reenter society as an honest person."

This part brings up some confusing issues to me. What happens after the slave is freed? Is he still married to the non-Jewish maidservant? If so, and he successfully was rehabilitated during his time as a slave, then being married to a non-Jew seems counter productive.

Rabbi Coffman responds: If the slave went in with a family, the family comes out with him. If he marries a non-Jewish woman, she stays and so does his kids. It is productive for the owner and it helps the Jew work on his yetzer hara as well
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Life in Prison: The Torah Outlook to Criminal Justice By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Ponzi Schemes

“If you purchase a Jewish slave, he shall work for six years and the seventh year he goes free” (Shemos 21:2)
Recently, Ponzi schemes and other similar business frauds have taken center stage in world news, and unfortunately Jews have been some of the key figures behind these frauds. Generally, after the masterminds behind these plans are convicted, the rest of their lives are spent in jail. Nobody benefits from this, as the victims are forced to swallow the losses, and the criminal is not in a situation where he will change.
In His infinite wisdom, Hashem designed a radically different penal system. Criminals are not allowed to run away from the loss they caused to the people they stole from. They must sell themselves as slaves and pay back the money they stole.
Instead of being locked up with other hardened criminals, the thief finds himself in an environment that gives him an opportunity to see healthy Jewish living. Even though he is a slave, we treat him like an equal and further, at times when there is not enough for everyone, we give him priority over other members of the household. The Talmud Yerushalmi, in fact, rules that if the master only has one pillow, he must give it to the slave to use and do without for himself.
If the thief is married and has children, the new master must provide for his family as well. We are so concerned with this robber’s welfare that we treat him like any other husband any money that his wife earns goes to him, in order not to belittle his honor more than necessary. The Torah hopes that during his stay with this family he will absorb what a proper home should look like and turn to other, more acceptable means to support himself.
The Torah chooses a punishment that is perfectly measured for this person’s crime. He chose a career in theft and deceit as it seemed like the easiest most fruitful way to support himself. For six years, we make him engage in honest labor to drive home the fact that there are, more elevated ways to earn a living.

A Thief in our Homes

While this setup is certainly superior to the secular penal system, at first glance there seems to be a catch. Having a felon as part of one’s household might not be the best situation for the rest of the members of one’s family. How can we make sure that the criminal’s influence will not cause negative repercussion in one’s own home?
The Torah brilliantly solves this problem by allowing the master to force his newly acquired slave to marry a non-Jewish maidservant. For a religious Jew, there could be no greater disgrace than living with a non-Jewish wife. This will inevitably cause the master’s family to look down at him and prevent them from learning from his actions.
For this reason, the Torah calls him an eved ivri. The word ivri comes from the root over, which means to transgress. During his six years living with this family, we do not let him forget that he is here because he transgressed the prohibition not to steal.
Thus, we see that on one hand, we give the slave equal treatment and boost his sense of self, hoping that this will change his criminal mentality. On the other hand, the degradation of living with a non-Jewish maidservant should make it clear to him that he did not act according to the elevated ways of the Torah. We hope that by the time his stay with this family ends, the slave will have internalized both of these outlooks and be able to reenter society as an honest person.
This outlook that the Torah reaches is crucial for those involved with bringing non-religious Jews closer to Torah observance. We have to elevate them so they can recognize their true greatness as Jews. At the same time, we have to help them see the baseness of a non-observant life and make sure that we do not learn from their ways.

Hard of Hearing

As clear as this message is, some slaves might not be able to internalize the message that the Torah is conveying to them. They might enjoy their stay with this family and the relationship with the non-Jewish maidservant. After his stay has concluded, an eved ivri may request to stay with his newfound family.
We dramatically show such a slave the error in his way of thinking. The Torah commands his master to put an awl through his ear to the doorpost – reminiscent of the very doorposts that acte4d as witness to the freedom of the Jewish people from their slavery in Mitzrayim. It should be clear to everyone that this Jew did not understand what the Torah was trying to teach him by this stay with this family.
Rashi tells us that the reason behind this practice is to punish the very same ear that heard on Har Sinai, “You should be slaves to Hashem.” Yet we only heard the first two of the Aseres Hadibros (Ten Commandments) on Har Sinai, and Hashem did not explicitly tell us not to be slaves. Furthermore, the mitzvah to be sold as a slave to pay for one’s crime applies to all generations, even those who did not stand at Har Sinai.
When the Jewish people said, “Na’aseh venishmah – We will hear and we will do”, they accepted for all generations that they would live the commandments of the Torah. The experience of hearing the4se words directly made a strong impact on their neshamos. Although they practically only heard the first two commandments directly from Hashem, it was as if they had heard everything directly from Him. This impression stayed imbedded in every Jewish neshama for all generations.

Justice Prevails

The Mishna in Pirkei Avos tells us that were it not for fear of the government, people would eat each other alive. Law and order is crucial, without it chaos would prevail. However, man-made secular law can never reach the infinite depths that the Torah touches in its mishpatim.
The parsha of eved ivri is just one example of the infinite wisdom that the Torah exhibits via its methods of jurisdiction. Instead of offering an arbitrary, man-made punishment, each one of the mishpatim penetrates deep into the human personality and identifies the root of what went wrong. The Torah cuts through to the cause of that problem and rectifies the issue on all sides.
At times, it seems as if the Torah law is not able to deal with a particular problem. Sometimes, we might be missing witnesses or sufficient proof to prosecute someone with a monetary or physical punishment. Seemingly, in these circumstances true justice cannot be carried out. Not so. On the verse, “These are the mishpatim,” The Zohar writes that “these are the laws of gilgul.” In a case where we lace sufficient proof to decide the case, Hashem will set up circumstances that cause justice to be achieved.
The appearance of new fraud cases every day is the clearest proof of the failure of the secular penal system. Only Hashem’s wisdom, as embodied by the mishpatim, can rectify these issues. May the day come quickly when the Torah law is the only deciding factor in all judicial issues of Klal Yisrael.
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Scandal Revisited

Anonymous said...

This is a graceful and useful response to such a discouraging event...important that it is talked about and not brushed under rug, no doubt - but it still hurts in some way. JH

Rabbi Coffman Responds:

Yes it is very important that this issue is addressed. When we are dealing with baalei teshuvah, some try to water down Judaism to the point we can try and bring them back to the fold.

There is some truth to that but in this day and age, sometimes we have to be a little "controversial" to uncover something that people may see and say "Gee, if he is religious how could that person do...."

What should we say, the person didn't do it? The point of that post was that this question addressed hundreds of non-religious Jews! If that is the case, then this organization must have felt that this was a serious enough issue that non-religious Jews had to hear a Torah approach to such a question.

None of the rabbis presenting their case said it never happened, let's change the subject...They dealt with a real issue and gave real answers as well!

It seems that in many ways fluff, meaning writing about touchy-feely type of things that make you feel good and give a little bit of a Torah perspective sells better and you will reach a wider audience.

Definitely true. At the same time, maybe it is time for a reality check and we shouldn't be bothered what people may say or it is not politically correct to say...Maybe none of these things should matter if we are trying to give over the truth.
Friday, February 12, 2010

Battling Amaleik: Preparing Courselves for the Final Tests Before Moshiach By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

“And Yisro heard…” (Shemos 18:1) What did Yisro hear? He heard about the miracles of the splitting of the sea and the war with Amaleik (Rashi, Shemos 18:1)
Yisro was inspired to convert and join the Jewish people after these two events. We can understand why hearing of the Almighty’s miraculous Krias Yam Suf (Splitting of the Reed Sea) was an impetus for Yisro to join up with Klal Yisrael, but how did the war with Amaleik inspire Yisro to make this life-changing decision?
Chazal tell us that the entire world felt the miracle of the splitting of the sea. All bodies of water in existence parted simultaneously, so that everyone would recognize the great miracle that Hashem was performing for the Jewish people. One could argue that there has been no greater display of Divine power ever before in history.
Yisro was particularly impressed by one aspect of this miracle. Mitzrayim tried to destroy the Jewish people by drowning their male children in the water, and measure for measure, they were punished on the sea. The Hashgacha Protis, personal Divine interaction made Yisro recognize that Hashem was the one and only power in the world.
After this great miracle, the entire world was in awe of the Almighty. Nobody dared to touch His chosen people. Only one nation, Amaleik, had the audacity to attack Klal Yisrael and thereby cool off this feeling of fear.
Yisro witnessed the great miracles that took place, as well as Amaleik reaction to what had transpired. He understood that if it was possible to defy the Almighty in the face of this open display of Divine power, then one could not simply maintain the status quo and expect to remain unaffected by the forces that constantly threaten to pull one away from holiness. He concluded that only by actually joining the Jewish people could be possibly hope to remain strong against the impurity of Amaleik.

First Names

The name of his first son was Gershom. “For I was a ger (stranger) in a foreign land.” The name of his second son was Eliezer because “Elokei avi (my father’s G-d) was ezri (my helper), rescuing me from Paroh’s sword” (Shemos 18:3-4).
The difficulty in understanding these two verses is self-apparent. The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was a stranger in Midyan seems to pale in the face of the miracle that saved from death at the hands of Paroh. Why was his ger status important enough to merit being the source of the name of his first son?
Miracles are a temporary display of Divine glory, but after they have passed, things can easily go back to business as usual. Even greater than witnessing a miracle is channeling the inspiration that one gains thereby into elevating one’s daily relationship with the Almighty. Holding oneself strong and not letting the opposing forces around him ‘drag him in’ is a constant miracle in itself.
While Moshe Rabbeinu owed his physical existence to the miracle that the Almighty had performed for him in Mitzrayim, his spiritual well-being was a result of the Almighty’s continual spiritual protection. For this reason, Moshe Rabbeinu named his first son Gershom. IN doing so, he recognized Hashem’s Hand in helping him retain his identity while living among the idolatrous population of MIdyan.
World history has given us many examples of this phenomenon. While Germany hosted a thriving Torah community before the emancipation, after the walls of the ghetto were torn down, the influence of the non-Jewish world penetrated, and Jews left the fold en masse. Similarly, when exposed to the freedom of America, many Jews were influenced to drop their commitment to Torah.
Amaleik’s power grows stronger daily. If we do not take special precautions to guard ourselves from their weapons, we too may be pulled in by their sway. Even a temporary lapse of guard could cause one’s downfall.

Preparing for Moshiach

“Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law…” (Shemos 18:7)
Moshe Rabbeinu went out personally to welcome his father-in-law, Yisro. Considering his status as the leader of Klal Yisrael, his actions were a display of great honor for his father-in-law. What prompted Moshe to do this?
As explained earlier, Yisro was inspired to join the Jewish people as a result of the miracles that Hashem performed for Klal Yisrael. However, this was not an expression of momentary religious excitement. Yisro made a well-thought-out decision based on the realization that this was the proper course for him to take in his life.
Moshe Rabbeinu, recognized the sincerity of Yisro’s motivations. He wanted to show all of the Jewish people that his father-in-law’s choice, and not a temporary emotional frenzy. IN order to do this, he personally went out to greet him, showing that his father-in-law had chosen to truly become a dedicated, sincere member of Klal Yisrael.
The miracles that will take place preceding and during the times of Moshiach will be much greater than those that we experienced in MItzrayim. Like Yisro, all of the Jews and non-Jews of the world will recognize the Almighty’s truth and that Klal Yisrael is His chosen nation. These miracles will be such a powerful display of Divine glory that we will lose our own free choice and intentional transgression will become an impossibility.
Unlike the times of Yisro, it will then no longer be possible to join the Jewish people, The recognition will be so clear that there will be no choice but to accept it, and under such circumstances, there will be no merit in siding with the truth. Converts and baalei teshuvah will no longer be accepted.
The Satmar Rav, Rav Yoel Teitlebaum zt”l, once told Rav Sternbuch that considering the state of impurity that the world is in today, the reward for every mitzvah we perform is exponentially greater than in other generations, This being so, a true servant of Hashem should not want Moshiach to come. With his arrival, all nisyonos (trials) will fall away, and it would seem to follow that the reward for the mitzvos we perform, if any, will be negligible.
However, added the Satmar Rov, those who recognize the truth before the arrival of Moshiach will not lose out. Each person will continue his growth based on the level he achieved beforehand. Our avodah during these days prior to his coming is to ready ourselves for this immense revelation.
In our days, we have seen some of the rays of light that precede Moshiach. During the war in Gaza, thousands of missiles fell on Israel – but they caused almost no injury. In recent times, an earthquake struck the world, killing 300,000 people. These are small glimpses of the great power of Hashem, which He will reveal openly on the day of the final redemption.
Now is the time to prepare for this auspicious moment, as it is approaching rapidly.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Scandal in the Jewish Community

Scandal in the Jewish Community

What happens when there is a scandal by a rabbinical figure in our community? How should we react? Did we really change our lives, sometimes alienate our families and not feel welcomed in the frum community to see a religious spiritual leader not acting in line with the Torah’s ideals?

At an Oorah Shabbaton a few years ago, I was part of a panel discussion that was posed with exactly this question. There were three other rabbis as part of that panel discussion and one always runs into the potential problem that if you speak third or fourth, you can just about be assured that someone will speak exactly about what you wanted to talk about. We call that Murphy-Stein’s law. This is exactly what happened to me.

Speaking third and having my best ideas “stolen” right underneath me, I had to think fast. As I got up to give my presentation, I mentioned that just because we see something written in the newspapers or over the internet, doesn’t mean I have to believe it is true! Just the opposite! We should always look at the individual as innocent until proven guilty, right?

There is an old saying in the newspaper business: Man bites dog, are not newsworthy; dog bites man is front page headlines! Baruch Hashem, the Orthodox community has in many ways a good reputation but that can all change when a scandal hits the papers!

There is a mitzvah to judge someone favorably even if the circumstances may appear to be incredibly incriminating. What are we supposed to do, though when a rabbinic figure is involved in something that he/she should not be involved and it becomes very hard to judge them favorably?

We have to remember that even Rabbis are human and can make mistakes. It is very important that we judge the action and not the person. As we know, we cannot judge someone unless we have been in their exact situation.

If some of our own leaders are caught doing something against the law, what does it say about the community? Nothing! This means that although we all have our shortcomings, nonetheless, we have an obligation to try and reach the highest spiritual levels that the Torah has set down for us. If we fail and do things that are not indicative of an Orthodox Torah lifestyle, then we will have to answer that for ourselves.

Someone once saw an Orthodox Jew in a place that they should not have been and asked me about it. They said, “If this person is frum, what were they doing there?” My answer was very simple: “Go ask him, not me. I will have a hard enough time answering for my own actions; I have no intention in answering for someone else!”

Rav Yechezkel Levenstein, famed mashgiach of the Mir and Ponezveh Yeshivot wrote many times not to get too concerned with ‘frumkeit’. This means that just because we see a person dressed in a certain way or has a certain title, doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

Just because one can walk the walk and talk and the talk in frumkeit, doesn’t mean that the person is necessarily frum. It just means that they know the lingo. We have to be careful not to mix-up Jews and Judaism.

Our leaders have an obligation and should live up to the highest spiritual standards that they can. After all, if they act in a way that contradicts Torah and people learn from their crooked ways, then that is a chillul Hashem at the highest level!

Unfortunately, the Orthodox world has not been exempt from scandals and recently there was a great rabbi who came out and spoke at length at the great tragedy that occurred with his institution. He never said it was an oversight or tried to brush it under the carpet but admitted that it was a mistake and warned people that they themselves shouldn’t make the same one!

This was true gadlus! This great sage admitted to the masses that there was a mistake made and a price to pay. Although we sometimes see these things even in the Torah world, the most important thing is not to judge the whole community for the act of an individual.

There are those acts that one cannot condone under any circumstances and it does not matter who was the one to perpetrate that feat. Baalei teshuvah and converts who have changed their lives so dramatically to be part of the Jewish community, should not be dismayed when a scandal hits the Orthodox community. They joined these great communities because of the idealism and love for the Torah and its ideals.
Thursday, February 4, 2010

Rav Sternbuch on Parshas Beshalach

Surviving the Darkness: Practical Advice to Bring Light to the Galus
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 Hachareidus of Yerushalyim.

Darkness before Dawn

The Rambam writes that the original idol worshippers believed in Hashem. They felt that it was beyond G-d’s dignity to converse with Him directly.
Rather, one should worship the forces of nature, which are His servants. Hashem was still considered the ruling power of the universe.
Amaleik introduced a completely new philosophy to the world. They claimed that although there is a Divine power. He is completely above this world. G-d has absolutely nothing to do with human life, and His existence in no way affects us.
The great gaon, Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, said that, in truth, Amaleik’s philosophy is completely irrational. Everything has a creator, so certainly the world, which is the most complex aspect of existence, must have a maker as well. Hashem made room for such unfounded philosophies to be possible by creating a special entity in this world called apikorsis (heresy), which largely by way of faulty logic and rationalization allows one to deny His role.
The Zohar reveals that as we get deeper and deeper into the golus, Amaleik’s ideology gets stronger and stronger. Their philosophy of removing G-d from our lives is becoming more and more accepted, and they seem to be plunging the world into every-thicker darkness. Why does Hashem let Amaleik’s power grow stronger daily?
On the day that the Almighty chooses to end the golus, the truth will be revealed. In order for the light of this revelation to make the strongest impact, He must temporarily plunge the world into a state of darkness. The thicker the darkness, the greater the light will be when the golus finally concludes.
The closer we get to that day, the more acute the danger of being misled by the darkness becomes. During these times, we must take special measures to ensure that we survive this interim period. What can we do to make sure that we will merit seeing the great light that is in store for us?

Taking Refuge in the Desert

For forty years, the Jewish people survived in a desert. During this time, they survived miraculously eating monn and drinking water from the be’er (well) of Miriam. Why was it so crucial that Klal Yisrael experience this?
In order to remove the influences of Amaleik and all of the other nations we’d encountered, Hashem isolated us from the rest of the world. For forty years, we existed as a separate nation with almost no contact form outside influences. In this way, Hashem purified the Jewish people.
Klal Yisrael had just witnessed ten makkos (plagues), seen the sea split, and were being provided for miraculously. Yet, with all of this direct Divine interaction, Hashem feared that seeing the outside world would push the Jewish people away from the truth of Torah. Only through complete isolation could Klal Yisrael maintain their state of elevation.
The Ramabam writes (Dei’os, Ch. 6), “A person is naturally drawn after his environment…Therefore, he should befriend the righteous, and live amongst chachomim (Torah scholars) in order to learn from their actions, and distance himself from evil people…If he cannot live amongst righteous people, he should flee to the desert.”
In today’s world, where the influence of Amaleik is so great, would the Rambam obligate everyone to uproot from their place of residence to move to the desert? Rav Chaim Brisker said that, practically speaking, a person does not have to move. However, when surrounded by heresy, he must rid himself of as many outside influences as possible in order to create a lifestyle as if he were living in a desert.
Sending our children to yeshivos and seminaries is a crucial first step to ensure that they get the right chinuch (education). However, this is not enough. We should try to do everything in our power to prevent our children from coming into contact with certain fri9neds and other influences who will pull them away from Torah.

Seeing Hashem

“I will surely sing to Hashem…He threw the horse and its rider into the sea” (Shemos 15:1)
The Shiras Hayam (Song at the Sea of Reeds) starts off by praising Hashem’s actions regarding the treatment of the Egyptian soldiers and their horses. Seemingly, the main miracle that took place was the splitting of the sea. Why are the horses and their riders such a crucial aspect of the shirah?
Seeing the Almighty’s hand through open miracles is a powerful revelation of His awesome glory. However, this experience does not leave a lasting impression on one’s life. Only by internalizing that Hashem directs every aspect of our lives can we live with His Presence and develop a constant, lasting relationship with Him.
Watching the sea open up in front of the entire Jewish people was certainly one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world. Yet, the awareness that the Almighty dealt individually with each and every soldier and horse in the Egyptian army – the powerful army of Mitzrayim, delivering precise measurements of retribution to each one, teaches us Hashgacha Protis, Hashem’s personal involvement with His people and their affairs. This makes a stronger impression, for such awareness allows us to recognize the Almighty in our daily living, when we do not usually see open miracles.
In general, one needs the merit of the tzibbur (community) to consider one’s actions significant. When it comes to recognizing Hashem’s Hashgocha Protis, Klal Yisrael sang the shirah in the singular to show that every person’s individual recognition is powerful.
For this reason, the women only sang the initial line of the shirah (see 15:21). While the men were able to notice and appreciate all of the miracles that were taking place around them and thus sing a longer shirah, the women were able to focus on the main aspect. They understood that the primary message of this miracle was the Hashgocha Protis, Hashem’s involvement in the minutest details of our lives.
As Amaleik’s influence waxes, Hashem’s presence in the world appears to be diminishing. In truth, this is not so, and what we see is merely an illusion so that the final revelation should be greater. By separating ourselves as much as possible from the influences of the outside world around us and concentrating on Hashem’s Hashgocha Pratis in our lives, we will merit to see the light of Moshiach soon.

At what point do you tell your married students to cover their hair?

There is no set time for this and depends on where the person is holding. Some rabbinical authorities hold that a married non-Jew in the process for conversion should cover their hair after conversion. If someone wanted to take this on during the process even though they have not officially converted, they would be allowed to do so.

For some this is a very significant step and would not generally occur at the beginning of the process. Usually it would take place after they have moved into a community, been keeping a lot of the mitzvos and feel comfortable with it.