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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.