About Me

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 11, 2010

Giving with Joy: The Other Half of Our Mitzvos

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Coins of Fire

“This is what everyo9ne who is included in the census must give, half a shekel…” (Shemos 30:13)
The Torah obligates every Jew to contribute half a shekel each year to the Bais Hamikdsoh. Chazal tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu had difficulty understanding this mitzvah. Hashem clarified the nature of this mitzvah to him by showing him a matbeiah shel aish, a coin made of fire.
Moshe Rabbeinu was the only person who was ever granted the ability to speak face-to-face with the Al-mighty. He was able to fathom the deepest and most intricate aspects of the Torah. Why, then was the mitzvah of machatzis hashekel (giving of the half-shekel) so difficult for him to grasp?
Even more baffling is Hashem’s response. A matbeiah shel aish would seem to have nothing to do with helping Moshe Rabbeinu out of his confusion. How did showing Moshe a coin of fire resolve his difficulty?
In truth, during the give-and-take between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu, a very deep concept was revealed. Moshe Rabbeinu could not fathom why both a poor person and a rich person should be obligated to make the identical donation. Why wasn’t the wealthier individual asked to contribute more?
Hashem answered Moshe’s question by showing him a coin made of fire. The matbeiah shel aish symbolized the giving of tzedakah with burning passion. Hashem was showing Moshe Rabbeinu that, although in the giving both were equal, the complete fulfillment of the mitzvoth was achieved only through the enthusiasm that each person put into it.
Besides this clear indication of the passion one must have while performing mitzvos, there is another aspect of this association. Fire is an element that cannot be held or contained. Similarly, giving tzedakah with all one’s heart is a subtle act that has no physical manifestation and can be gauged only in the spiritual realm.
While the amount to be given for machatzis hashekel is the same for everyone, the level of devotion and joy each person experiences is very individual, different from that which anyone else experiences. Everyone, on his own level, infuses his mitzvos with unique intentions. Thus, the completion of the mitzvah of machatzis hashekel can be achieved only when one’s heart is focused on it completely.
In truth, this concept applies to all the mitzvos. Two Jews can daven the exact Shemoneh Esrei, both uttering the identical words, yet their mitzvos are worlds apart. One Jew experiences a deep connection to his Creator, while the other might be thinking about his personal needs and might be greatly distanced from Hashem.
Every mitzvah that a Jew performs is only half the fulfillment of Hashem’s Will. It is completed only with the fire that he infuses into it, the love and devotion he feels toward Hashem while he is performing the mitzvah. Indeed, the yeitzer harah, will allow us to perform mitzvos, but it will invest tremendous effort into marring our intentions and divesting our mitzvos of any genuine sincerity and joy.

Fearing Hashem

The Medrash tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem, “How will I be remembered for generations?” and Hashem responded that he would be eternalized through the machatzis hashekel.
This Medrash is most puzzling. The entire Torah is called Toras Moshe. What specifically does the machatzis hashekel add to Moshe’s status?
In fact, Moshe Rabbeinu was merely the intermediary between the Jewish people and Hashem. Yet, following Hashem’s directive to perform mitzvos together with the “fire” of the machatzis hasekel, he delivered the Torah with such intense awe that all subsequent generations have felt its effect. This was his personal contribution to kabbalos haTorah.
The posuk sates (Devorim 10:12). “What does the Al-mighty, your G-d, ask of you other than to fear the Almighty, your G-d…?” Chazal comment: “Is fear such a small thing? Yes for Moshe Rabbeinu, fear is considered a small thing.”
The Vilna Gaon explains that this Gemara is telling us that for anyone who was connected to Moshe Rabbeinu, fear was a small thing. Yiras Shomayim was Moshe’s very essence and it could be felt in everything he did. Moshe Rabbeinu’s contribution to the giving of the Torah was the elevated level of fear that he injected into the experience.

Partner’s in Torah

While all tzedakah is important, supporting Torah learning is especially significant. A person who supports a talmid chacham and forms a Yissochar-Zevulun partnership with him is entitled to half his reward, when he gets to the Next World, he will see all the fruits of this endeavor.
One would think that entering such a partnership would cause the “Yissochar” who is studying Torah, to lose out, but the Ohr Hachaim revelas that this is not the case. Even though the “Zevulun” receives half the reward of his partner’s Torah study, the “Yissochar” does not lose anything.
This concept is hinted to in the shekel coin used for hekdesh, which had a special halachah. Unlike other shekel coins, the one of hekdesh was twice the value of the normal shekel coin. By doubling the value of this coin, the Torah shows that someone who consecrates his money to be used for holy purposes does not lose anything. Even after he contributes a shekel to tzedakah, he is still left with the full value of a shekel.
The Vilna Gaon, on the other hand, understood that a talmid chacham who makes a partnership with a “Zevulun” does forfeit his reward. Even so, the Gaon did not see this as a reason for someone who is learning Torah and needs financial support to hesitate about entering into such an agreement. It is worthwhile to lose out on one’s reward in order to be able to devote oneself totally to Torah study and grow that much closer to Hashem.
Every mitzvah should be performed with love, fear, joy, passion and great devotion. This is the message of the machatzis hashekel. All of our mitzvos are half-entities, and it is up to us to complete them.