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, April 29, 2010

Shaking up the World: Protecting Ourselves from Natural Disasters

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Volcanic Eruptions and Earthquakes

Recently the world experienced one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in the past century. Ash shot up in the air, causing a billow of smoke ten kilometers high. This incident caused one of the greatest air-traffic delays in history, and the cancellation of thousands of flights. How can we understand the deeper meaning of this phenomenon?
The Torah wars us to distance ourselves from the ways of Egypt and Canaan. Rashi explains that these nations were steeped in immorality. Their licentious behavior was unparalleled by any other country in the world.
Mitzrayim governed a huge empire, which extended from what is today called Egypt all the way down to Africa. They were highly successful in the business world and seemingly reached the height of material and cultural success. The same was true regarding the seven nations that resided in the land of Canaan.
Even with all their material success, both of these great empires collapsed. Klal Yisrael, the tiniest of nations, successfully toppled them. The secret to our success was that we clung to purity, while they connected themselves with the worst abominations in the world.
Today, the nations have achieved control over the entire world to a greater extent than every before in history. Men have walked on the moon and information can be broadcast via television, satellite, internet, and so forth. These are just a few examples among myriad innovations which continue to expand rapidly, both in number and complexity. Seemingly, we have reached the pinnacle of success.
Mankind, however, has chosen to use this technology to increase immorality in the world. And, unfortunately, some members of Klal Yisrael have followed in their path and have been led astray. Hashem’s anger ahs been ignited.
“He looks on the earth and it trembles; He touches the hills and they smoke” (Tehillim, 104:32) The Yalkut Shemoni explains this posuk follows: When the nations misuse the world, Hashem punishes them measure for measure. Instead of letting life function normally, He shakes up the very fabric of existence, causing natural disasters, one after another.
Immorality causes the strongest reaction. The internet has brought depravity to new lows, and has made it possible to bring the vilest and most revolting images straight into our houses, causing the downfall of families and homes. As a result, Hashem has shaken the world with the recent earthquakes and now this volcanic explosion. Only He can know what is to follow if we do not try and mend the spiritual damage that has already taken place.
In Germany, prior to the Holocaust, the Jews felt that one should be a Jew at home, but a sophisticated, cultured person outside in “the world.” Jews went to work without covering their heads, rationalizing and justifying their actions. History has shown us the Divine reaction to such behavior.
A Jew must know that there is just one way that we can remain protected in a world filled with anti-Semitism. Only Torah and mitzvos can safeguard us from the great dangers that surround us. If we are pulled after the abominations that exist in the world – nowadays, on the internet, in particular – we will lose our protection, and we cannot know what the Divine response will be.

Purified by Hashem

“And on this day, You will forgive them and purify them from all of their transgressions, before Hashem you are purified” (Vayikrah 16:30).
We live in a world where impurity is rampant. There are few people who can say that they have successfully protected themselves from all of these negative influences. What can we do to bring ourselves back to where we must be?
Yom Kippur achieves more than forgiveness; it causes purification. What does this mean? A person who transgresses the will of the King has harmed himself in two ways. First, he has ruined his relationship with the King by losing favor in His eyes. He has also caused himself personal harm by soiling his neshamah with sin.
When a child does not heed the warnings of his parent and defiles himself, a good father will threaten to punish his son in order to direct him to the right path. The child cries to his father for forgiveness and assures him that he will mend his ways. Yet, even after all the tears and promises, the child is still dirty as a result of his actions.
So, too, when we transgress, we deserve punishment. When we cry to Hashem for forgiveness, He pardons us and forgets the punishment. Yet, we, our neshamos, still remain soiled with sin.
Yom Kippur is the day of the year that has been set aside for us to feel Hashem’s Presence and to reach this extreme level of purification. In truth, it is possible for us to continue living on this level and feel Him in our lives at all times. This is the mitzvah of shivisi Hashem lenegdi tomid, living with awareness of Hashem during every second of our lives.
When a person immerses himself in transgression, other impure sources will enter his life and cause him to become even more tamei. However, when he takes his life in his hands and decides to change himself, he is on the road to taharah (purification). If he follows this route, he will soon find himself a different person.

Kedushah through Kindness

“You should be holy, for I am sanctified to be Hashem, your G-d” (Vayikrah 19:2)
Chazal reveal the only way for us to safeguard ourselves from the dangers that are inherent before the coming of Moshiach. Involvement with Torah and acts of chessed is what will protect us. Seeing Hashem shake up the world via these natural disasters should inspire us to strengthen ourselves in these areas.
The Kli Yakar explains that the holiness of the Jewish people is intrinsically different from that of Hashem. Divine sanctity comes from separation from all worldly activity. Our holiness comes from interaction with people and helping others as much as we can.
When Rav Chaim Brisker would go to the marketplace, he would not wear his regular rabbinic garb, but would dress like a simple Jew. One time when he was walking home, passing by the train station, a Jew stopped him and asked him for directions to his lodgings in Brisk. Rav Chaim said that although he was not traveling in that direction, he would nonetheless go with him, in order to show him the way.
While they were walking, the Jew told Rav Chaim that he was very tired and asked Rav Chaim if he could carry his bags. Always happy to help another Jew, Rav Chaim consented. Fro the entire duration of their journey, Rav Chaim lugged this Jew’s belongings.
As they approached this man’s lodgings in Brisk, Rav Chaim apologized and said that he would have to give him the bags back to carry. The Jew argued that he had started the mitzvah and thus should finish it. Rav Chaim was adamant and remained firm that he could not longer aid him.
Rav Chaim returned the bags to the Jew who was traveling with him, and showed him where his host lived. Before he left, the traveler mentioned that he would like to visit the rov of the town, so Rav Chaim told him wehere his house was. They parted ways, and the guest settled into his lodgings.
A while later Rav Chaim heard a knock on his door, and there was the very same Jew who had asked him to carry his bags. The guest’s face turned red from embarrassment when he realized that the simple Jew who had carried his bags was none other than the renowned Rav Chaim Brisker, and he begged forgiveness from the rov. Rav Chaim calmed the man down, thanking him profusely for the opportunity to do a chesed for another Jew.
After the guest regained his composure, he asked Rav Chaim why, if he liked doing chesed so much, he didn’t carry the bags all the way to the home where he was staying. Rav Chaim replied that he realized that if this Jew’s host saw him walking with Rav Chaim while Rav Chaim was carrying his bags, he would scream at him for his behavior. In order to spare him from embarrassment, Rav Chaim gave him back the bags.
From here we can see that the greatness of Gedolei Yisrael is not limited to their Torah. When they perform chessed, they also use their brilliance to calculate how they can be of the absolute greatest help possible, taking every aspect into consideration. Gedolim understand that holiness is achieved by maximizing one’s ability to help others.
Non-Jews believe that the way to be holy is to emulate Hashem and separate oneself from others. Those who attempt to do this live secluded, and cut themselves off from worldly endeavors. The Jewish concept of holiness is that our holiness differs from that of Hashem; only through interaction can we achieve the kedushah that the Torah requires of us.
We are witnessing natural disasters on a regular basis lately, and their power seems to be increasing. Chazal ask what we can do to spare ourselves from the pangs of Moshiach and they answer that we should dedicate ourselves to Torah and chessed. By doing so, we can ensure that we will remain safe from these displays of Divine might and protect ourselves from what lies ahead.