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.
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Maintaining Elevation: Holding on to the Level of Shavuos

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch
Fighting Complacency

Parshas Naso is the longest parsha in the Torah. On a similar note, Parhsas Naso contains the lengthiest Medrash and the most Zohar. What is the reason that the Torah goes to such great lengths in this parsha?
Shavuous is the culmination of forty-nine days of preparation for this auspicious day. Many Jews stay up the entire night studying Torah. It is one of the most vibrant times of the year, and anyone who connects to it feels a great sense of accomplishment.
However, after the crescendo of Shavuos passes, the natural tendency might be to take a vacation and ease up for a while. After exerting so much effort during the days prior to and including Shavuos, a person might feel that a break is well deserved. After a few days of rest, he can return to a vigorous learning schedule.
Chazal recognized the danger of this feeling and gave us the cure to rectify it. To ensure that we not have a moment of complacency, the Torah immediately counters with the longest parsha, Medrash and Zohar of the year. In this way, we utilize the fire of Torah to fight the dangerous feeling of complacency that can pull us down from the elevated level we achieved before and during Shavuos.

You must be crazy

“When a man is ‘tishteh’ his wife” (Bamidbar 5:12)
The Torah uses the word tishteh, to drink, which comes from the root shoteh, crazy, to describe a sotah, a woman who is suspected of immorality. In truth, it is only craziness that could influence a woman to throw off all parameters of tznius and let herself be dragged after the openness of the outside world. The Medrash calls her a “meshugas,” someone who has lost all semblance of sanity.
For a normal Jewish woman, there is no greater sense of fulfillment than raising a family and helping them follow the path of Torah. Someone who follows this route will experience an unparalleled level of joy in this world and the next. Only a woman who has been temporarily afflicted with insanity could give up such a life and throw it away for the basest momentary pleasures.
A Jewish woman is a complete partner with her husband in all of the Torah and tzedakah that he is involved with. Careful management of their household and its expenses, together with encouraging her husband and family to learn Torah, will give her peace and tranquility in this world and great reward in the next. We must constantly pray to Hashem that He should help us recognize our true task in this world and fulfill it.

Fighting Extremism
The Torah juxtaposes the parsha of nazir and that of sotah. Chazal tell us that someone who sees a sotah bekelkulah should take an oath not to drink wine. How does accepting on oneself to be a nazir counter the affect of seeing a sotah?
The Torah generally frowns on extremism in any form. A nazir, who stops drinking wine for thirty days, is a classic example of this disfavor. After completing his nezirus, the nazir brings a korban chatas, a sin offering, to make amends for his abstinence from wine.
A woman whose level of immorality has fallen to such lows that she is punished with death as a sotah has practiced extremism in its basest form. In this situation, the Torah directs us to fight fire with fire. Only by swinging to the opposite extreme and distancing oneself from any possible circumstances that could lead a person to immorality can one save himself from the influences of what he saw.
Modern day culture has thrown us into a similar dilemma. While tznius in dress and behavior was always crucial, today a Jew must make special efforts to combat the supersaturated levels of impurity that twenty-first century lifestyles hul at us. When it comes to tznius a Jew should go to the extreme to ensure that he is not pulled in by the currents of society that drag us away from Torah living.
The Chazon Ish stressed that women can reach a special level of kedusha through the mitzvah of tznius. Women might feel a greater sense of self-worth or importance if they accentuate their appearance trough clothing that stands out, especially when they seem to get attention from doing so. Overcoming the temptation to dress this way and instead basing their self-esteem on their relationship with Hashem is what raises women to the highest levels.

After the Fall

“And you (sing) I shall admit your (plural) transgression that they performed” (Bamidbar 5:7)
People are by definition human. At times, a person will give in to the strong tugs that society pulls him toward. The Torah informs us that if we have fallen into such a rut, we should admit our transgression and bring ourselves to complete regret over our actions. It is from this posuk that the Rambam, the Sefer HaChinuch and others learn the mitzvah to do teshuvah.
It is noteworthy the way this mitzvah is worded. The Torah starts with the singular (vehisvadeh), but continues in the plural (chataschem asher asu). What is the reason for this sudden grammatical switch in the middle of the posuk?
The Zohar offers one way to understand the change of form in the verse. Every transgression that a person does creates prosecuting angels. A more serious sin will create worse angels, while a lesser transgression will create less powerful angels.
When the Torah refers to the sin in the singular, it refers to the individual transgression, while the transgressions that “they performed” in the plural are the prosecuting angels that a person creates through his actions. If a person does not do teshuvah, the tumah created by these malachim (angels) will pull him down further and further. Only by admitting one’s transgression and achieving complete repentance can a person rectify the effects of the prosecuting angels that his actions created.
We can also understand the change from singular to plural as follows: Someone who sins occasionally might justify his actions with thoughts like, “Even though I slipped up, I am better than others who transgress often. Hashem is still happy with me.”
In the same vein, one who transgresses might think, “Hashem loves Klal Yisrael and I am part of the Jewish nation. Even though I sinned, there are still plenty of tzaddikim who keep the Torah properly, so in the grand scheme, my sin must not be that bad. “
Both of these thoughts are erroneous and could prevent a person from doing teshuvah after a slip. Rather, each person must look only at himself and realize that his reward and punishment depends solely on his own actions, irrespective of what is taking place around him. The Torah writes that a person should do teshuvah in the singular to stress that when one admits his transgressions, he should realize that every sin is taking away from his own unique potential greatness.
Similarly, a person cannot relieve himself of his obligation to do teshuvah with the thought that there are plenty of other righteous people. Each person must recognize that he is an integral part of Klal Yisrael, and his job cannot be fulfilled by anyone else. This part of the posuk is written in the plural to help each person recognize his exalted position as a part of Klal Yisrael.
Shavuos is the day when every Jew can begin to reach his own personal greatness as well as his greatness as part of Klal Yisrael. The first step of the avodah required following Shavuos is to strengthen ourselves on the path we started on Shavuos.
However, holding on to the elevated level we reached on Shavuous is not easy. If we find ourselves falling, we should do teshuvah immediately. In this way, we will be able to maintain our elevated level during the rest of the year.
Friday, May 28, 2010

Shavuos: A Day of Elevation

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

A Day of Joy

Shavuos is a day of unparalleled joy. Even though on other Yomim Tovim one can exempt himself from partaking of the physical aspects of the Yom Tov, on Shavuos a person is obligated to dine on the choicest food. In fact, Chazal tell us that on Shavuos, Rav Yosef would prepare the finest cuts of meat and say, “If it were not for Shavuos, how many Yosef’s would there be in the marketplace?”
What makes Shavuos such a special day?
A person who becomes entrapped in the physicality of this world can be dragged down to the lowest depths, to the point where he acts worse than an animal. Torah aids a person to elevate the corporeal pleasures of life, and reach a level of closeness to Hashem, the greatest pleasure possible in this world.
For this very reason, the Yom Tov is called Shavous, the festival of weeks. Before we received the Torah, the Jewish people kept Shabbos, and this brought some element of holiness into the life of every Jew. After we received the Torah, through all of the mitzvos that a Jew performs daily, the kedushah of Shabbos was extended into the entire week, and all of the shavuous of a Jew became filled with sanctity.

A Day of Fear

Chazal tell us that Hashem held Har Sinai over the heads of the Jewish people and said, “If you accept the Torah, good, and if not this will be the place where you are buried,” Yet, at the same time, the Torah recounts that Kal Yisrael said, “Na’aseh venishmah,” and accepted the Torah willingly. How can we reconcile these two concepts?
Hashem desired that our Torah learning should be accompanied by this dual attitude of joy and fear. The yirah helps us recognize that we are not studying for a university degree, but striving to understand the will of Hashem. Knowing that our very existence hinged on whether we accept Torah helped instill within us from the outset this attitude of awe.
Every time we learn Torah, we should try and continue to experience some of the fear that we felt at the time the Torah was given. This attitude enables us to appreciate that Torah is the word of Hashem. In this manner, our Torah learning will protect us from transgression and constantly bring us closer to the Alm-ghty.

A Sleepless Night

Many kehillos in Klal Yisrael have adopted the custom of staying up all night on Shavuos to learn Torah. Some people might find this difficult and at times seemingly counterproductive. What is the reason that we push ourselves so hard on this Yom Tov night?
As mentioned previously, Torah requires that we incorporate within ourselves an attitude that Torah should be studied with both joy and fear. After we have achieved this, there is another important outlook that we need. Even when learning Torah is very difficult, we must nonetheless continue.
Many of us have busy schedules, and when the time comes to sit down and learn Torah, we might find ourselves exhausted, and find it difficult to fulfill our daily quota of Torah learning. On Shavuos night, we show ourselves that even during these times, we must try and push on and do our best. Remembering our mesirus nefesh on Shavuos night helps fill us with strength for the entire year.

Keep Going

By saying na’aseh venishmah, we promised to keep the entire Torah even before we heard what was written. This pledge was a display of our great love of Torah. Yet, there is even a deeper meaning behind this commitment.
After finishing a masechta or any other achievement in Torah, it is normal to feel that one has accomplished a lot. While it is good to feel positive about one’s success, there is also a danger to this attitude. This mood could easily turn into complacency, and one could decide that he needs to take a break for a while.
When we said na’aseh venishmah, we committed ourselves to counter this feeling. Klal Yisrael promised that even after we reach great heights through naaseh, we would continue to be nishmah and hear even more. Remembering this commitment can help us always be on the up, and to reach great heights in our Torah learning.

Time Out

We have mentioned a number of important attitudes that one should strive for in Torah learning, including joy, fear, mesirus nefesh, and continual striving to reach higher. Like any accomplishment in our service of Hashem, these goals will not come automatically. Only by taking some time to stop and think about our obligations to learn Torah can we hope to fulfill this mitzvah properly.
For this reason, the Torah refers to the Yom Tov as Atzeres, which literally means stop. Only by pausing prior to the Yom Tov can we hope that our Shavuos will elevate us to achieve these goals. Taking some time out to think that our Torah learning should be infused with these feelings will enable us to incorporate them into our daily Torah learning.
For this reason, prior to the festival of Atzeres, we were given the shloshes yemei hagbalah. These three days are a time to think about what it means to accept upon ourselves a commitment to limud haTorah. If we take time out during this time to think about his mitzvah before Shavuos, we will definitely see the fruits of our actions with great success in our Torah study during the rest of the year.
Thursday, May 27, 2010

Carry one Flag: Working on Jewish Unity in Preparation for Shavuos

Based on a drasha by Hagaon Harav Moshe Sternbuch shlita
By Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

“Each person of the Jewish people should encamp with the flag of his household” (Bamidbar 2:2)
Every shevet (tribe) had its own unique flag. Chazal tell us that these degalim (flags) aroused the jealousy of the nations of the world; but why, since each of their countries also has a flag?
While every nation has its own patriotic banner, there is a big difference between their flags and those of the shevatim. Each country’s nationalistic goals cause it to be separate from the rest of the world. The main interest of each is to further its own policies and have the other nations bow to its wishes.
Klal Yisrael, on the other hand, carries many “flags” Like the shevatim, chassidim and Misnagdim, Sephardim and Ashkenzaim are all different; yet we are united under the single banner of the Torah. Witnessing this unique bond causes the nations of the world jealousy.
Rav Meir Shapiro, the Lubliner Rav encapsulated this feeling of singularity with the following line: “Some Jews say Hodu before Baruch She’amar and some Jews say Baruch She’amar before Hodu. However, everyone continues by saying, “The honor of Hashem should be perpetuated forever!”
When the Jewish people stood at Har Sinai before Kabbalas HaTorah, they were “as one person with one heart.” It was because of this strong sense of oneness that we merited to receive the Torah at that time. Today, in preparing ourselves for the Yom Tov of Shavuos, we must keep in mind that complete unity is a necessary prerequisite for receiving the Torah now as it was then.

Starting Young

During Yaakov’s lifetime, he instructed the shevatim regarding the configuration of carrying his aron (casket) at his funeral procession. He further instructed them to travel in the midbar (desert) in the same configuration. Yaakov was not very old at the time and had no reason to think that his life would be significantly shortened, so what was the reason for these instructions at the time?
While solidarity is a crucial condition for receiving Torah, there is another factor that is equally important. Proper chinuch is crucial to raise children who are bnei Torah. Without a good Jewish education, other factors will not make as much of an impact.
Rav Moshe Soloveitchik (of Switzerland) explained that this is the reason why Yaakov instructed the shevatim to travel in the same configuation that they would take for his funeral. While all chinuch is important, it is most effective when administered while a child is still young.
If a parent wants his children to grow up according to the elevated standards of the Torah, he should begin their chinuch early. This is also the reason why the Levi’im were counted from the time they were one month old, while the counting of the rest of the shevatim only began at age twenty. The Torah is hinting that to reach the exalted level a Levi is meant to reach, one must begin taking notice of his chinuch at an early age.

Do what you can

While Moshe Rabbeinu was asked to count all of the Jewish people who were twenty and up, the Leviim had to be numbered from the age of one month, as just mentioned. In order to do this, he would have to go from tent to tent and find out who had infant children. How, questioned Moshe Rabbeinu, could he carry this out without infringing on their privacy?
Hashem responded that Moshe Rabbeinu should stand by the door of each tent, and the Alm-ghty would tell him how many people were inside. In this way, Moshe could find out the number of infants without actually entering their homes.
If Hashem was miraculously revealing to Moshe Rabbeinu how many babies were in each tent, why did Moshe have to go to the tents at all? Why couldn’t the Alm-ghty just tell Moshe right away how many people were in each residence?
From here we see another major principle. A person should not say, “I am incapable of doing anything. I will leave it all in Hashem’s Hands.” He must do everything that he can. For whatever he cannot accomplish he may rely on his bitachon (faith) for the Alm-ghty to aid him.

Quality Counts

Shevet Levi was chosen to do the avodah in the Mishkan, yet Levi was the smallest of all of the tribes. Hashem purposely kept it this way, for He wanted to show that quality supercedes quantity, even to the extent that one of the most important shevatim could be so small in umber.
One example of the quality of the Jewish people about other nations is our ability to be moser nefesh, to give up our lives for the Torah. When faced with persecution the Jewish people as a whole have always risen to the occasion and we have been able to remain strong to our faith. Wherein lies the source of this inner strength?
When the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf, Hashem threatened to destroy the entire natin and start again with only the descendants of Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe argued that the Jewish people were a stiff-necked people” and the Alm-ghty should not destroy them. This argument seems rather counter-intuitive, for it appears to prosecute Klal Yisrael more than defending them.
In truth, Moshe Rabbeinu meant to highlight a positive quality of Klal Yisrael. The ability to be stiff-necked has carried us through all of the challenges we have faced. It has helped us to keep the Torah even under the most difficult conditions.
Today’s baalei teshuvah are an example of this quality of Klal Yisrael. These young men and women are ready to give up everything so that they can draw closer to Torah and to Hashem. Their strength and dedication should be an example to all of us of how far we must go in order to observe Torah properly.
We have discussed many important qualities needed for Kabbalas HaTorah: unity, chinuch at an early age, doing everything we can to fulfill Hashem’s will and mesirus nefesh are only a few of the crucial elements needed to accomplish this. As we prepare for Shavuos, we should try to keep all of these fundamental concepts in mind; and even after the Yom Tov passes we should try to retain and implement these in our lives as much as possible, each day of the year.
Saturday, May 22, 2010

Living with Bitachon

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Shemittah and Har Sinai

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe at Har Sinai....” (Vayikra 25:1)
“What is the connection between Shemittah and Har Sinai? Just as the mitzvah of Shemittah was given at Har Sinai with all its details and guidelines, so too, all of the details and guidelines of all the mitzvos were given on Har Sinai” (Rashi).
Rashi’s words are difficult to understand. Shabbos, tefillin and tzizits are among the many other mitzvos that also have numerous details and guidelines. Why was shemittah singled out to teach us this principle?
Shemittah challenges every farmer with a dual test of his faith. Firstly, he has to stop all agricultural work for an entire year, thus giving up the primary source of his income, and in addition, during this period of financial strain, he cannot prevent anyone from entering his property and taking any produce that he or she desires.
Shemittah teaches us one of the central points of the entire Torah: every Jew must have complete bitachon in Hashem. By placing all of our trust in the Almighty, we testify that He, alone, created the world and continues to run it on a constant uninterrupted basis. Keeping this principle in mind, aids us in fulfilling all the mitzvos of the Torah.
One of these principles is the prohibition of onah, cheating others, which the Torah lists next to the mitzvah of Shemittah. A swindler thinks he can increase his income by cheating others, and he sells inferior quality products as grade-A merchandise at inflated prices, extolling the virtues of his goods. Profits soar and he has seemingly beat the system.
Rav Elchonan Wasserman explained that this is all an illusion. A person cannot “grab” money that is not rightfully his. Hashem will merely deduct this income from somewhere else, or send him expenses or problems that were not previously coming to him.
A person who has complete faith in the Almighty does not need to overcharge to earn a living. He recognizes that all of his income comes from Above, and whatever is meant for him can come via honest means. This is the reason the Torah writes “and you shall fear Hashem” in conjunction with the prohibition of onah.

Temporary Residents

“for the land belongs to Me...” (25:23)
The Torah teaches us that we cannot sell any segment of Eretz Yisrael forever, since the land belongs to Hashem. During the Shemittah year, we internalize this fundamental principle that everything really belongs to the Almighty. He is merely letting us borrow it on a temporary basis.
Baron Rothschld, the wealthy businessman and philanthropist, once visited Yerushalayim to seek out whomever was the greatest Torah scholar of his time. After numerous inquiries, the unanimous response he received was that the great gaon Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin was the rov he was looking for. Baron Rothschild asked to be taken to meet with him.
Rav Yehoshua Leib lived in cramped quarters in a small apartment, which had a window overlooking the site of the destroyed Bais Hamikdash. From time to time, he would look out the window and burst into tears upon seeing the ruins of the Bais Hamikdash. During his twenty years living in Yerushalayim, he never once visited the Kosel, lest he faint from the anguish of this painful experience.
Baron Rothschild stared in shock at the austere residence of this world renowned rov, and eventually, he asked what he apparently had been thinking since his arrival: “I heard that you are the greatest talmid chochom in Klal Yisrael. How come you live in such a tiny apartment?”
Rav Yehoshua Leib replied, “What you hear, that I am a great Torah scholar, is not true. In truth, I know very little. However, I can testify that everything that I know is because I live simply. If I were to live in lavish quarters, I would have achieved nothing.”
Baron Rothschild was taken aback by the striking sincerity of Rav Yehoshua Leib.
From here we see that a person must constantly remember his true status in this world. A person who renders himself a permanent resident in this world will have difficulty acquiring a place in the next. Only someone who chooses to be a temporary resident here can reach exalted heights in spiritual matters.
By keeping in mind how short our lives re, we can remember that Hashem is in control of everything. When the Vilna Gaon was alive, his daughter passed away at a young age. He eulogized her quoting the posuk in Mishlei which states, “There are those who are swept away before their time.” Sometimes Hashem brings neshamos down to this world for a temporary visit, in order to return them back to Shomayim in a special place set aside for these precious souls.

Definite Returns

The Torah also lists the prohibition of ribbis (lending money with interest) together with Shemittah. Since the central idea of this parsha is complete trust in Hashem, ribbis should also express this theme. How do we see this?
Every business undertaking involves some level of risk, for even a “sure” investment could potentially turn sour and cause a person to lose his money. This risk factor forces a person to recognize that Hashem is the true Source of all wealth, and makes sure that he will not make the mistake of thinking that his profits come from his wise investment tactics.
The Kli Yakar points out the exception to this principle, the area where such a “risk factor” is almost never in play: taking interest from a Jew. Making a deal to lend money to another honest Jew with interest would seem to provide a sure way for a person to get high returns. This choice of investment, therefore, threatens a Jew’s trust in Hashem, and as such, the Torah prohibits it.
In truth, we cannot really fathom the full depth of the reasons behind Hashem’s mitzvos. At best, w can get a small taste of some of the deep, philosophical underpinnings behind each commandment, and if we desire and venture to understand them as best we can, this can be enough to provide us with inspiration to fulfill the mitzvos properly.
Parshas Behar teaches us that the underlying principle that helps us to fulfill all of the mitzvos is bitachon as it expresses itself in the mitzvos of Shemittah, onah and ribbis. Complete belief in Hashem enables us to accept that every aspect of the mitzvos is Divine and that in His infinite wisdom, He gave them to us so we can perfect ourselves. Once we have internalized this message, we are ready for the complete Kabbolas HaTorah that takes pace on the Yom Tov of Shavuos.
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jewish Education: Ensuring that our Children will Live a Life of Torah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Teaching through Example

“Speak to the Kohanim, the children of Aaron” (Vayikra 21:1)
Seemingly, the Torah is teaching us something obvious; we already know that Kohanim are the children of Aharon. What, then is the reason for this repetitive-sounding expression? Chazal explain that the pasuk means to tell us that a person should first teach himself how to act properly, for only after he has accomplished this can he effectively convey the message to his children.
Teaching through example is a fundamental principle in chinuch (education). Our children must see us acting according to the high moral and ethical standards that the Torah teaches. If they witness a living example of the beauty of the Torah’s ways, they will naturally follow in their path.
We see from the parshah of ben sorer u’moreh (the wayward son) just how far this principle extends. At an early age, the ben sorer u’moreh leads a life of complete debauchery, indulging in wine and meat. Rather than continue in his ways, the Torah commands us to kill him while he is still young, and not yet caught up in the web of transgression.
“His father and mother shall grab him and take him to Beis Din”. The Gemara in Sanhedrin tells us that we only apply the punishment of ben sorer u’moreh if both parents bring him to be judged. What is the deeper meaning behind this condition?
The Torah is teaching us the magnitude of teaching by example. If this child’s parents lived a life of marital harmony, exemplified by the fact that they were able to make a united decision as to what the best move is for the benefit of their son, then we can prosecute their children as a ben sorer u’moreh. Since their son saw a happy home and still chose to lead such a life, it is fitting to kill him at an early age.
However, if they do not appear in Beis Din together, this is a sign that there was strife in the house. Since the child did not see the example of what a Jewish home should look like, we can no longer fault the son for his deviant behavior. In this case, the Torah absolves the son from punishment.

The Joy of Jewish Life

Rav Moshe Feinstein commented that the downfall of Judaism in America in the early twentieth century was the expression, “It is difficult to be a Jew.” When children heard that they said to themselves, “If it is so difficult, what do I need it for?” They dropped their Torah lifestyles and chose alternate paths.
If a child experiences the joy of being Jewish, he will not feel the difficulty at all. A mountain climber attempting to scale Mount Everest does not think about how high it is. Even just anticipating the possibility of seeing the peak within his grasp inspires him to climb farther.
So too, a Jewish child who has been educated to always strive higher in his Torah observance will feel the exhilaration of being Jewish. Every mitzvah that he performs will instill in him a greater desire to do more. This feeling will provide him with the inner strength to overcome any obstacle that stands in his way.
Every Jewish home should strive to be a bastion of Torah and Chesed. Divre Torah and zemiros at the Shabbos table, together with guests, help create a live image of how a Jewish home should look. Establishing such living examples in the home is the biggest chesed parents can do for their children.


Even if parents act with exemplary behavior at home, this is not sufficient to insure that their children will remain righteous. While what they see in the home is crucial, we must make sure to give them a proper Jewish education that strengthens the ideas that they see. This provides them with a further example of how a Jew should live his life.
Recently, 70 parents from the city of Emanuel in Israel got together and started their own school of religious education for their daughters. The government felt threatened by these ambitious families, and arrested them for their behavior. They are currently standing trial for their actions.
This display of mesirus nefesh illustrates how far we must go to make sure that our children receive proper chinuch. We cannot be satisfied simply assuming that whatever “the system” offers is necessarily the best. A concerned parent must make every effort to ensure that his children receive the best Jewish education possible.

Sitting on the Fence

“You shall be holy to the Almighty, and you shall not profane His name” (Vayikra 21:6)
The Torah provides us with an ultimatum. A person can choose one or two paths – either a life of kedushah, holiness or a life of tumah and profanity. There is no option of sitting on the fence.
The Chazon Ish was once asked what he found problematic about the Mizrachi movement. After all, they were guiding people who did not feel that they were able to live a life of complete immersion in Torah and mitzvos; what was wrong with providing a channel for such people?
The Chazon Ish replied that each person must strive to reach the greatest possible that he is capable of. There is no such thing as a legitimate movement that professes that the correct path is to remain mediocre. Such an outlook threatens the entire fabric of the Jewish people.
The Gaon and Tzadik Rav Baruch Ber, the Rosh Yeshivah of Kaminetz once commented, My father wanted me to become Rav Akiva Eiger, and therefore I became Rav Baruch Ber. Had he been satisfied that I should be Baruch Ber, I would have gotten nowhere.”
Hashem wants us to be a holy nation. Keeping the Torah superficially is not sufficient. A person must follow the guidelines set down by the rabbanim of each generation. This will ensure that he will observe Torah properly.
Individuals who make a philosophy out of trying to live averagely will not be able to tolerate the guidelines that the Gedolim (great rabbis) lay down of how one should live a Torah life. Such individuals generally start by ignoring what they say, and eventually come to mock their words. Under the banner of fighting extremism these people end up waging war on the Gedolim.
All of the hidurim that Klal Yisrael have accepted upon themselves in halacha have preserved the Jewish people throughout the generations. Gedolei Yisrael have said that if our ancestors had kept just the basic halacha, we would not be keeping halacha properly today. May we be zoche to continue in that tradition, allowing our descendants the ability to keep Torah in the future.