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, 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.