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 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.