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.