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.
View my complete profile


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, June 17, 2010

Change - No You Can't

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

The Dangers of Deviation

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to Aharon, and say to him, “When you light the menorah...’ And Aharon did so...” (Bamidbar 8:1-2)
In the parsha of Beha’loscha, Hashem commands Aharon regarding the mitzvah of lighting the menorah. The Torah writes that “Aharon did so” to confirm that he did what he was told. Rashi explains that it was to Aharon’s great praise that he did not change any of the instructions regarding how to make the menorah.
Rashi’s words are difficult to understand. Obviously, someone who has heard a direct command from the almighty will do exactly as he was told. Why was it such great praise to Aharon that he didn’t change anything in this actualization of what he’d been told?
There was no question that Aharon would follow Hashem’s commands to a tee. However, Aharon could have simultaneously added his own creative nuances to the mitzvah. Because of his complete reliance on Hashem and unwillingness to deviate an iota, Aharon was lauded.
Shlomo Hamelech tells us in Mishlei, “Ner mitzvah veTorah ohr, “the light of the menorah represents Torah and mitzvos of lighting the menorah is a lesson for all generations in how meticulous we must be regarding Torah and mitzvos. Any change could be the start of the downfall that can plunge us into complete disaster.
One good example is chinuch. Modern-day psychologists claim that a child does not have to listen to everything his parents say, that boys and girls should be educated together, and that women should dress in whatever manner they see fit, even if it contradicts tznius (modesty), among many other innovations contradictory to the Torah. We must learn from Moshe and Aharon that when it comes to Hashem’s commandments, there is no room for “innovations.”

Personality Constants

We can understand the praise of Aharon in another light as well. Originally, Aharon felt dejected that the nesi’im were all give special tasks while the seemingly had nothing. The Almighty quickly comforted him telling him that he would be assigned a much greater job, the lighting of the menorah.
Even after Aharon found out about his exalted position, his personality did not change. He still retained his humility, despite the great honor he received. This is another aspect of what Chazal meant in saying that he did not change.
Gedolei Yisrael receive great honor, yet they maintain their humility. Despite all of the kavod they receive, they think that they are not worthy of it. If someone tries to honor them, they flee from it.
Rav Akiva Eiger was once traveling to a certain town, and when he arrived, thousands of people came out to greet him. He had absolutely no idea why they were there. When they started walking after him, he traveled with them, thinking that it must be a levaya (a burial).
Eventually, after they had walked for a while, Rav Akiva Eiger asked who passed away. When the people responded that they were following the rav, he was shocked from disbelief and could not believe that this was the reason for the great crowd.
Even when they ascend to greatness, gedolei Yisrael maintain their humility and do not change their personalities at all.
Some people might appear to shirk all honor, but, in truth, this is not an expression of humility. They feel that they are so great that no one can possibly honor them properly. This type of person is like Bilaam, who said that even a house full of gold would not be sufficient to compensate him.
Moshe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, told Hashem, “Anybody else is more worthy to save the Jewish people than I.” Although he recognized his greatness, Moshe felt that since he was given his elevated status as a gift, he did not deserve any recognition. This is the outlook of all gedolei Ysirael, who do not consider themselves worthy of any honor.

In a Class by Themselves

After Klal Yisrael transgressed with the Eigel (sin of the Golden Calf), Hashem appointed the Leviim to do the avodah in place of bechoros, for they had sinned. One would think that hte Leviim would receive great honor during their inauguration, and that this would be a ceremony accompanied by great pomp and fanfare. After all, they were assuming a role of great importance amongst the Jewish people.
Instead, the Torah seems to go to the opposite extreme: Hashem commanded the Leviim to be shaved from head to toe. Seemingly, there could be no greater embarrassment for a person. Why did Hashem choose to start their careers as Leviim in such a dishonorable fashion?
We find another source in the Torah for such humiliating treatment: The metzorah, who was punished for his constant slander, was also shaved in their entirety and sent out of mechaneh Yisrael (the camp of Israel). These acts of social disgrace were meant to drive home the severity of the metzorah’s transgression, shooing how he had distanced himself from his fellow Jews, and thus teach him to guard his tongue from lashon hara.
Leviim were tzaddikim and did not require this treatment as a punishment, but there was a crucial concept that Hashem wished to teach tem. Shaving them from head to toe would imbue them with this concept. What is it that the Almighty wanted them to learn from that?
Shevet Levi was separated from the rest of the Jewish people to be the special servants of Hashem. In order to fulfill this role, the Almighty commanded the rest of Klal Yisrael to take care of the financial needs of all the Leviim through terumah, maaser, reishis hagez, and all of the other gifts they received. The nature of this relationship could easily cause others to look at the Leviim as shnorers (beggars), and even lead others to disgrace them.
Preparation always helps a person deal with nisyonos (trials) that Hashem sends him. In order to get the Leviim ready for the potential disgrace that they might encounter, Hashem commanded that their bodies should be shaved in their entirety. Inevitably, they would feel separation from other Jews, and this would ready them for future incidents.
Bnei Torah who wish to spend a number of years of their lives devoted to learning Torah might find themselves in a similar situation. Often, the only way that they can manage financially is to accept hlep from others. This could easily bring them to a feeling of slight and dishonor.
Hashem taught the Leviim that the disgrace they might encounter was worthwhile in order to maintain their exalted role. So too, Bnei Torah who devote their time to limud haTorah (learning Torah) should recognize that any embarrassment they might encounter is well worth it for the reward that lies in store for them in this world and the next. This is a crucial thought for lomdei Torah and tomchei Torah (ones who donate money to help people sit and learn Torah) alike.