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.
Friday, June 25, 2010

Duplicity: Korach as the Prototype of Machlokes Shelo L’Sheim Shomayim

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Portraying Good Intentions

The Mishnah in Pirkey Avos lists the dispute of Korach and Moshe Rabbeinu as the classic example of a machlokes that is not l’sheim Shomayim. At first glance, nothing could seem farther from the truth. Korach came with eloquent claims that every member of the Jewish people is holy, and outwardly appeared extremely l’sheim Shomayim.
Herein lies the deeper meaning of the Mishna. Although Korach was motivated by a desire for honor, he portrayed sincere and pure intentions. Because Korach looked like he was acting l’sheim Shomayim, his argument was more convincing than those of most resha’im, and this made him far more dangerous than others.
Korach argued that the entire congregation is holy and Hashem is betocham, amongst them. “Betocham” implied that every Jew’s heart was imbued with the Divine spirit and this elevated every Jew to the highest level. In light of the great kedushah that every Jew had, they did not need Moshe Rabbeinu to be the leader of Klal Yisrael. In more recent history, we find that the renowned Zionist Theodore Herzl used similar tactics. Herzl was a masterful speaker, and although his true agenda was to abolish any trace of Torah from the Jewish people, in his speeches would stress the need to return to Eretz Yisrael. By latching on to such a holy concept as returning to Israel, Herzl made himself appear as if he were truly interested solely in the welfare and the strengthening of the Jewish community.
Many prominent rabbonim were taken in by Herzl’s persuasive speeches and felt that, under his leadership, salvation was possible. Rav Chaim Brisker, however, stood up against him and revealed that his great sincerity was actually the greatest danger that the Jewish people of that time faced. People would flock after his idealism only to find themselves pulled away from the Torah.
After the formation of the state of Israel, Herzl’s true ideologies were revealed. It was clear that the primary motivating factor behind setting up the state was to eliminate torah Judaism from Klal Yisrael. The Brisker Rov commented, “It took people seventy years to understand what my father meant.

The Danger of Keeping Quiet

Althogh Korach died still holding on to his erroneous ideologies, his children repented right before their death sentence was Divinely administered. They were not held responsible for their father’s actions, and their teshuvah was accepted. Chazal tell us that until this day, they have a special corner in Gehennom where they sing, “Moshe Emes VeToraso Emes” (Moshe is true and the Torah is true).
Seemingly, the teshuvah that Korach’s children did right before they died should have been sufficient for them to merit Gan Eden. If they sincerely repented, why did they have to go to Gehennom? What is the deeper meaning of their singing shirah (song) in the midst of Gehennom?
In truth, Korach’s children recognized the false nature of their father’s arguments much earlier. They should have protested their father’s actions before he was swallowed up into the earth. Because they remained quiet and did not take action against their father’s insidious deeds, they could not be included in the reward of the rest of the Jewish people in Gan Eden.
Right before they were swallowed into the earth, Korach’s children were able to act on their recognition of their father’s ways. Since they did teshuvah right before they died, they were not included in the harsh punishment of Korach and the rest of their followers. Instead, they received a middle ground, existing in Gehennom but singing the praises of the Torah.

Just Like Amaleik

How far-reaching was Korach’s evil nature? The Ba’al HaTurim reveals Korach’s ideology was similar to that of Amaleik. The initial comparison seems difficult to comprehend, as the Torah considers Amaleik evil incarnate.
Amaleik’s evil was not limited to their transgressions, but was inherent in their very nature. They all saw the miracles that Hashem performed, and yet they still planned a rebellion against the Almighty. Their readiness to battle G-d after seeing His strength displayed their extreme chutzpah, sheer brazenness, in the face of witnessing truth.
Korach took part and witnessed all of the miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people when leaving Mitzrayim. This did not deter him from going ahead with his rebellion against Moshe Rabbeinu, who was personally appointed by the Almighty to lead the Jewish people. Korach’s actions also showed great chutzpah, and therefore his actions can legitimately be compared to those of Amaleik.

Inner Beauty

After the incident of Korach, we find that, once again, the leadership of the Jewish people was challenged when part of Klal Yisrael complained and instigated the argument of whether Aharon was really worthy to direct the Jewish people. Aharon was a complete tzaddik who went quietly in the ways of Hashem and did not have the flamboyance of Korach.
Hashem commanded to take the staffs of each of the roshei shevatim (head of the tribes) including that of Aharon to represent Levi and to write each leader’s name on his staff. Then, the staff of the individuals who was fitting to lead the Jewish people would sprout flowers. What was it about this act that proved Aharon was in fact, worthy to guide Klal Ysirael?
While Aharon might not have shared Korach’s charisma – a quality that many people deem essential to good leadership – he was a complete tzaddik, which is, objectively, far more important. The proof of his righteousness was in his actions, which were the external manifestation of his exalted level. Hashem showed and attested to Aharon’s inner beauty when He caused his staff to sprout elegant flowers.
Hashem demonstrated that even though Aharon was quiet in his ways this did not inhibit what he was able to accomplish. The fruit and flowers that sprouted from his staff showed just the opposite – the quiet tzaddik who does not expend himself on boisterous statements and behavior can save his energy for mitzvos.
The Vilna Gaon writes that in the final generations before Moshiach, the leaders of the Jewish people will be from the eirev rav (mixed multitudes). In today’s world, where sheker (lies) are rampant, we must be ever so careful of Jewish leaders who act flamboyantly, but whose actins are motivated by wrong intentions. Hashem should protect us from such charlatans, and help us to recognize who the true gedolim of the Jewish people are.