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.
Sunday, July 25, 2010

War Tactics: Fighting Midyan Teaches Us How to Wage Modern Day Battles

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Disguised Plans

In the parsha of the war with Midyan, we find a most unusual situation. Bilam, who was a Midyanite, advised Moav to send women to entice the Jewish people toward immorality,, and many of the men of Klal Yisrael were unable to stand up to his test. One would expect that the Moavites, who were the ones who committed this transgression, would be punished severely.
Instead of waging war with Moav, the Torah commands Klal Yisrael to destroy the nation of Midyan – men, women, and children. Only the females who were too young to engage in immorality were spared from punishment. Why did Midyan receive this harsh punishment, while Moav did not receive nearly anything as serious?
Bilam, who advised Moav to cause the Jewish people to sin, was the mastermind of the nation of Midyan. Instead of using his brilliance to better his people, he put all his effort into trying to destroy Klal Yisrael. As the ruler of Midyan, Bilam’s actions were representative of his whole nation, so they, too, were punished for their leader’s sins.
While Moav committed the actual transgression, Midyan’s actions were, in some respects, worse. By hiding themselves behind the mask of Moav, Midyan made themselves look clean. These are the most dangerous types of enemies, for without careful scrutiny, they cannot be recognized.
Such hidden enemies pose a great threat for innocent Jews who are not sufficiently cunning to uncover the real motivations behind these people’s actions. Before a person realizes what happened, he can get pulled in by seemingly pure intentions, until the victim’s spiritual life has been completely ruined. It is for this reason that Hashem commanded us to completely annihilate the nation of Midyan.

Wearing Tefillin

How does one fight such a cleverly disguised opponent? Since this was a spiritual battle, Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu to find tzaddikim to wage war with Midyan. Otherwise, there would be a claim against the soldiers that since they themselves were not spiritually strong, how could they consider engaging in such a battle?
The Medrash in Ssir Hashirim (4:5) states that Moshe Rabbeinu was told to look for tzadikkim who always put on their arm tefillin before the head tefillin. Seemingly, there are many other mitzvos with much greater merit. Why was this particular one chosen as the litmus test for selecting appropriate soldiers?
Tefillin on the arm represent a person’s actions, while those on the head symbolize his thoughts and levels of comprehension. Some people’s deeds are limited by their level of understanding, and they cannot act if they do not have a complete grasp of a situation. Since the Torah is infinitely deep and it is impossible to arrive at a complete understanding, such individuals are severely handicapped in how much they can accomplish.
While tzaddikim also strive for a deep understand, they act even when they have not achieved total comprehension. They faithfully perform Hashem’s commandments even if they remain with unanswered questions. This was the level of the Jewish people at Har Sinai, when they said, “Na’aseh venishmah” – we will first do and only afterward will we fathom the depths of the commandments.
Putting on one’s head tefillin before that of the hand symbolizes the exalted level of “na’aseh venishmah.” When a tzaddik dons his arm tefillin before the head tefillin, he shows that his actions come first and they will not be interrupted because of intellectual disturbances. A simple action becomes a sign of deep commitment to one’s Creator.
In the war with Midyan, Klal Yisrael was commanded to kill nearly the entire nation, each of the men, women and children. The human mind cannot readily comprehend why innocent children have to be slaughtered because of the actions of their parents. Such thinking could cause one to hesitate in fulfillment of the Divine command.
Hashem wanted to completely uproot any trace of the evil that was so deeply rooted in the nation of Midyan. This is why He instructed us to wipe out every single one of them, barring very young females. Only a tzaddik who was not bothered by the outwardly moral and intellectual dilemma of such instructions could properly fulfill such a commandment.

Purging Evil

“As high as the heavens are from the earth, so too, is the distance between human comprehension and Divine wisdom.” Hashem recognizes the true most depths of every situation, including any evil inherent within it. For this reason, He ordered the complete destruction of Midyan and did not give this command in the fight against Sichon and Og.
In this light, we can understand the deeper meaning of that which the Torah instructs in this parsha regarding the mitzvah of hecsher keilim, removing non-kosher taste from utensils by boiling or firing them. The elements of issur (forbiddeness) within these items are invisible. We might not even know that they were there at all had the Torah not revealed this spiritual reality to us.
After committing such transgression of immortality intermingled with the nation of Moav, it is inconceivable that no trace of impurity would remain. Only a deep-rooted spiritual purge is capable of removing the traces of evil left behind. The Torah symbolizes this need by including the mitzvah of hagalas kelim in the parsha.

Hakoras HaTov

Moshe Rabbeinu sent PInchos to lead the battle against Midyan. Why didn’t he take on the responsibility himself? The Medrash explains that since Moshe Rabbeinu grew up in Midyan, he was afraid that his sense of gratitude would cause him to be merciful to his enemy.
Pinchos, on the other hand, had no previous connections to Midyan. By killing Zimri and Cozbi, he already proved himself worthy of fighting the battle against Midyan without taking any other factors into account. Moshe Rabbeinu was sure that he would wage this war with all of his heart.
Moshe Rabbeinu’s behavior proves his elevated level of spiritual sensitivity. He stepped down from his position of leadership fearing that he was incapable of complying one hundred percent with Hashem’s command. His decision showed that he was completely lesheim Shomayim in everything that he did.
Although this battle ended with Midyan’s defeat, the Jewish people continue to fight people who hide their true intentions. At times, they can be found within our own camp, and if we are not careful, we will be drawn in by their seemingly good intentions and follow in their ways. It takes great cunning and spiritual sensitivity to recognize who these dangerous people are and to determine how we can come out victorious in this battle without compromising our own spiritual growth.