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.
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Acting out of Love

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

“Noach was perfect in His days...” (Bereishis 6:9). Some understand this as praise: certainly if Noach were in the generation of Avrohom Avinu, he would have been even greater. However, some understand that this statement is to Noach’s disrepute. Had Noach lived in the time of Avrohom Avinu, he would not have been considered anything. (Rashi)

Acts of Love

Rashi’s words are difficult for us to swallow. The Torah calls Noach a tzaddik (righteous) and he was single-handedly responsible for saving the entire world. How is it possible that such a righteous individual “would not have considered anything” in the times of Avrohom Avinu?
Although Noach believed in Hashem, it was only on an intellectual level. The proof is that even after 120 years of building the teivah (ark), once it actually started to rain, Noach did not want to go in. Only when there remained no other choice did he board.
Avrohom Avinu loved Hashem. He recognized his nothingness vis-à-vis the Almighty and he had no sense of his own separate self. His only desire was to get closer and closer to Hashem, and Hashem calls him “My beloved” (Yeshayah 41:8)
While an intellectual recognition of the Almighty is important, when a person’s back is to the wall, only strong feelings of love can pull one through. The Chossid Yaavetz writes that during the Spanish Inquisition, many of the Jewish philosophers renounced their religion under pressure. Only those who had a strong sense of inner faith held true to these values and were willing to sacrifice their own lives and those of their families for the sake of their beliefs.
Because Avrohom Avinu loved Hashem, he was able to stand up to all of the trials that Hashem sent him. Noach’s faith was only intellectual, so he was in constant danger of failing the challenges that he was up against, and only through consistent support from Hashem was he able to overcome these tests. For this reason, according to that opinion, Noach is considered nothing in comparison to Avrohom Avinu.

In Defense of the World

Chazal highlight another difference between Avrohom Avinu and Noach. The Zohar calls the flood “thee waters of Noach” because Noach did not daven to Hashem to stop the deluge. Avrohom Avinu, on the other hand, did not give up so easily and prayed even for the salvation of Sedom.
Avrohom Avinu understood that someone who loves Hashem loves His creations and will do whatever he can to help them. Every minute of Avrohom’s day was dedicated to this principle. He was always involved with chessed and helping others recognize Hashem’s kindness in the world.
In order to help Noach learn this crucial principle, Hashem put him in charge of every living creature in the world. Noach spent a whole year taking care of the people and animals in the teivah. In doing so, Hashem hoped that he would become more focused on the needs of others, thereby fixing the transgression of not having davened for the salvation of the world.
The Chovos Halevavos, in Shaar Ahavas Hashem, writes that someone who helps others gets a part in every mitzvah they perform. Therefore, the highest level a person can reach while in seclusion pales in comparison to what he can achieve when he is helping others. The Torah wants us to be actively involved with the world, not to behave like monks secluded in a monastery on a mountaintop.

Kiruv Rechokim

Why didn’t Noach take a more active role in trying to bring the world to rep
entance? In his commentary on Rashi, the Mizrachi explains that Noach feared that the evil people around him would influence him negatively. He preferred to remain secluded rather than risk the chances of being drawn after them.
Avrohom Avinu, on the other hand, was not afraid that his convictions would be weakened by others. He influenced the entire world to recognize the Almighty, while his own belief remained steadfast. This, too, came from the intense love that he had for Hashem.
The lessons we take from Noach and Avrohom Avinu are crucial for us today. Although kiruv rechokim (teaching non-religious Jews about their priceless heritage) is an important mitzvah, one must be wary of the outside influences that could pull a person away from Torah. Only a firm connection to Torah and a strong love of Hashem can save a person from these dangers.

Into the Fire

Avrohom Avinu’s love of Hashem was so strong that he held steadfast to his beliefs even in the face of opposition from the entire rest of the world. Nimrod threatened to throw him into a furnace if he did not renounce his beliefs in Hashem, and when Avrohom refused, Nimrod tried to kill him. The Almighty miraculously saved him.
Chazal tell us that Avrohom Avinu endured ten tests of his faith. Surprisingly, while the Torah goes on at great length speaking about the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac), this test, wherein he put his very life on the line, is not listed as one of the them. One would think that the willingness to sacrifice his life would be on par with the Akeidah.
In truth to give up one’s own life may not be an act of greatness. A person may be motivated by a momentary spur of religious passion, without considering the broader ramifications of his act. Even in our days, we see that Arabs are willing to die en masse for the “holy cause” of reclaiming the Land of Israel.
On the other hand, sacrificing Yitzchok meant contradicting everything that Avrohom had espoused until now. He was the lone voice at the time who spoke out publicly against human sacrifice – and now it would appear to the world as if he is giving in and doing just that, completely undermining any impact he may have made with his previous protests.
Furthermore, by killing Yitzchok, Avrohom would be destroying the only hope that he had to continue his teachings, especially since Hashem Himself, promised that it was through Yitzchok, and Yitzchok alone, that his lineage would be perpetuated. Even though Avrohom could not intellectually reconcile the chasm and seeming contradiction between Hashem’s promise and His current instructions, he enthusiastically went ahead to fulfill what he had been asked. This was a true act of love, and much greater than giving up his own life.

Floods of Fire

Hashem promises us that He will never bring another deluge of water onto the entire world. The Medrash states that although the world will never again be destroyed by water, it will be engulfed with fire. This refers to the apikorsis (heresy) that will exist in the days prior to the coming of Moshiach.
In current times, we see more and more that we are standing in the times that the Medrash describes. This past week, a professor who works with the Israeli Ministry suggested that the description of the creation of the world as it appears face value in Parshas Bereshis might, in fact be the true account of how the world was created. This means that all of the current science textbooks are inaccurate.
The professor’s statement caused such a huge uproar amongst the Israeli intelligentsia that it disrupted learning in the Hebrew University. Finally, the head of the university wrote a letter to the Minister of Education to fire this professor. His request was accepted, and he was removed from his position.
We can compare last week’s events to that which we find by Haman, who initiated the destruction of all of the Jewish people because Mordechai would not bow down to him .Why id he get so upset because of a simple statement from one person? What difference does it make if one person disagrees with their world outlook?
The answer is that the truth hurts. These people would rather believe that their ancestors were monkeys that that they were created by the Hands of the Almighty and that they are obligated to listen to what He says. Therefore, even the smallest notion that they were intentionally created causes them great vexation.

Coming Close to the End

On every day of Sukkos, we recite Hoshanos during Shacharis. In one of the Hoshanos, we mention, “Three hours, Hoshanah.” What does this phrase refer to?
Rav Yeshoua Leib Diskin explains that all of the history of the world is likened to a short time periosd. As we approach the coming of Moshiach, the final day is drawing to a close. During this period, the world fills up with apikorsis, and it is more difficult to see Hashem’s Presence in the world.
We are currently in the last three hours of the final day. The world is filled with people denying Hashem’s existence, and the darkness is growing stronger daily. Only by following Avrohom Avinu’s example and developing a strong sense of inner love for the Almighty will we have a chance of remaining strong in the this time of darkness.