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, October 29, 2010

Sarah’s Deeds

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Ladies First

“And Avrohom pitched his tent...” (Bereishis 12:8)
Rashi notes that although the Torah writes ohalo, his tent, we read ohala, her tent. Avrohom made sure to pitch Sarah’s tent before his own. Was this just another example of Avohom’s Avinu’s attribute of chesed or is there something more fundamental we can learn from Avrohom’s actions?
Men have an important role in Klal Yisrael. They study and teach Torah and make sure to perpetuate the unbroken chain of Torah from generation to generation. Because of this privilege, men recite the blessing of “Shelo asani isha – Who did not make me a woman,” every morning.
Women have an equally important role in maintaining Klal Yisrael, for they provide the atmosphere, foundation and warmth of every Jewish home. While men pass down the content of Har Sinai by teaching Torah, a woman’s job is to pass down the experience of Torah to her family. Thus we find that when Hashem gave the Torah tot he Jewish people, He said “Say this to Bais Yaakov (females), and relate this to Bnei Yisrael (males),” mentioning the women before men.
While Avrohom influenced the men to come close to Hashem, Sarah dedicated herself to teaching women. Avrohom understood that when it comes to setting up a home, a woman’s role is primary. He expressed this by pitching Sarah’s tent first, allowing her to start influencing the women around her without delay.

The Fury of a Priest

We have previously discussed the bracha of Shelo asani isha – Who did not make me a woman. This bracha signifies the extra responsibility that men have vis-à-vis the mitzvah of Torah study. It in no way undermines the crucial role that women play in Jewish society.
In the same light, we can understand the blessing of “Shelo asani goy – Who did not make a member of the other nations of the world,” Chazal did not mean to belittle non-Jews, rather they wished to express thanks for the additional mitzvos that we have that the other nations were not given. We feel great joy for the privilege that we were chosen by the Almighty to keep His Torah and draw closer to the King.
Rav Sternbuch relates that a priest in England once got hold of an English translation of the siddur. When he saw the blessing of “Shelo asani goy – Who did not make me a member of the other nations of the world,” he was furious. The priest’s anger was ignited, and the Jewish community in England was in grave danger of the percussions of his fury.
Luckily, the rov in his neighborhood understood the real meaning of this bracha and explained it to the priest. When the priest heard that the Jewish people were thanking the Almighty for all of the additional restrictions and commandments placed on them, he was pacified. In fact after hearing how many of the pleasures that he indulged in were forbidden by the Torah, he said that he was thankful that he had not been made a Jew!

Remaining Pure

“...and you shall be bracha (Bereishis 12:2)”
The Torah attributes this attribute of bracha to Avrohom Avinu. Rabbeinu Bechaya explains that the word “bracha,” blessing, shares the same root as “bereichah,” a spring of water. A bereichah has the ability to purify those who are impure and who immerse themselves in it. So, too, Avrohom Avinu could purify others by bringing them closer to Hashem.
In addition to cleansing others, a spring has another property. Even if an impure item touches a bereichah, the water remains pure. Although Avrohom was involved with uplifting many different types of people, maintaining his own purity was essential.
Sarah was an equal partner in Avrohom’s work and was able to influence the women. While Avrohom was busy working in “frontline” kiruv, Sarah brought women to her tent and showed them the inner beauty of a Jewish home. By focusing on the unique roles that a man and a woman have in serving Hashem, they were able to bring many people under the wings of Divine service.
Avrohom’s and Sarah’s actions should be lessons to us and for all future generations. From Avrohom’s pitching of Sarah’s tent first, we should earn that women’s education should be given top priority, and that the continuation of Jewish homes centers on teaching our daughters. And from Avrohom’s and Sarah’s work in influencing other, we should be inspired to follow in their footsteps – but not at the expense of our spiritual or physical well-being; we should not let it get to the point of ragging ourselves down as a result.

An Evil Eye

“And Sarah afflicted her (Hagar), and she ran away” (Bereishis 15:8)
Soon after Hagar married Avrohom, she was already expecting a child. When Hagar saw how quickly she merited to conceive, while Sarah had been waiting so many years, she began to doubt Sarah’s righteousness. Eventually, Sarah ordered Avrohom to send Hagar away from their home.
Chazal tell us that Sarah also put an ayin harah, an evil eye, on Hagar, and that this caused her to have a miscarriage. Sarah was righteous and would not do anything out of spite or revenge. How can we understand the exchange between Sarah and Hagar?
In order to grasp this section of the Torah, we must first understand the deeper meaning of an evil eye. Ayin hara, comes when a person “sticks out” because of his misbehavior or misdeeds. Once this happens, others focus their eyes on him, and the sublime powers of the eyes have the ability to harm him.
As long as a person acts properly and keeps the Torah, ayin hara cannot have any effect. Only when someone deviates from the pleasant ways of Torah by acting in an ostentatious way or via some other transgression can the effects of ayin harah be felt. Hagar acted improperly, so she became the recipient of ayin harah.

Wedding Gowns

When a woman deviates from the modest ways of Sarah Imeinu and breaches the boundaries of tznius, she becomes especially susceptible to ayin harah. Rav Sternbuch related the follwoing incident to show some of the problems that such ayin harah can cause.
About sixty years ago, a wedding was planned in England. The guest began to arrive at the hall, but neither side of the family turned up. Everybody wondered what had happened to the chosson and kallah and their relatives.
Eventually it became clear that there was a fight between the families. Until this issue was resolved, the wedding could not take place. Only after much deliberation was the issue settled and the ceremony could go on.
What had happened? The mother of the kallah had traveled to Paris and spent 5,000 pounds sterling (at the time a small fortune) to purchase the most up-to-date and expensive dress available. She told all of her guests that on the eve of the wedding, she would be the center of the party with her top-of-the-line fashion.
Right before the wedding, she heard that the mother of the chosson had bought the same exact dress for less than half the price. She could not deal with the embarrassment that her very own machateinister (mother of the Chosson) would be wearing the same dress, after she had boasted to all of her friends about her dress. Luckily, the two of them were able to come to terms and the wedding could go on.
Although she may have meant well, this woman’s need to be the center of attention almost caused the cancellation of her daughter’s wedding! From Sarah we learn that the true beauty of a woman is her modesty. Trying to be the center of attention just invites ayin harah.
Sarah’s actions, involving kiruv, tnius and all of her other positive qualities, enabled her to be the matriarch of the Jewish people. In our generation, when Jews are so far from Torah and the world is so distanced from tznius, we should try to learn from Sarah’s refined conduct. If we do so, we will sanctify Hashem’s Name and spare ourselves and our families from ayin aharah and the potential damage and disasters that often come with it.