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, November 26, 2010

Decision Making

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Holding up the Heavens

Yaakov falls asleep at the future sight of the Beis Hamikdosh. While he is sleeping, he is shown a ladder that rests on the ground but extends up tot the heavens. What was the deeper meaning of this revelation?
Even while a Jew has his feet on the ground, his actions have a ripple effect in the heavens. Every mitzvah that he does during his lifetime has a major affect o the upper worlds. Every Jew is, in essence, a ladder connecting this world to the next.
Yaakov faced constant challenges throughout his lifetime. The choice in these decisions affected not only himself, but the rest of the Jewish people as well. Yaakov successfully navigated these tests, and, as a result, he became the prototype “ladder” connecting this world to the heavens.
Yaakov’s decisions involved education, livelihood, marriage, and a number of other critical choices. These issues are just as important today, and the ability to choose correctly has major repercussions on the life of every Jew. Let us analyze Yaakov’s choices and see if we can apply his decision-making skills to our own lives.

Jewish Education

When Yaakov Avinu set off to Lavan’s home, he had ample funds to help him find a wife and start to build a home. However, on the way, Yaakov encountered Eisav’s son, Elifaz, whom Eisav had sent to kill Yaakov and only by relinquishing all of his money was he able to escape death. Yaakov Avinu understood that, as a result of this, he would now need to work to marry Rochel and Leah.
Yaakov knew that the time at Lavan’s would be fraught with difficult challenges and that before undertaking this endeavor, he would have to raise himself up spiritually. Therefore, before setting out to complete his journey, Yaakov went to learn in the yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver. Only after fourteen yeas of study there did he consider himself ready to deal with the crooked ways of Lavan.
Chazal tell us that during the fourteen years that Yaakov spent in yeshiva, he did not even once go to sleep. Yaakov surely slept, for it s impossible for a person to go more than three days without sleep. What this means, then, is that Yaakov did not deliberately go to sleep, but rather whenever he had no strength left, he collapsed in exhaustion. He was so driven that he did not ever choose to rest from his focused spiritual regimen.
Yaakov’s actions should set a precedent for deciding how to educate our families today. If our children want to enter a career in business, we might think that the most logical way to go about this is to get their work credentials as quickly as possible. We might be tempted to send them to business school at a young age.
From Yaakov we see that this is a mistake. Especially today, the business world is fraught with challenges both in halachah and haskafah. Someone who does not have a solid Torah education under his belt has little chance of overcoming these obstacles.

Appropriating Funds

Hashem gives each of us the money we require for our daily needs. We may feel that our funds are strained and that after all of our expenses have been taken care of, there is no money left for tzedakah. How can we make sure that we will fulfill this mitzvah properly?
“From all that I am given, I will tithe and give to You” (Genesis 28:22). Recognizing that a tenth of our money already belongs to Hashem, we will facilitate the decision to give it away. We are partners with the Alm-ghty in deciding who receives these funds.
We can compare giving maser to produce in Eretz Yisrael, which is forbidden to eat until one separates maser. We should keep in mind that money that has not been tithed, has the same status, and before giving tzedakah, we do not have permission to benefit from it. This recognition will make the decision to give tzedakah easier.
Just as there is an obligation to maser one’s money, there is a mitzvah to give a tenth of one’s time to the needs of the Jewish people. When Rav Sternbuch was a bochur, his Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shneider would make every student dedicate at least two hours a week to teaching other students. Rav Shneider called this avodas hakodesh, holy work, for this taught the talmidim the importance of giving oneself over to Klal Yisrael.
A person might think that if he gives up his time, he will lose out from his personal growth. The truth is just the opposite. Rav Shneider related that he say many bochurim whose success came as a direct result of their helping other, weaker students.

Underneath the Beauty

The Torah describes Rochel as “beautiful in face and form” (28:18) Shlomo Hamelech tells us “Beauty is false and charm is fleeting” and, seemingly, these factors would not be Yaakov’s first consideration when choosing a wife. Why does the Torah need to tell us about Roche’s appearance?
The Zohar explains that there are six parts of a person’s body that reveal the truth about a person’s personality. A person’s hair, forehead, face, eyes, lips and palms all contain signs of his spiritual level (Zohar, Yisro 78a). The Arizal was fluent in all six; people feared to stand before him lest he discover the truth about them.
If this was true about the Arizal it certainly applied to Yaakov Avinu. Rochel’s outer grace and charm was a sign of her true inner beauty. Yaakov immediately discerned this and was able to use this understanding to decide to marry her.

Making Sense

One would think that as soon as Yaakov Avinu received direct instructions from Hashem to leave Lavan’s, he would relay this information straight to Rochel and Leah. Yet, we find that Yaakov Avinu went through great effort to explain to his wives why leaving Eretz Yisrael was the most practically sound course of action. Why didn’t he just tell them that Hashem had commanded them to leave?
We can understand Yaakov Avniun’s actions basedon what the Rambam writes in Shemonah Perakijm. The Rambam explains that intellectual understanding is a higher level than only accepting something as a Divine command. Rational acceptance of something as the best course of action motivates a person to focus all of his energy toward carrying it out after this recognition has been reached.
A very gifted bochur once went to the Chazon Ish with the following question: He had been offered a shidduch from a very wealthy family of distinguished lineage. The girl was looking for a boy would learn for a few years and then go to work.
The bochur, on the other hand, was interested in dedicating himself for many years to becoming a talmid chochom. After some thought, the girl agreed to make the sacrifice and to agree to the boy’s conditions. The bochur asked the Chazon Ish if he should go ahead with the shidduch.
The Chazon Ish replied in the negative. If this girl felt that notwithstanding their financial stability she had to sacrifice by being married to a talmid chochom, she would not be able to give herself over for his learning. Only a girl who understood that it was a privilege to marry such a bochur would be able to compliment him in what he was doing.
The Chazon Ish added that a ben Torah should look for a wife who recognizes the great honor and privilege it is to be married to a real talmid chochom. A girl who recognizes this will cherish every minute that she has the opportunity to be part of such a relationship and will not even think of the practical difficulties this entails. Someone who looks at marrying a ben Torah as a sacrifice might easily become discouraged.
The boy heeded the Chazon Ish’s advice and broke off the shidduch. Instead he married a girl from a simpler, less wealthy family. With the help of his dedicated wife, today this bochur is a prominent talmid chochom in Eretz Yisrael.

Changing Angels

Wherever Yaakov traveled, he was accompanied by malachim. As he entered Eretz Yisrael, the angels who had been with him until then departed, and they were replaced by the malachim of Eretz Yisrael. Why was there a need for this changing of the guards?
The level of holiness that exists in Eretz Yisrael is much higher than that of any other place in the world. In order to maintain free choice, the yeitzer harah battles much more fiercely to cause the Jew in Eretz Yisrael to fall. Yaakov received special angels so that he would have extra help to make the difficult decisions that living in Eretz Yisrael requires us to face.
As we enter the final period before the coming of Moshiach, Amaleik is mustering up all of its strength to prevent the final revelation from taking place. A week does not pass during which the Israeli government or some other arm of Amaleik does not institute some new plan to remove any trace of Torah from the Jewish people. The tests that we are given and the decisions that we are forced to make are becoming more and more subtle.
Jews living inside and outside of Eretz Yisrael must make every effort to insure that Amaleik does not topple Torah in the Holy Land. Whatever this entails, we have difficult choices ahead of us to show that we are in truth, affiliated with Hashem and not Amaleik. During these days before Moshiach, we must turn our hearts toward the heavens and ask for Divine assistance to make the decisions that will bring the final redemption quickly.