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, December 17, 2010

Behind the Fire

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Reacting to Tragedies

During the life of the Chofetz Chaim, a great tragedy took place in Europe. The Chofetz Chaim wanted to declare a day of fasting and prayer, and he called on the great gaon, Rav Chaim Brisker, to support this undertaking. However, Rav Chaim explained that the call of the Chofetz Chaim was too early.
Rav Chaim said that in order to properly rectify this issue, we must first identify the source of the problem. After we have discovered why we are receiving such harsh Divine punishment, then we can try to fix the problem. Only after the issues have been dealt with is a day of fasting and prayer appropriate.
This past weekend, a fire raged through Haifa. Many were killed, more injured, and the amount of overall damage that was caused rendered the catastrophe even greater. Let us look into what took place now, along with how it fits in with other events of the past two years, and try to understand the deeper message that Hashem is relaying to us.

The Only Source of Power

Perhaps the biggest chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name) in the modern wourld is the gaavah, the haughtiness, that exists in Israel. During Israel’s short history, the country has fought and won many wars, each one accompanied by open miracles. Yet, each time, almost all of the leaders of the government and army denied Divine involvement and gave full credit to their own expertise.
Two years ago, the Israeli army went into Gaza, with the goal of knocking out the infrastructure of Hamas and thus helping stop the bombings and terror. Although open miracles took place during this time and there were few casualties, Barak and other government officials denied that their victory was in any way connected to Hashem. Once again, they flexed their gaavah and credited their success to their own military prowess.
For the past two years, there has been relative quiet, and Hashem has given us some time to forget about what took place in Gaza. However, the fire this past weekend seems to have been a direct shot at the Israeli gaavah. Israel was forced into a position where they had to admit that they have no control and that everything is in the Hands of the Almighty.
This fire was so bad that Israeli equipment and know-how were not sufficient to extinguish it. AS a result, Turkey had to be called upon for help to put out the blaze. There could be no greater to Israel’s inflated ego than to be humbled into turning to Turkey, their enemy for aid.
Before Moshiach comes every Jew must come to the recognition that Hashem is the Single Power guiding the world. Actions taken by individuals or nations are merely manifestations of His will, and they have no effect on the outcome of world history. Chazal reveal that in order for the final redemption to take place, “We must believe that we have nothing to rely on except for our Father in Heaven” (Sotah 49b)
The great blaze that took place this past weekend showed Israel that only Hashem wields control and that there is absolutely no place for haughtiness. If every Jew is able to internalize this message and recognize that there is no other source of power, Moshiach will come immediately. However, if we categorize what happened as a natural event, the message will get louder and stronger, and chas veshalom (G-d forbid), we would be in danger of experiencing demonstrations such as this fire on an even greater scale, if one dares imagine.
Recognizing that Hashem alone wields power is no easy task. Man naturally feels kochi ve’otzem yodi, that success comes through his own strength. Let us try to understand how we can bring ourselves closer to this recognition of the truth.

Humility Pays

Yosef is the paradigm of the above outlook that one must maintain his humility at all times. After he spent a number of years in jail in Mitzrayim, Paroh called upon him to interpret his dream. This was Yosef’s opportunity to free himself, and one would think that he would take this chance to show himself in the best light.
Yet, when Paroh asked Yosef if he interprets dreams, Yosef emphatically replied that this power is only in Hashem’s jurisdiction. If the Almighty wished, He would reveal to Yosef the meaning of Paroh’s dream. Nothing was in his hands.
People appreciate humility, and the best thing a person can do to find factor in the eyes of others is to stay clear of haughtiness. For this reason, Yosef found favor in the eyes of others and was successful in all that he did. In his famous Igeres (literally letter), the Ramban emphasizes the importance of humility and adds that a person should not even take credit for his wisdom, for it is not his.

Complete Trust

Chazal attribute the verse “Happy is the person who believes in Hashem” to Yosef. Yet, at the same time, Yosef was punished for two years after asking the steward to mention him to Paroh. How can we understand this?
Hashem aided Yosef throughout his stay in Mitzrayim. The Divine Hand was so strong in Yosef’s life that the Torah testifies that everything he did was successful. Even Potifar recognized that Yosef’s success was from above.
After experiencing such open assistance, Yosef should not have turned to the steward for assistance. He should have continued to put his faith solely in Hashem. Yosef’s act showed a certain amount of yi’ush (giving up) and because of that, he needed another two years in prison to strengthen his faith.
When Rav Sternbuch was a child, Rav Elchonon Wasserman was a regular guest at his family’s home in England. About seventy years ago, Rav Sternbuch’s father passed away. Rav Elchonon was sensitive to the feelings of the widow and orphans and was careful to still visit and spend time with the family.
During one such visit, Rav Sternbuch’s mother asked Rav Elchonon the following question: With her husband’s passing, the entire burden of supporting the family fell on her, yet at the same time, she had to take care of herself and her nine children. Both of these were full-time jobs. How could she be expected to do both and at the same time maintain her bitachon (belief and faith in G-d)?
Rav Elchonon responded, “First we must recognize that this world is only a preparation for the World to Come. This world is fleeting, while the next world will be our permanent existence. We must make acquiring a place in the World to Come our primary focus.
“After we have recognized what our goal in life is, we must realize that we can’t grab anything that’s not ours and if we try to take more money than is coming to us, we will be forced to pay it back in problems with our health, children, or some other area of our finances. Hashem has already decreed exactly how much you and your family will receive. Take as much time as you need to raise your children, and rely that the Almighty will grant you all of your needs in the remaining few hours”.
When we are suffering in the area of finances, health, or grappling with any other problem, the natural reaction is to panic. We must first recognize that the purpose of our lives is to serve Hashem. After this, we will be able to recognize that Hashem is in complete control and has designed this situation to help us recognize His Hand in our personal lives.

Avoiding Negative Influences

At the beginning of the famine, Yaakov and his household still had food. Yaakov asks his children, “Why are you making yourself appear as you do?” What were Yaakov’s intentions in this question?
The Ramban explains that although Yaakov still had food, Eisav’s and Yishmoel’s families did not. They needed to go to Mitrayim in order to purchase sustenance. However, if they knew that Yaakov’s family had food, they might stop in for a few days.
Yaakov understood that such a visit could have a negative influence on his family. Therefore, he told his children to go to Mitzrayim to purchase food. This way, Eiasav and Yishmoel would think that they were also in need and would not come to their home.
Distancing children from negative influences is a critical issue in their chinuch (education). A child who does not yet have the ability to discern between right and wrong can be harmed if he is exposed to anti-Torah philosophies. Rav Chaim Brisker would keep tabs on who his children spoke to and what was said to them.

The Drought Continues

As the fire was blazing through Haifa, the drought continued throughout Israel. While drought was once the cause of death, today this is not the case. The Chazon Ish said that lack of rain tells us that Hashem is upset with us and wants us to change our ways.
We have seen that fire and water, two of the most basic elements in the world, are out of our control. Both of these circumstances tell us the same message: we must humble ourselves before Hashem. He is the lone Source of strength.
Chazal tell us that before Moshiach comes, there will be chevlei Moshiach, the “birth pangs” of this event. The purpose of these tribulations is singular. They are all directed at getting us to recognize that we have no personal power and that He alone is the Force that directs us.
We have discussed humility, complete trust in Hashem, and avoiding influences that are spiritually harmful. Hashem has brought about these tzaros to influence us to work on these three issues. If we do not take this to heart, these destructive events took place for naught.
Hashem wants to bring the geulah (redemption) today, and He is calling out to us to make it happen. If we internalize the message of the fire and the drought and elevate ourselves to a complete recognition that He alone wields power, the redemption will come immediately. Let’s not let this opportunity slip through our fingers.