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.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blaming Torah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Who’s to Blame?

Last week, Israel experienced the worst fire in the history of the country. The blaze took numerous lives, caused an enormous amount of damage, and left many Jews homeless. As in any such situation, it could be expected that the government would try to point the finger of blame at someone in order to absolve themselves.
Someone directly involved with the job of extinguishing fires would be the most likely choice to be the scapegoat. It took a number of days until the blaze was put out, and seemingly, a competent fire-fighting system should have been able to deal with the situation quicker. But this was not the target here. Who, then, did the government choose to pin the blame on for this tragedy?
In a discussion in the Israeli Knesset, some of the representatives came to the following decision: Last year, the government allocated money to help yeshivos, and had this funding been used to purchase fire-extinguishing equipment, the blaze would have been put out much earlier. Therefore, they concluded that the blame for the fire rests on the shoulders of the yeshiva students.
As absurd and illogical as this argument sounds, there are many people in Israel who share this sentiment. As soon as some crisis takes place in the country, the finger of responsibility is pointed at those learning Torah. How can we understand this deep-rooted hatred some have of their own religion?
Torah is the mainstay of Klal Yisrael, and it is what elevates us above every other nation of the world. Those who keep Torah are able to sanctify every aspect of their existence and live a life of holiness. When the Jewish people live according to the elevated standards that the Torah lays down, we become a light unto the nations.
Jews who forsake the Torah understand that those who learn and keep the Torah are a threat to their way of life. They try whatever they can to uproot Torah from the Jewish people, and will even go so far as to blame the catastrophe of last week’s fire on those learning Torah in yeshivos. Let us try to gain a deeper understanding of Torah’s central role in the existence of the Jewish people and what we can do to strengthen it in our times.

Small Talk

After Yosef revealed himself as their brother, the shevatim went from Mitzrayim back to Canaan to bring their father, Yaakov, to Mitzrayim. Certainly, there was plenty for them to discuss regarding the sale of Yosef and all that had transpired since then. There was no reason to believe that they would have trouble finding what to talk about during the journey home.
Yet, as they left, Yosef warned them, “Al tirgezu baderech – Don’t get into fights on the way”. Yosef was not referring to physical brawls. Rather, he instructed them not to get into deep, intricate halachic discussions, for that could cause them harm on the road. They should choose lighter topics so that they would not run into danger.
The Brisker Rav pointed out that Yosef did not think for a second that they would involve themselves with small talk. The issue was only what topics in Torah they should discuss. Torah is meant to be discussed at all times, whether one is at home or traveling.
IN order for Torah to have a full impact on us, we must involve ourselves with Torah as much as possible. Especially when a person is traveling and has “free time”, he should make sure that has a sefer to learn from or a shiur to listen to. Using all of our available time to study Torah is the secret to constant growth in Torah learning.

Temporary Resident

Yaakov realized that he must go down to Mitzrayim to fulfill the decree of Hashem and to see Yosef before leaving this world. However, even when he came to Mitrayim, Yaakov did not settle down. He only dwelled their temporarily during his final years.
Throughout Yaakov Avinu’s life, he never settled down. Yaakov always felt that he was merely traveling through this world. The only thing that mattered to him was his growth in Torah learning and Divine service.
Every Jew who is involved with Torah learning is meant to share Yaakov Avinu’s attitude. We can gain deeper insight about this way of life from a story involving a wealthy individual from overseas who visited the house of the Chofetz Chaim in Poland. The guest asked his host why his home was so bare of furniture and comforts.
The Chofetz Chaim replied by asking his guest where all of his furniture was. The traveler answered that he was just passing through and, naturally, had left most of his belongings at home. The Chofetz Chaim responded, “I am also just passing through this world on the way back to my real home, and I also do not want to overburden myself with belongings on my travels”.

Wagon Wheels

When Yaakov initially heard that Yosef was still alive, he did not believe the story. Even after the shevatim described in detail what transpired, he was still doubtful. Only when Yaakov saw the wagon wheels, which Yosef has sent as a sign that he remembered that they had studied the halachos of eglah arufah together before he departed did Yaakov accept their story.
Egypt was the center of moral degradation in the ancient world. It is understandable that when Yaakov realized that his own son Yosef had been in Mitzrayim, he would start to worry. Yosef Hatzaddik who left him may have become corrupted after spending so many years in such a morally decrepit environment.
The sign that Yosef sent gave Yaakov double relief. In addition to verifying that he was alive, it showed Yaakov that he was still actively involved in Torah. For Yaakov Avinu, this was the sign that despite the religiously antagonistic environment around him, Yosef was truly still alive.

Opening Yeshivos

How could Yaakov make sure that his family had a chance of surviving the licentious lifestyle of Egypt? Before sending his family down to Mitzrayim, Yaakov Avinu sent Yehudah ahead to open a yeshiva. In doing so, Yehudah paved the way for Klal Yisrael to come down to Egypt.
The Jewish people are unlike any other nation of the world, for our existence is directly connected to the level at which we learn and keep the Torah. If we cling to the pleasant ways of Torah, then we will flourish and see success like no other nation has ever experienced. Abandoning the Torah causes the exact opposite results.
When the Jewish people experience crises such as the fire that took place here so recently, we must first analyze our level of learning and observing the Torah. Strengthening ourselves in these areas will improve our relationship with Hashem and cause tribulations such as this to disappear. If we attribute what took place to natural means, we throw ourselves into even greater danger.

Coming Up

When Klal Yisrael left Mitzrayim, it was clear that this was an act of Hashem’s Hand and that we had no part in it. Chazal tell us that during Golus Bavel, anyone who left Bavel to go to Eretz Yisrael transgressed. So, too, in every golus, it is Hashem alone Who brings us out.
Even in our days, having returned to Eretz Yisrael, the golus continues. When this last long and bitter exile finally comes to an end, the Almighty Himself will take us out of our suffering. Only when Hashem decides to end golus will it officially be over.
Until that day, the only protection that we can truly rely on is the merit of Torah. Our limud haTorah gives the Almighty true pleasure in this world and allows us to continue finding favor in His eyes. We cannot possibly fathom the protective power that our Torah learning has.

Ben Gurion’s Error

When the sTate of Israel was formed, the government wanted to draft every able-bodied male into the army. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and the other gedolim of the time protested vehemently. They argued that there had to be some bochurim sitting in yeshivos and studying Torah.
Ben Gurion initially refused their request but eventually he agreed. He assumed that those learning Torah would soon be museum pieces and this antiquated custom would die out. For the interim period, Ben Guion granted them their exemption.
Meanwhile, the yeshivos flourished and, eventually, one thousand yeshiva students became twenty-five thousand. Ben Gurion was shocked by what transpired, for he was sure that yeshiva students were destined to disappear. He was recorded as saying that the only mistake he made in his life was to exempt the yeshiva students from the army.
Chazal tell us that one of the conditions necessary for Moshiach to come is that “chochmas sofrim yisrach – Torah must be putrid in the eyes of people”. As we get closer and closer to this auspicious day, the hatred of Torah grows stronger and stronger. The Israeli government grabs any opportunity to blame yeshiva students for everything that goes wrong in the country.
While the government tried to pin the blame for the fire on yeshiva bochurim, in truth, yeshiva students’ learning is what protect the country and prevents many more tragedies from taking place. During these difficult days prior to the arrival of Moshiach, we must strengthen ourselves in Torah and gemilus chassodim (acts of loving-kindness). This way, we will be prepared for the great revelations that will take place may they happen speedily in our days.