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, December 23, 2010

Ephraim and Menashe

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Subliminal Messages

Why, Chazal ask, is Parshaas Vayechi a parsha stumah, a closed parsha? They answer that the way the parsha is written parallels what happened to the Jewish people after Yaakov’s petirah (death). As soon as he passed away, the eyes and heart of the Jewish people were closed as a result of the subjugation that started at that time.
Chazal’s words are difficult to comprehend. Mitzrayim only enslaved the Jewish people after all of the shevatim (tribes) died. Why, then, do they date the start of the enslavement right after the passing of Yaakov?
From the words of Chazal, we see a critical life principle. Enslavement is not limited to physical subjugation and torture. A nation can be mentally enslaved by the culture it is surrounded by as well.
As long as the Jewish people were under the guidance of Yaakov Avinu, they were able to overcome the powerful influences of Mitrayim pulling them away from Torah. With Yaakov’s passing, they no longer had the constant direction to help avoid spiritual harm. As a result, they were pulled into an immediate mental subjugation by the culture around them.

Israel at War

The dangers we experienced in Mitzrayim are no less pertinent today. Internet, newspapers, advertising, and the myriad other media messages that bombard us shape our way of thinking and acting. Only a strong connection to Torah and Gedolim (Great Rabbis) can sensitize us to guard ourselves from these dangers. We must be careful to do whatever we can to protect our families and ourselves from being subtly pulled in by anti-Torah messages that they relay.
Rav Sternbuch was once traveling with one of the top Israeli army officers. The officer commented to the rov, “I understand that you need about three thousand yeshiva students to be exempt from the army. We need teachers and rabbis for the next generation. But why do you possibly need tens of thousands of exemptions?
Rav sternbuch replied, “In times of peace, the army drafts every seventeen-year-old. After three years, most of them leave and are periodically called up on reserve. Only a small percentage of the best soldiers stay full-time in the army.
“In times of war, the roles are different. Every able-bodied person must join the army in order to properly defend the country. There is no room to differentiate between soldiers.
“However, today, the world has been contaminated with false ideologies. Youth are told to follow their hearts’ desires, and to do whatever they want. The Torah world is fighting a war, and therefore, as many students as possible must remain in yeshiva so they can learn how to defend themselves against these attacks”.
“Apparently, the officer did not get the message. He replied to Rav Sternbuch that in order for Israel to be victorious in their military operations, they need every able-bodied soldier. If so many students are in yeshiva, how would Israel be able to win wars?
Rav Sternbuch replied that a Jewish army is meant to rely on the Almighty. All of the rules of the army must be guided solely by the dictates of Torah and not by the whims of the generals. Sinners were told to go home and only the righteous soldiers were permitted to fight.
Rav Sternbuch concluded that he was convinced that the miraculous victories of the Israeli army were not due to the fighting ability of the soldiers, but rather the merit of thousands of students learning Torah influenced the victories taking place. IF the army tries to reduce the number of talmidim (students) learning Torah, they will no longer see such miraculous outcomes.

Educational Priorities

When blessing Ephraim and Menashe, Yaakov put Ephraim, the younger son of Yosef, before Menashe. The Torah emphasizes this switch, implying that all future generations should learn from this. What is the deeper message of this story?
Ephraim and Menashe were both tzaddikim as we can see from the fact that they received the status of shevatim. Ephraim was completely immersed in Torah, while Menashe helped his father, Yosef, with governmental affairs. Both fulfilled their respective jobs flawlessly.
Shlomo Hamelech teaches us that “each child must be educated according to his way”. While certain strengths push one toward being an Ephraim, others tend more to being a Menashe. Parents must know their children inside and out and try to help each one decide which path of life he should follow.
But blessing Ephraim before Menashe, Yaakov taught us a critical lesson for all generations. When it comes to educating our children, first priority should be to try to direct them to becoming Ephraims. This way, the Jewish people will have Torah leaders who can direct them in future generations.
The Targum of Yonason ben Uziel writes that the blessing to be like Ephraim starts from the time of bris milah (circumcision). We fulfill his words when we say, “Just as the child came to his bris, he should come to Torah, chupah and maasim tovim” (good deeds). At the tender age of eight days, we already express that our first priority is to direct our children to Torah.
If we see that a child’s strengths do not tend themselves to becoming an Ephraim, then a different course should be followed. We should do everything we can to make sure that he will be righteous as Menashe. If we follow this route of chinuch (education), we will see true Jewish nachas from our children.
The Lubliner Rov had a yeshiva of 400 bochurim (students). He once commented, “the goal of my yeshiva is to produce one talmid who will be a gaon in Torah,and 399 others who will know what a gaon is. If he understands what torah is, he will always actively learn and support Torah”.
Whether a person chooses the route of Ephraim or Menashe, true success in life depends on recognizing that one’s life should be guided by the light of Torah. Let us do everything in our power to guide our children in this direction.