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 31, 2010

A Recipe for Salvation

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

We are in the midst of the period referred to as “Shovevim Tat”, the parshiyos of Shemos through Tetzaveh. During these weeks, we relive the redemption of Yetzias Mitzrayim (the coming out of Egypt). The Arizal (Rav Isaac Luria) explains that this is a special time for teshuvah and experiencing national and personal salvations.

Retaining Separation

At the beginning of Sefer Shemos, the Torah tells us that a new king arose in Mitzrayim (Shemos 1:8). Chazal explain that it was the same Paro, but he renewed his original decree. What was the essence of this original decree and how did he renew it now?
When Yaakov and his family originally came to Egypt, Paroh decreed that they should live amongst them and integrate into the comfortable life in Mitzrayim. Yaakov recognized that living among the Mitzrayim would eventually lead to assimilating into their culture. He refused Paroh’s offer and successfully got around this original decree.
After Yaakov and the shevatim (tribes) died, Paroh renewed his offer, and without the leadership of Yaakov Avinu, the Jewish people followed Paroh’s instructions. They began to integrate into Egyptian culture and slowly drifted away from the Torah. This aroused Divine wrath and caused the Jewish enslavement by the Egyptians.
Living amongst non-Jewish cultures, we face the same challenges today that Klal Yisrael had in Mitzrayim. If we choose to disregard their enticements and cling to the ways of the Torah, then we will find favor in Hashem’s eyes and be spared from harsh punishment. However, if we are drawn after the ways of the non-Jews, we, too, will evoke Hashem’s anger.

Fearing Hashem

The Torah stresses that Yocheved and Miriam feared Hashem and saved the Jewish people. Seemingly, this was not the greatest aspect of their actions. By refusing to listen to Paroh’s orders to kill Jewish babies, they single-handedly saved the entire Jewish people and should have been given more credit for their actions.
The Torah comes to tell us that they did not save the Jewish people merely because of emotional pain of killing infants. They recognized the chillul Hashem involved in killing so many Jews. Because they acted out of concern for Hashem’s honor, they were rewarded with Botei Kehunah and Botei Leviah, to be the progenitors of Kohanim and Leviim.
One of the primary requirements to see salvation is fear of Hashem. We should follow in the ways of Yocheved and Miriam, who acted purely out of fear of the Almighty, if we live with fear of the Almighty, we will constantly see His Hand.


One would think that the harsh decrees against the Jewish people in Mitrayim would stop them from marrying. Yet, despite the law to kill all newborn babies, the Jewish people continued to wed. In this way, the perpetuated Klal Yisrael and paved the way for the redemption.
Rav Yechiel Weinber, the Sridei Aish, related that during the Holocaust in the Warsaw Ghetto, two rabbonim remained. Even though they were all slated to be exterminated, they decided that they would marry off as many of their children as they could beforehand. Parents could at least feel that they had done everything they could for their children’s future.
Every day, the rabbonim performed many weddings. Even though conditions in the ghetto were cramped and there was no food, they did not let this break their spirit. The rabbonim once remarked, “The Germans can take away this world from us, but they cannot take away the next”.
In our day, conditions are much easier, and we do not have to give up our lives to fulfill mitzvos. We must, nonetheless, learn from the strong will of those who went through the Holocaust. If we put all of our energy into fulfilling the mitzvos, Hashem will respond tour efforts and bring about the redemption.

Hoping vs. Waiting

Miriam placed her brother Moshe in a small reed basket and into the waters of the Nile, then waited to see what would happen to him. Chazal tell us that because Miriam waited to see what would happen to her brother, she received great reward when the Jewish people later waited for her for seven days while she recovered from tzoraas in the desert.
Seemingly, Miriam’s act was not excessively praiseworthy. Anyone would have waited out of care and curiosity to see whether her sibling would live and what would transpire. Why was she deserving of such reward for this?
Some people hope for Divine salvation, and others wait for it. The difference between the two is that waiting implies complete clarity that the redemption will come, while hoping suggests some level of doubt regarding this issue. The greatness of Miriam’s act was that she waited for her brother’s salvation and had complete trust in Hashem that it would take place.
Rav Sternbuch relates that during World War II, his mother was convinced that after such atrocious killings had taken place, Moshiach would soon arrive. She decided that she would save her best dress and all of her jewelry for the day that Moshiach arrived. Even after the war ended and Moshiach did not come, she continued to set aside her best dress and jewelry for the day that he would come.

Avoiding Theft

Prayer is a major catalyst for salvation, and theft and dishonesty are reasons why one’s prayers are not accepted. Although G-d hears the cries of all who turn to Him, He is only close to those who live lives of truth. Rabbeinu Bechaya (Kad hakemach, “Emunah”) explains that only those who maintain a life of honesty and integrity can hope to have their prayers answered.
Generally, it is impossible for any shepherd to prevent his animals from grazing in pastures that belong to others, unless he takes the necessary precautions. For this reason, herdsmen are generally labeled as thieves and Chazal call them “rasha, wicked” (Bava Metzia 5b). This label disqualifies them from serving as witnesses, as the Torah says, “Do not join forces with a wicked person to be a corrupt witness” (Shemos 23:1).
Moshe Rabbeinu was meticulous about grazing his sheep only on uninhabited desert lands where none of the pasture area was privately owned. This practice demonstrated his trait of absolute integrity, which is a fundamental necessity for someone in a leadership role. The Medrash (Yalkur Shemoni, Shemos 169) says that it was because of the honesty that Moshe Rabbeinu displayed while tending his flock that he eventually merited to become the leader of the Jewish people.

Oratory Skills

The Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu has speech problems (kevad peh) and language problems (kevad lashon). The Ran (Drashos) explains that Hashem did not want the Jewish people to think that it was because of the powerful oratory skills of Moshe Rabbeinu that we were freed from Mitzrayim. Rather, it was only because of the Almighty’s grace.
During World War II, Winston Churchill valiantly led the English people through the war. Even in their darkest hour, he would exclaim, “We can take it!” and boosted the morale of his people. As long as he was leading the country, the English felt that they were invincible.
The Jewish people have a different set of standards. We know that one of the conditions for personal and national redemption is recognition that salvation can only come through Hashem and that thinking that our own wisdom or that of our leaders plays a part only hinders this process. We must realize with complete clarity that “ein od milvado”, everything come from His Hand alone.

Riding Donkeys

Chazal tell us that the donkey that Moshe Rabbeinu rode on was the very same one that Avroham Avinu traveled on to the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac). This is also the same donkey that Moshiach will arrive on. What is the connection between these three events and why must they all ride on a donkey?
A donkey is the archetype animal representing a beast that lacks all intelligence and is completely reliant on its master, going only where he directs it. Jews are meant to learn from the donkey vis-à-vis our relationship with the Almighty. At times, we are meant to nullify all understanding and follow Hashem’s will without second thought.
First, Hashem told Avroham Avinu that Yitzchok would be the heir to his life-long work of bringing recognition of Hashem into the world. Afterward, the Almighty seemed to contradict His original promise by commanding Avrohom to offer Yitzchok as a sacrifice. Without a second thought, Avrohom Avinu boarded his donkey and hurried to fulfill the Divine order.
Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to return to Mitzrayim to spearhead the redemption of Klal Yisrael. Even though some of Moshe Rabbeinu’s enemies had died, he still had many enemies remaining there. Nonetheless, Moshe Rabbeinu and his family got on a donkey and traveled to Mitzrayim.
In our time, we face a similar paradox. If we think logically about our present situation, there is no reason why the redemption should come. Previous generations were more righteous than we are and yet he did not come during their days. Why should Moshiach come now?
Although it may not seem logical, Hashem has promised us that whether we are worthy or not, the final redemption will come. In this respect, we must make ourselves like donkeys and disregard all arguments to the contrary, just as Avrohom Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu put all reasoning to the side to fulfill the Almighty’s will. If we follow their example, we will merit to witness the coming Moshiach very soon.