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 9, 2010

Refusing Compromise

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

The Best of Both Worlds

Rashi tells us that Yaakov Avinu sent actual malachim to speak with Eisav. Seeing an angel is no small feat, and only someone on a very high spiritual level can merit this. Why was Eisav worthy of such a revelation?
In truth, Eisav was a complete believer in Hashem, and he was aware that there is reward for good deeds and punishment for transgression. While he was around his father, Yitzchok, Eisav acted like a tzaddik and asked him the most complex and intricate questions in halachah. However, Eisav was drawn after the pleasures of this world, and he rationalized his evil ways through receiving himself in the moment that everything would somehow be fine in the end.
Today, the temptations of the world are stronger than ever. Without constant vanguard over ourselves and our families, we can easily be pulled into the same erroneous thinking that influenced Eisav’s life philosophy. When it comes to religious issues, we must keep in mind that there is no room for compromise and that keeping Hashem’s Torah overrides all other considerations.

Honoring Parents

Before meeting up with Eisav, Yaakov prepared himself with prayer and presents. If that would not work, Yaakov was ready to go to war with his brother. Although Yaakov was certainly more righteous than his brother, he feared that Eisav’s fulfillment of the mitzvah of honoring his father could override Yaakov’s own merit.
Although Yaakov certainly had the merit of going in the ways of Yitzvhok and Avrohom, there was a reason that he might not benefit from this regarding the particular situation with Eisav. During the twenty years that Yaakov was away from his parents, he did not fulfill the mitzvah of honoring his parents. This lapse could effectively take away his zechus avos.
Eisav, on the other hand, excelled in the mitzvah of honoring his parents. He even kept a special set of clothes in which to serve his father.
We might think that Yaakov was exempt of his obligation to honor his parents during his twenty-year stint by Lavan. After Chazal tell us that he was punished for this, we must assume that he was not freed from his responsibility. Even under these circumstances, Yaakov should have made special efforts to try and fulfill this mitzvah.
Many of us have busy schedules, and the more we are involved with activities, the harder it is to give our parents our full attention. Who was more busy and righteous than Yaakov Avinu? Yet, he did not escape punishment for his absence from Yitzvhok and Rifkah. When it comes to the mitzvah of kibbud av ve’eim, we may not compromise, and even if it is difficult, we must do everything we can to honor them.

Out of our Hands

Upon encountering Eisav, Yaakov tells him that he had lived with Lavan. Chazal tell us that the Hebrew world for “I lived”, garti, is spelled with the same letters as the number taryag, 613. This was a hint to Eisav that, even while Yaakov lived with the evil Lavan, he still kept all of the mitzvos.
Was it necessary for Yaakov to tell this to Eisav? Yaakov wanted his brother to know that although he was willing to make large financial sacrifices, there was one issue that he would not compromise on. When it came to mitzvos, Yaakov was not prepared to budge an inch.
A group of doctors once met in Kovna to discuss various issues of the time. One of the topis that came up was spitting during chalitzah (if a woman’s husband dies and she has no kids, she has to marry the husband’s brother, called yibum, if she does not then she has to go through the process of chalitzah). They felt that it was unbecoming and should be abolished from the ceremony.
The group went to the Kovna Rav, Rav Avrohom Shapira, and asked him about the possibility of changing chalitzah. He asked them if, before they dealt with that issue they could help him out with something that was bothering him. Since they were doctors, perhaps they could tell him a cure to death.
Surprised by the rov’s request, they replied that medicine had not found a cure for death and that this certainly was not in their hands. Rav Shapira said, “So, too, the Torah is not in our hands. The Almighty established that chalitzah is done by spitting and we have no ability to change this”.

My Brother Eisav

Yaakov Avinu asks Hashem to save him from his “brother Eisav”. We can understand why we need protection from Eisav when he acts against us, but why did Yaakov request that the Almighty protect us even when Eisav is acting as our brother?
When the Jewish people are persecuted, it is clear that Eisav is our enemy. However, when the non-Jews treat us as equals in order to pull us away from Torah, the flight is much more subtle. In such cases, we require much more Divine assistance.
When the State of Israel was formed, the Satmar Rov told the Chazon Ish that he was afraid there were Zionists who would persecute the religious Jews. The Chazon Ish replied that Hashem would protect us from evil intentions. He was much more worried about the “candies” they want to give us to lure us away from Torah.
The nisyonos (tests) in Israel today are very difficult. If we let the government carry out their intentions, they will destroy the entire Torah framework that exists in the Holy Land. We must turn to Hashem to help protect us from their influence.

Dinah in a Box

Before meeting Eisav, Yaakov Avinu hid Dinah from him putting her in a box. Yaakov was afraid that when Eisav saw Dinah, he would want to marry her. Despite his good intentions. Chazal tell us that Yaakov was punished for hiding her.
Yaakov’s behavior stemmed from his refusal to compromise his beliefs and seemingly was completely justified. Furthermore, Eisav was over 100 years old and Dinah was a young girl. Why was Yaakov punished for his actions?
Rav Eliyahu Desler explains that although Yaakov’s actions were both justified and correct, he should have had more compassion for his brother. We can compare this to a person who sees someone drowning, but he himself does not know how to swim. The onlooker does not have to risk his own life to save him, but he should at least feel bad that the other person is dying.
So too, Yaakov was right in hiding Dinah from Eisav. Yet, at the same time, he should have felt bad that he could not do something to bring his own twin brother back to the right path. For his lack of concern, Yaakov was punished when Dinah was abducted.
From this incident with Dinah, we see an important lesson in compromise. Even when a person sticks to his principles, he should not let this dull his emotions. We must act in the way the Torah directs us, while at the same time feeling for the suffering of others.

Fighting Angels

The Torah tells us that the night before His encounter with Eisav, Yaakov fought with an angel the whole night. As dawn approached, the malach (angel) asked Yaakov to free him so that he could return to the heavens to sing shirah. What was the special song that the angel had to rush back to sing that morning?
The Tchebiner Rov explains that the malach that Yaakov fought was none other than the Sotan himself. He tries to influence us to sin and at times succeeds. Converng Yaakov, the Soton fought very hard but was unable to influence Yaakov to compromise even an iota.
The Soton’s job is to get us to sin, and success brings him great joy. Yet there is something that causes him even more joy. If he puts up a good fight and through that battle we are able to reach even higher levels of serving Hashem, the Soton has an even greater accomplishment and is even more happy.
The Zohar writes that the injury in the gid hanosheh (sinew) is a sign that the Soton will try and knock out the tomchei Torah, those people who contribute funds to the upkeep of Torah. Today, the world financial scene is difficult. Torah has take a hit, and the Soton continues to battle. We must try and continue to do whatever is in our ability to strengthen Torah learning in Eretz Yisrael and the rest of the world.
The dawn of world history is approaching, and the personal battle of every Jew is becoming more difficult daily. During this time of darkness, we must refuse any compromise that draws us away from Torah and persevere in the struggle that Yaakov started. The degree to which we relentlessly cling to the Torah is the amount of light that we will merit to see when the redemption comes.