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, January 7, 2011

Seeing Hashem

By Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch

Miracles of Evil

During the period of Yetzias Mitzrayim, Hashem performed many miracles for the Jewish people. These signs helped us recognize Him as the Absolute Power in the world. At the same time, they bolstered our faith in Him and prepared us to receive the Torah.
In direct contrast to the miracles that Hashem performed, the sorcerers of Mitzrayim tried to copy these actions through black magic. To a certain extent, they were successful in duplicating these acts. However, when it came to the plague of kinnim (lice), they admitted that they could not replicate it, and even they acknowledged that these plagues were the Hand of Hashem.
We can understand why the Almighty performs miracles for Klal Yisrael, but it is much more difficult to fathom why He gives this potential over to evil individuals. What is the reason that Hashem gives them such power?
Miracles are a direct revelation of Hashem’s might, and to some extent they take away our ability to have free choice. The Almighty balances this out by giving a similar power to evil individuals. This returns to us the option of free will.
During the time of the Gemara, the Amoraim could perform miracles. Later generations fell, however, so now, we no longer have the ability to perform such acts. Since open miracles are highly uncommon today, there is no need to balance out free choice in this way, so the power of black magic and sorcery also decreased.

The End of Sheidim

The Gemara in Maseches Chagigah (15a) discusses a being called a sheid. These creatures have some aspects similar to man and some resembling angels. During the times of the Gemara, they were quite prevalent.
The Rambam, however, writes that there is no such thing as a sheid. This comment is extremely hard to understand, for it appears to contradict the Gemara. His words were so controversial that the Vilna Gaon wrote in response that the Rambam, in saying this, was misled due to his study of philosophy (Biur HaGra, Yoreh Deah 169).
However, once we accept that the power of sorcery and witchcraft have weakened today, we need not be troubled by the Rambam’s statement. The Rambam could also have accepted that there was once an entity in the world called a sheid, but today, and even in his day, when there already were no longer open miracles, this being was simply taken away from us.

I am Hashem

“One of the main reasons we received the Torah was in order to come to believe in Hashem” (Vilna Gaon, Mishlei). The main message of the Ten Makkos (plagues) was to recognize that Hashem is the one and only Power in the world. This is why the makkos preceded Kabbolas HaTorah (acceptance of the Torah on Mount Sinai).
Dovid Hamelach said, “Hashem is raised up above all of the goyim; His glory is in the heavens” (Psalms 113:4). The nations of the world believe that Hashem is a distant entity and that He is above worldly matters and has little connection to what takes place in everyday life.
We say, “He picks us up from the dust; from the trash heaps He lifts up the downtrodden” (Psalms 113:7). Hashgacha protis, personal providence for every Jew, is one of the foundations of Judaism. The Ten Makkos and Yetzias Mitzrayim help us recognize Hashem’s power and the effect it has on our personal lives.
Twice a day, we emphasize this when we recite Shema. “Hashem is One” implies that He alone controls the world and there is no other power besides Him. This is a pillar of our faith, and remembering Yetzias Mitzrayim helps us internalize that He is the only power Who has any influence on our lives.

Difficult Times

At times, we may not understand how Hashem is directing our lives. Everything might seem to be going wrong, as if there is no one in control of our destiny. What can we do to strengthen our belief during such periods?
The Chofetz Chaim compares this to a person who comes to visit a shul for one Shabbos. He sees the gabbai, “randomly” distributing honors. In his eyes, it appears as if everything is arbitrary.
His problem is that he only sees a small part of the picture. If he would come to that same shul every Shabbos, he would realize that there is definitely a system. So, too, we must recognize that Hashem acts in His infinite wisdom and we should not doubt the fairness of His ways.

Heartfelt Prayers

Broken from slave labor, the Jewish people cried out to Hashem to help them. Their prayers came directly from the heart, and the Almighty accepted them. This was the beginning of the redemption from Mitzrayim.
In Psalms 145, Dovid Hamelech contrasts similar concepts in the two halves of each verse, connecting them with a Vov hachibur (a connecting ‘and’). The exception to this pattern is the seventeenth verse: “Hashem is close to all those who call Him, to all who cry out to Him with truth”. What is the difference between this verse and the others?
Rav Elya Lopian explained that it is impossible to say that the Almighty is also close to those who call to Him truthfully, for Hashem can only be close to those who do so. Those who call on the Almighty without truth are totally distanced from Him, and Dovid Hamelech makes it clear that speaking to Hashem without truth is like talking to Him in a foreign language that He does not understand. Since Hashem recognizes our thoughts, we must even be carefully how we think during prayer.
The Polish government once tried to influence yeshivos to incorporate learning the vernacular into the curriculum of the yeshivos. Rabbonim thought that they should send a Polish-speaking rov to speak to them, but the Chofetz Chaim advised them not to. Hearing a rabbi speak Polish would just encourage them to go ahead with their plans.
Instead, the Chofetz Chaim went himself to speak to the Polish authorities. He spoke to them in Yiddish, and most of the time, he cried to them bitter tears over the impending decree. Although the government officials did not understand Yiddish, they understood the Chofetz Chaim’s message and immediately rescinded their plans.

Inheriting Eretz Yisrael

Hashem uses four different expressions of redemption when promising to take the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim. “After”, the Torah tells us, “He will take them to the Land that He promised to Avrohim, Yitzchok, and Yaakov as a morasha (inheritance)”. Why does the Torah stress that the Land of Israel is ours as an inheritance?
The word morasha can also be read as me’urasa, betrothed. If we maintain a relationship with the Torah as a chosson (groom) does to his kallah (bride), then we are deserving to live in the Land. However, if we forsake the Torah, then we no longer merit this privilege.
During these troubled times, our right to Israel is challenged daily. We must look at our relationship with Hashem and evaluate whether we share the close bond that we are meant to have. By returning to that special closeness of me’urasa that newlyweds share, we will merit to have the morasha, an unchallenged right to live in Eretz Yisrael.


Yulia said...

May it be the will of Hashem to direct & guide us with His light to our destiny.

Rabbi Chaim Coffman said...

Thanks so much for the compliment. I definitely try and give everyone what they need.