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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, February 10, 2011

Ask the Raavad: Shailos Uteshuvos with Rav Moshe Sternbuch

The teshuvos are transcribed by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis. Questions for Rav Sternbuch may be sent to Rabbi Travis at

Question: How is one to react when he is saved miraculously from a matzav sakana (a life-threatening event)?

Answer: I experienced a chain of miracles last week, when I was saved a number of times from the hands of Arabs. Last Shabbos I recited Birkas Hagomel (the blessing for being saved from a dangerous situation) and made a seudos hoda’ah (a meal of thanksgiving)

Relating Miracles

The Zohar writes, “Hashem has great pleasure when Jews speak about the miracles of Yetzias Mitzrayim (the coming out of Egypt) on Pesach night. Hashem gathers all of the melachim (angels) in the Heavens so that they can listen to the recitation of these miracles. These angels praise Hashem for all of these miracles, and praise the righteousness of the Jewish people who celebrate the miracles that Hashem performed for them.

“Similarly, when an individual has a personal miracle, he should praise Hashem for the Providence he experienced. What benefit does Hashem receive from hearing about the miracles that He, Himself performed? One must nonetheless relate these miracles for these words ascend to the Heavens, and Hashem gathers all of the malachim to listen. When the heavenly assembly hears this story, they all praise Hashem, and there is great honor to Hashem both above and bellow” (Zohar, Parshas Bo)

The answer is that whenever we experience miracles, there is always a possibility to attribute it to tevah, natural circumstances. When we experience miracles and we relate the story and admit that everything was Hashem’s Hand and nothing was a result of our own intelligence or coincidence, Hashem gets great pleasure that we rely solely on Him and nothing else. Even though angels generally have sufficient reason to prosecute us, when we speak about miracles, the tables turn and the malachim extol the praise of the Jewish people.

Saved from a Lynch

Last week, the 22nd of Shevat 5771, was the second yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rav Sternbuch’s wife. One of the rov’s sons and three of his grandsons were driving Rav Sternbuch to the bais hakevoros (graveyard) on Har Hazeisim (Mount of Olives). The GPS misdirected them and before they knew it, they were in an Arab village.

A group of Arabs started to hurl bricks at the car. One of the bricks broke the window and injured the driver. Although he was bleeding and crying in pain, the driver continued to drive and escape from the crowd.

A band of bloodthirsty Arabs ran after the car, but the injured driver kept going. He swerved onto a side road and managed to get away from the mob of Arabs. However, at that point, they had absolutely no idea where they were.

He continued to drive for about fifteen minutes until they came to an Arab garage. People there warned them that this was a dangerous place for them to be, but they decided that they were going to stop there and try to get help. They called the Israeli police, but the police told them that unless they could offer some identifying signs, they could not help them.

There was a small straw hut nearby, and an Arab came out and offered to help them. He invited them to his home for a drink, but Rav Sternbuch and his family refused and instead they asked this Arab if he could give them directions. The Sternbuchs got in touch with the police, and the Arab instructed the officers how to get to the place where they were situated.

Rav Sternbuch and his family waited for about twenty minutes, and finally the police arrived. Rav Sternbuch was then taken away in a police car back to Israeli territory. Eventually, Rav Sternbuch made it to the cemetery to say tefilllos (prayers) for the yahrtzeit and for the miraculous rescue from the hands of death.

Staying Strong Under Fire

Rav Sternbuch related that when the Arabs started to throw bricks at the car he did not even realize that anything unusual was taking place. He was so engrossed in learning that he did not notice what was happening. Only after they sped away from the Arab mob did Rav Sternbuch realize that they were under attack.

During the entire experience, Rav Sternbucvh was confident that he would get out alive. Klal Yisrael is in great need of rabbonim today to give p’sak halach and direction to the Jewish people, so Rav sternbuch understood that Hashem would take care of him and protect him from all danger.

Rav Sternbuch related that during the entire episode, he did not feel the slightest bit of fear. During World War II, Rav Sternbuch’s rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Shneider, ingrained into their minds, “Every bomb and bullet has an address”. If Hashem has not destined one’s demise, it will not take place.

Rav Sternbuch added that during World War II, England was bombarded with rockets by the Nazis. Many people fled to bomb shelters, but Rav Shneider stayed in the bais medrash learning. Rav sternbuch followed the rosh yeshivah’s example and continued to learn in the bais medrash during the attacks.

Thanking Hashem

On the Shabbos after the resuce from the Arabs, Rav Sternbuch recited Birkas Hagomel (the blessing for being saved from a dangerous situation). Afterward, he hosted a seudas hodo’ah at his home. Rav Sternbuch fulfilled the words of the Zohar by speaking about the miracles that had transpired.

After relating the miraculous rescue stories, Rav Sternbuch explained the deeper meaning of the Birkas Hagomel blessing. We say, “Who performs kindness for those who are chayavim (obligated). Who did good for me”. Why do we refer to ourselves as chayavim and why do we finish off the bracha by repeating that Hashem “has done good for me”?

Everyone has transgressions and can be considered chayav. At times, Hashem punishes us for these sins by putting us in situations of danger and then miraculously rescuing us. This is what we mean when we say “Who performs kindness for those who are chaavim”.

Although we survive the experience, the necessity for a miracle causes us to lose from our merit. How do we regain the merit that we lost? By reciting the story and the Hashgacha (Divine Providence) of what took place, we regain what was taken away.

After entering a situation of danger, we might have doubts about Hashem’s kindness toward us. For this reason, we conclude the blessing with, “Who did good for me”. We admit that Hashem’s kindness is perfect and that everything that took place was only as a result of our actions.

The Medrash in Parshas Tzav says that when one brings a korban todah (a thanksgiving sacrifice), he offers Hashem honor on top of honor. The first honor is attributing one’s salvation completely to Hashem. However, one adds even more honor to Hashem’s Name if he also admits that he was deserving of that punishment and thanks Hashem for both chastising and rescuing him.

Sanctifying Hashem’s Name

Rav Sternbuch’s son, Rav Asher concluded the seudos hodayah with the following thoughts.

It is not by chance that these great miracles happened on the yahrtzeit of Rav Sternbuch’s late wife, Rebbetzin Yaffa Sternbuch. It was in her great merit that the rov was able to have a great impact on the Jewish people (see introduction to A Voice in the Darkness)

One brazen individual made the following remark. Perhaps Rav Sternbuch was attacked by Arabs because of the rov’s protest against the abominable parades in Yerushalyim, desecration of gravesites, conversion without a full acceptance of mitzvos, and other issues which Rav Sternbuch considers to be an affront to Hashem’s honor. Maybe these protests had stirred up Divine wrath against the rov, chas veshalm (G-d forbid).

Rav Sternbuch replied that he was sure that he was saved from the hands of death because of his great concertn with Hashem’s honor. Hashem allowed him the opportunity to once again sanctify the Divine Name through the miracles that took place and the great calmness that Rav Sternbuch had in reacting to them.

The seudas hodayah concluded with singing and rejoicing over the miraculous rescue. Rav sternbuch gave a bracha that just as he had been miraculously saved from the hands of enemies, so too, the entire Jewish people would be redeemed speedily, and we should soon witness the coming of the Moshiach, who will extricate us from the hands of all of our enemies. May it be Hashem’s will that this event should be a harbinger for the speedy redemption quickly in our days.