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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, February 17, 2011

Ask the Raavad: Shailos U’teshuvos with Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Question: What is the controversy regarding conversion in Eretz Yisrael all about?

Answer: One of the most sensitive aspects of the Jewish religion is the area of geirus, conversion. Hashem gets great satisfaction when a righteous convert gives up everything in his previous life to join the Jewish people. However, Divine anger is stirred up when a non-Jew tries to join Klal Yisrael without any intention of keeping mitzvos.

During recent years, a million Russians have entered Eretz Yisrael, many of them non-Jews. In order to facilitate making these new immigrants Jewish, the government, together with the army and the rabbanut, set up a special bais din. Thousands have already converted, and tens of thousands are waiting to be accepted as Jews.

In truth, there is absolutely no validity to these bogus conversions. One of the most important parts of conversion is kabbolas mitzvos, accepting all of the 613 mitzvos upon oneself. We have investigated this situation thoroughly, and the vast majority of these new converts have no interest in keeping mitzvos and are only converting to gain rights as citizens of Israel. Furthermore, many of the so-called rabbis who are teaching these converts are Reform or completely non-religious and are teaching them kefirah (heresy).

Some of the religious rabbonim, backing these conversions cite the Rambam who states, “If bais din did not check the sincerity of a convert, or they did not inform him of the mitzvos and their punishments, and he nonetheless undergoes milah (circumcision) and tevilah (going to the mikveh) in front of three novice dayanim (rabbinical court judges), since he underwent milah and tevilah, we treat him as if he is no longer a non-Jew, until we can clarify his true intentions. Even if he reverts completely back to his non-Jewish ways, we treat him as a Yisrael mumar (a Jewish heretic) (Issurei Biah 13).”

At first glance, the words of the Rambam imply that as long as someone underwent milah and tevilah, we treat him like a Jew, even though we do not know if he accepted mitzvos upon himself.

In truth, anyone who explains the Rambam like this is guilty of megaleh ponim baTorah shelo kehilchasah, teaching warped explanations of Torah that are not the halachah. The Rambam is clearly referring to a person who is sincerely interested in converting for the sake of keeping mitzvos. Since the bais din involved was not made up of expert dayanim, they were not aware how one must thoroughly check the intentions of a convert before accepting him into the fold.

However, when bais din realizes from the outset that a candidate is not interested in accepting mitzvos upon himself, it is one hundred percent clear that even if tevilah and milah were performed, this person does not become even a safeik (doubtful) Jew. In regards to converts, the Torah writes, “Mishpat”, which teaches us that conversion requires the authorization of a bais din that the conversion is sincere and that everything has been done according to halachah. The Rambam is merely stating that if a novice bais din forgot to check this issue, if they initially validated his sincerity, we must assume that he may be Jewish.

What is taking place with these false conversions is a churban (travesty). It is literally defiling the sanctity of the Jewish people. Since the time of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, the Jewish people have not experienced such a disaster. We are approaching a time when one Jew will not be able to marry another lest his family came from these phony conversions.

Today, the Jewish people in Israel are in great danger from the Arabs who surround us on all sides, and we are in desperate need of mercy from Above. Chazal tell us that the Shechinah rests on the Jewish people when we ensure that the lineage of the Jewish people is maintained. These improper converts are driving the Divine Presence away from us and banishing our source of protection from us.

Chazal have already told us that we will be plagued with tragedies if we are flippant in our acceptance of converts (Yevamos 109b). The Gemara at the end of Maseches Kiddushin states that if we stand by quietly while such conversions take place, the Shechinah will depart from us and we will become susceptible to the attacks of the enemies around us.

In the near future, there will be a large demonstration in Yerushalayim against what is taking place. Jews living abroad should not think that they are absolved of their obligation to protest this atrocity because they are not living in Israel. If Hashem’s anger is enflamed by what is taking place, the entire Jewish nation is in danger of falling prey to the hand of the nations around us.

Anyone who is quiet during this time should worry that he is included in what Chazal said: “Cursed is the one who does not lift up this Torah”. On the other hand, anyone who takes actions to prevent these false conversions will be blessed and is deserving of great praise for their actions. We should strengthen the hands of all those who are involved with stopping these conversions, for the future of the Jewish people hinges on their actions.