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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.
Friday, February 4, 2011

Rav Sternbuch on Parshas Mishpatim

Beauty of the Jewish Home

Some people are extremely particular about kashrus. They spend a lot of money to ensure that mitzvos are observed behidur rav, and they are also provided the best education for their children, but their business affairs are not in line with Torah standards. After describing kabolas hatorah (the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai), the Torah immediately delineates the laws pertaining to interpersonal relationships. Similarly, Pirkei Avos, which deals exclusively with ethics, starts with Moshe kibel Torah misinai (Moses received the Torah from Mount Sinai). This teaches us that bein adom lechaveiro matters constitute an integral and vital part of the Torah, which must be observed that least as much as other parts of the Torah.

Taking a look at this week’s parsha it is conspicuous how the Torah’s laws differ fundamentally from man-made laws. In most legal systems a thief is liable to a fine or possibly imprisonment. By contrast, the Torah is mainly concerned with restitution of the stolen object, to such an extent that the thief eve has to sell himself in order to obtain money for repayment purposes. During his period of “slavery” the eved ivri’s master is obliged to provide him with all the necessary comforts, and the eved is exposed to the beauty of a Torah way of life. This serves as a powerful lesson for anyone involved in kiruv (Jewish outreach) about how important it is to emphasize the beauty of family life in a Torah home.

Paternal Connections

The posuk talks about someone who smites his father or mother and about a person who curses his father or mother, but in between it refers to someone who steals a man, and sells him. Why did the Torah not put the prohibition against smiting a parent in juxtaposition to the prohibition of cursing a parent? On the face of it, these two similar prohibitions belong together. The Torah is telling us about the origins of this extreme case of a son cursing his father. In the absence of a close connection between a father and son, the father’s influence over his child will decline, and the son will be exposed to outsiders seeking to convince him that his father belongs to the old generation and has no understanding of today’s needs. The boy’s heart will be “stolen”; he will start calling his father names, and will eventually curse him. IF we make it our priority to nurture a genuine connection with our children, then even if they go through difficult periods, they will never want to sever that bond with their parents.

Majority Rules?

The story is told that the King asked Rav Yonasan Eibshutz why the Jews are so adamant in adhering to their religion when their own law prescribes following the majority, and the majority of humanity does not follow the Jewish faith. Rav Yonasan responded that in a situation of doubt the majority is indeed decisive, but in the absence of doubt there is no need to apply the majority principle, and as Jews we do not harbor any doubts about our faith. This teaches u that a true believer is only one who faith is not subject to any doubts.

Angelic Empathy?

The Rambam asks why in this week’s parasha the bnei yisroel agreed to be guided by malachim (angels) whereas after the chet haegel (sin of the golden calf), they begged not to be led by them. Before the chet haegel, when they were still on a high madreigo (level), surrounded on all sides by the anonei hakavod (clouds of glory) they did not mind angels being involved in leading them, but after they sinned, they wanted only Hashem Himself to lead them, because they felt that angels could not understand how anyone could sin against the Creator, and they would not serve as good defense counsel, since as far as angels are concerned any transgression against the Creator warrants immediate and sever punishment.

Rhyme or Reason

Rashi brings down that in addition to mitzvos such as kibud av v’em (honoring parents) and shabbos, we were also taught the halachos of para aduma (the red heifer) at Moro. It is easy to see the necessity for having to be taught hilchos shabbos, with which we were totally unfamiliar up to that point, but what reason could there be for our having to be taught the halachos of para aduma at such an early stage? This was meant to teach us that just like these halachos are incomprehensible, since the same object which is metaher temeim (purifying the impure) is also metame tehorim (impurifying the pure), so too is the whole Torah incomprehensible. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that we can gain a complete understanding of even apparently rational commandments such as honoring one’s parents, because there are thousands of reasons for everything in the Torah, which are beyond our understanding. When the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim provided reasons for commandments he did not mean to suggest that these were ultimate or absolute reasons, but only one of multitude of reasons. The more we delve into the profundity and complexity of the Torah, the more we realize how much we do not understand.

Unwanted Snare

“They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me, for you will serve their gods, for they will be a snare unto you”. Unfortunately this pasuk is of great topical relvance. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate with the approval of the Shas party, is bring in non-Jewish idol worshippers from Ethiopia who claim descent from the avos hakedoshim (patriarchs) but do not keep any mitzvos. Furthermore, many thousands of non-Jewish Russian immigrants are already present in the country, and now, to add insult to injury, certain parties are eager to validate “army conversions”, and declare non-Jews to be Jews. Accepting ol malchus shamayim (the yoke of heaven) is a prerequisite for the validity of any conversion. If a genuine convert subsequently become lax in mitzvah observance, he becomes a mumar (heretic) like any other born Jew acting the same way, but these thousands of soldiers did not even pretend ab initio that they wanted to observe any halaochos. We do not distinguish between Ashkenazim and Sefardim, but are only interested in the Torah. However, anyone who validates such “conversions” will indeed cause a schism, G-d forbid, between those who recognize them for marriage purposes and those who do not (i.e. all the poskim in Eretz Yisrael: see the announcement published last week).

Rav Sternbuch Shlita was miraculously saved from a fury of an Arab mob last Thursday, and benshed gomel (the prayer for being saved by a miracle) on Shabbos. At the Kiddush on Shabbos after davening, his son said that one impudent fellow had suggested that this incident happened because of the Rav’s protests against the conversion scandal. The Rav responded that he believes he was saved in the merit of these protests.