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, March 31, 2011

Aharon’s Silence

Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Eternal Renewal

“And Moshe said, This is the thing which Hashem commanded you to do, that the glory of Hashem may appear on you”.
The simple meaning of this posuk is that if we do everything in accordance with halachah, we will be worthy of having Hashem’s glory appear on us. On another level, the Torah is warning us against keeping mitzvos by rote. Many people are observant merely as a matter of tradition, whereas they should be feeling as if they have been commanded this very minute to keep the Torah. This point is reflected in the wording of the brachos: “…Who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us…” The only way to acquire any sanctity is by continuously observing the Torah as if we have received it today and not by rote.

Pure intentions not Enough

“And Moshe said to Aharon, ‘Draw near to the mizbei’ach.’”
Rashi says that Aharon was ashamed and afraid to come close and Moshe told him, “Why are you ashamed? For this you were chosen”. To be ashamed of a sin is the main prerequisite for obtaining atonement for it, and as long as this aspect is missing, it is impossible to achieve complete kapparah (atonement). Although Aharon’s involvement in the chet ha’Eigel (sin of the golden calf) in reality constituted a minuscule sin, he was still embarrassed by it and felt that an element of that event still marred his soul This embarrassment was the proof that Aharon was worthy of being forgiven completely and of bringing a calf for his atonement.
The Maggid Meshorim from the Bais Yosef notes that Aharon’s sin was so subtle that it did not even require atonement as an inadvertent (shogeg) transgression. However, his delaying tactics resulted in people assuming that he was on their side, and even though his intentions were totally pure, namely to prevent the nation from sinning, since his actions resulted in a desecration of the Divine name, he was commanded to bring a korban for his atonement.
Almost all of us are looked up to by someone else, be they our children, our students, our friends or our congregants, and we do not always realize how much our actions have an impact on the perceptions others have of us. We must consider any possible repercussions of our actions very carefully, because even the best intentions are not an excuse when chillul Hashem (a desecration of G-d’s Name) is at stake.

Pointing the Finger at Ourselves

“And Moshe and Aharon went into the Ohel Moed, and came out, and blessed the people”.
Rashi: “Once Aharon saw that all the korbanos had been offered up, all the actions had been performed and the Shechinah had not descended on the nation, he became upset and said, ‘I know that Hashem was angry with me and because of me the Shechinah did not descend on the nation….”
Aharon Hakoehn immediately attributed the absence of the Shechinah to his own faults, just like Yonah Hanovi said, “This storm is on account of me..” Whenever a calamity happens, the Torah approach is not to disown our part by ascribing it to the sins of other individuals of the public, but to perform a thorough examination of our own deeds in order to determine our shortcomings and what we can do to amend them.

When the Righteous Suffer

“Through those who are close to me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified (ekoveid)”.
Rav Boruch Safrin, the Kamarna Rebbe, witnessed the merciless slaughter inflicted on his fellow Jews during the churban in World War II. The posuk above was poignantly interpreted by him as follows: Only those who are close to Hashem sanctify him, by appreciating the profound judgment inherent in His conduct, and acknowledging that the purpose of suffering in the world is to cleanse us for the eternal World to Come, but for the remainder of the nation, the way in which Hashem’s attribute of judgment affects the righteous appears very difficult to comprehend (interpreting ekoveid as “heavy” or difficult”). The Rebbe called on his Chassidim to become sanctified during that terrible time and come close to Hashem. He had rejected offers to be taken to safety, refusing to leave his community, and eventually perished himself.

Dayan Abramsky Demands Silence

“And Aharon held his peace.”
Rav Sternbuch recalls a conference that took place in London after the war, which was attended by representatives from Jewish communities all over Europe, as well as survivors of Bergen Belsen, Dachau and other camps. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss why Hashem had meted out such terrible suffering on the nation. One speaker got up and said that it was due to widespread chillul shabbos in Europe before the war. Another one said that it was because of rampant immorality. A third speaker said that not enough had been done to protest the sins of the public. Yet another speaker argued that more should have been done for Eretz Yisrael.
At that point, Dayan Yechezke Abramsky zt”l suddenly banged his fist on the table and declared that we are not allowed to judge Hashem. When Aharon’s two righteous sons passed away, he reacted by holding his peace and accepting Hashem’s judgment. We have to accept that some things are beyond our comprehension. Why are some people rich, some poor, some sick and some healthy? Why do some have children and some remain childless? We do not know the answer to these questions, but Aharon Hakohen taught us that we must respond to calamities with silence. There were no more speakers after Dayan Abramsky’s intervention.
Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l noted that to do al Kiddush Hashem presupposes that those who are killed have a complete and unquestioning acceptance of the Divine Will, and there is a special place (pargod) reserved in Shomayim for those who attain such a high level.
Yaakov Avinu is considered the greatest of our forefathers, and yet he was the one whose life was a series of endless suffering and misfortune. When the righteous are judged so rigorously in this world for miniscule transgressions, this gives us some idea of the difficult judgment awaiting us in the next world, which is the main place where Divine punishment takes place. That is the message for the survivors of the churban and their descendants. Our task is to strive to attain the level of those kedoshim who accepted the din Shomayim and recognized that they were experiencing a period of hester ponim (Hashem’s hidden countenance), and not some natural manifestation. IF we do so, we will merit salvation.

Feeling Joy in Challenging Circumstances

Rashi: “Aharon received reward for his silence when Hashem communicated with him exclusively and told him alone the section dealing with intoxication”.
It seem sdifficult to understand the reward had to do with Aharon’s elevated silence. We can understand this as follows. When a person loses two extremely righteous sons, it would be only natural for him to fall into such a state of depression that he is unable to speak. Rashi is telling us that Aharon’s silence did not stem from sadness over his son’s premature passing, but rather signaled complete joyful acceptance of the Divine decree and the Kiddush Hashem which resulted from their death. AS a reward for this reaction on Aharon’s part, Hashem communicated with him exclusively, thereby proving that the silence had signified kabbolas hadin (accepting Divine Judgement) and not sadness, because the Shechinah only dwells with a person in a happy and contented state of mind.
Just one or two generations ago, one could witness the lofty heights reached by some survivors of the caliber of the Kausenberger Rebbe zt”l. he survived Auschwitz and lost his wife and eleven children during the war, but he did not succumb to any feelings of depression. After the war, people were amazed at how profoundly he felt joy for others and for their simchos.

Observing Halacha in Trying Times

“And he (Moshe) was angry with Elazer and Isamar”. Rashi on this posuk cites the Medrash that Moshe was actually upset with Aharon and not his sons. Moshe was aware that Aharon had just endured the sudden death of his two children and although Aharon remained content enough to have Hashem communicate with him afterwards, he must still have been in some state of confusion. Nevertheless, Moshe made no allowances for this and was angry at him for apparently forgetting the halachah that an onen may not eat kodshim. This teaches us that we are required to maintain our composure and clarity of mind at all times and to observe every detail of halachah even in the most trying circumstances.

Kosher Pork?

The Kli Yakor explains that the pig is the ultimate symbol of a treife animal because of its kosher sign. Its cloven hoof misleads people into thinking that it is kosher. The most dangerous type of person is someone who is not what he seems to be, and we must keep the greatest distance from such a person.
The medrash on Tehillim states that in the future, Hashem will give the pig back to the Jewish nation. This does not mean that the Torah will change, chas veshalom, in the times of Moshiach. The meforshim (commentators) explain that the nature of the pig will change so that it will possess both kosher signs. However, if that is so then, on the face of it, we are not longer dealing with the same animal.
The Medrash is telling us that in the future, we will no longer have to fear hypocrites, because they will not be in a position to deceive anyone. When the Medrash says that Hashem will give the pig back to the Jewish nation, it means that the reason for the prohibition will be abolished, and the pig will no longer be the epitome of a treife animal, but its halachic status will not change.
The Gemara in Maseches Shabbos (155b) says, “No one is poorer than the dog and no one is wealthier than the pig”. The Vilna Gaon explains this on the basis of the Gemara in Maseches Pesachim (118a) which states, “Anyone who relates lashon harah anyone who accepts lashon hara…is worthy of being thrown to the dogs”. The prohibition against eating a pig and the prohibition against speaking or accepting lashon harah both have an identical status (a lav) but in general, people are much more careful about observing the former prohibition. “No one is poorer than the dog” – the prohibition against lashon harah – has comparatively few adherents as opposed to the pig, which is “wealthy”, since most of the nation adheres to the prohibition against eating it.

The Mother’s Share

At the end of the parsha it says, And between the living thing (chaya) that may be eaten and living thing that may not be eaten”. Chaya can also mean a woman who is giving birth, so we can understand this posuk to be telling us about the effect a mother’s actions have on her child both before and after it is born. If she eats forbidden food, the tumah will be passed on to the child, but if she is careful to refrain from any questionable food and, in general observe the guidelines of kedushah, such as by not contaminating her mind with unsuitable literature, the child which derives its sustenance from her will be born with taharah and this taharah will assist it to grow in Torah and good deeds.

Para Admumah – Utilizing Pride to Attain Greatness

The Chovos Halevavos says that humility is the paramount moral quality. However, this is not true in the absolute sense. The Para Adumah (red heifer) makes tahor those who are tamei whereas it makes tamei those who are tahor. Although the mitzvah of Parah Adumah is the archetypal chok, whose ultimate reason could not be fathomed even by Shlomo Hamelech, we can still derive certain lessons from it.
Both the Seforno and the Baal Shem Tov note that the ashes from the Parah Adumah were combined with cedar, a very tall tree, symbolizing a proud person, and hyssop, which grows to only very small heights, symbolizing a humble person. A person who takes credit for himself instead of attributing his qualities to Hashem’s kindness is indeed in need of a good dosage of humility. His pride is metamei his qualities. On the other hand, the “humility” of someone who says to himself, “What’s the point of trying to learn Torah? I’ll never become a talmid chochom anyway”, is tamei. Such a person must be made aware of his merits and great potential and be told that many people started off with mediocre abilities but applied themselves and eventually became gedolim whose works we still study today. For such a person, humility is tamei and must be made tahor with a generous dosage of pride in his capabilities.