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

The Art of Appreciation

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Passion for Torah

“This is the law (Torah) of the burnt offering (olah)”
The posuk is hinting that if we want to succeed in becoming one with Torah, we must sacrifice ourselves completely to Hashem like an olah, and not hanker for the pleasures and vanities of this world, and also, and in particular, that Torah must be learned with a holy enthusiasm, resembling the fire of the sacrifices. If we appreciate the Torah and realize that it is not just another form of wisdom but the blueprint of creation and the essence of our lives, we will be able to resist the pull of all those forces inimical to our approaching Torah in this way.
The Targum Yonaason translates this phrase as follows: “This is the law of the burnt offering which comes to atone for sinful thoughts”. The Rambam (Issurei Bi’ah 22:21) says that someone whose mind is completely preoccupied with Torah will not have immoral thoughts, because such thoughts only dwell in a vacant mind. We may therefore understand the Targum to be saying that the Torah resembles an olah. Just like the main function of an olah is to atone for sinful thoughts, so too, the Torah itself acts like an olah by ensuring that we do not have any sinful thoughts in the first place.

State of Elevation

Rashi says that the posuk above teaches us, inter alia, about the laws of sacrifices, which have been offered despite a certain flaw. The Gemara in Maseches Zevachim (68b) says that if the flaw is one which arose after shechitah, if such a sacrifice has already been placed on the mizbeiach, it must be removed, because the deficiency arose after the animal had already acquired a certain degree of sanctity. But if the flaw derives from a fundamental blemish, such as the fact that it was a treifah from the outset, such a deficiency predates the attainment of sanctity, and the animal must be removed from the mizbeiach even if it had already been placed on it.
This halachah teaches us an important lesson. IF someone “sanctifies” himself properly by adopting an appropriate lifestyle and educating his children in Torah and mitzvos, then even if he stumbles more than once, he must not lose heart because he does not lose his basic state of elevation. However, if someone does not have the strength to completely accept on himself the yoke of Torah and mitzvos, his level of sanctity is flawed from the outset and if he stumbles, his only remedy is to resolve wholeheartedly to “sanctify” himself by adopting a proper attitude and way of life.

Immunity to Society

“And the kohein shall put on his linen (bad) garment.” The word bad can be read as levad, alone. In our times, talmidei chochomim are the equivalent of kohanim, and they too must consider only what the Torah expects of them and not be affected in any way by the opinion of others. They must consider themselves to be answerable only to Hashem and act as if they were standing alone before Him.
“And he shall carry the ashes outside the camp.” The Chovos Halevavos (6:6) says that Hashem imposed the duty of removing the ashes every day on the kohen, who has greater inborn sanctity, in order to induce humility in him and remove haughtiness from his heart. Through this seemingly undignified daily act, the kohen internalizes the lesson that true honor is not derived from wealth, social position or even wisdom, but from being ready at any time to joyfully fulfill the will of the Creator with love.
In a similar vein, the Torah accords Moshe Rabbeinu the title of “servant of Hashem,” and not “hayachsan” (a person with a distinguished pedigree), “hagaon” or “hatzaddik”. This demonstrates that more than anything, our ultimate goal is to fulfill the will of Hashem faithfully and without taking into account what others think of us.

Sanctity of Life

“And he shall take off his garments, put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.” Rashi comments that it is not befitting for the kohein to wear the same clothes when officiating as he does when he takes out the ashes. Although the ashes themselves also have a certain degree of sanctity, it bears no comparison to the sanctity of a sacrifice, which has not yet been offered, so that the latter mitzvah calls for more beautiful clothes to be worn by the kohen.
Similarly, as long as a person’s neshama is still inside his body and he is able to serve the Creator and perform mitzvos, each moment is infused with immense sanctity and although the body maintains a certain degree of sanctity even after the neshama departs, it is far less intense than the sanctity which attaches to a person as long as he is still alive and can serve the Creator. Someone who appreciates the sanctity and potential of every moment will clearly run his life very differently than a person living without such an awareness.

Absorbing Sanctity

“And the flesh that touches ay unclean thing shall not be eaten” We see from the Gemara in Maseches Zevachim 97a) that tumah is transmitted by a mere touch, whereas the holiness of kodshim has to actually be absorbed before it can be conveyed.
In the days of the Baal Hatanya, rumors started spreading about someone that he was becoming friendly with maskilim and heretics. When the Baal Hatanya warned this person about the pernicious influence of wicked people, he defended himself with the argument that his connections with people had no influence on him. As proof of this, he cited the fact that he had been frequenting the company of Chassidim for several years and had not been influenced by them at all. The Baal Hatanya responded that this was hardly surprising, since in order to cleave to kedushah and become holy, mere contact is not enough, as we have to actually absorb kedushah, whereas to become tamei, mere contact is indeed enough. “This applies all the more so to you,” concluded the Baal Hatanya, “since instead of absorbing kedusha, you have satisfied yourself superficial contact, whereas you have absorbed the tumah of your friends wholeheartedly”.
Nowadays, our exposure to tumah is not limited to friendships with undesirable people. Much is said about the potentially disastrous influence wielded by the various media. If we appreciate the terrible consequences of even the most superficial contact with tumah, we will hopefully be better motivated to avoid it altogether and expend our energy on absorbing kedushah instead.

Appreciating Mitzvos

“Take Aharon and his sons with him.” Rashi cites the Medrash: “Take him with words and attract him”. Aharon was not compelled or excessively goaded into accepting his tasks, but was rather coaxed and appeared to in a pleasant manner. This teaches us the importance of performing mitzvos voluntarily with complete understanding and appreciation of their value.
“And Moshe did as Hashem commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the door of the Ohel Moed.” The actions performed by Moshe wee perfect in accordance with the instructions of Hashem. AS a result of these actions, the Bnei Ysirael merited to cleave to the Shechinah through their leader, and the congregation assembled at the door of the Ohel Moed in order to imbibe Moshe’s kedushah and learn from his ways. It was not necessary to publish a call for the people to come or to convince the nation to congregate around him. Everybody came of their own accord. A true tzaddik attracts others like a magnet through his very being.
A parent and teacher must realize that you cannot force a child into good behavior. The only way to succeed in any educational endeavor is to demonstrate positively the beauty of Torah and mitzvos, and the infinite benefits to be derived from a Torah lifestyle. In addition, we must serve as positive role models. The Rambam says that everyone has the potential to become as great as Moshe Rabbeinu. However, even if we cannot be the greatest role models, we should strive at least to minimize any major character or other defect that could have a negative impact on our children or students.

Double Appreciation

The Medrash says, “Whoever offers the korban todah horns (yechabdoneni) Me’ (Tehillim 50:23). It does not say yechabdeni but yechabdoneni, to teach us that such a person gives one honor after the other.” A person brings a korban todah after having been saved from danger should realize that the tribulations he endured were themselves inflicted for his benefit, for one of two reasons. They may remind him to improve his ways, jut like a father punishes his son for the same purpose. Once has matured, a child is also grateful for the education he received from his parents, even if it involved unpleasant punishments. Alternatively, they may come to atone for his sins and purify him through suffering in this world.
“One honor after the other” refers to the gratitude felt not only for the salvation, but also for the misfortune itself. Of course, it is easier to feel this way once we are no longer suffering from the misfortune, but an appreciation of the purpose of hardship makes it much easier to deal with even before it is over.

How to be saved from Chevlei Moshiach

It says in Medrash Tanchumah (Emor 14) that when Moshiach comes all the korbanos will be abolished, except for the korban today. During that period, when the world will be full of the knowledge of Hashem, there will be no sin, and no one will require atonement through sacrifices. However the korban todah will be even more relevant than it is today, since only then will we appreciate the true extent of our obligation to praise Hashem for His great mercy and kindness, and for all the hidden miracles of the past and present. Only then will Hashem reveal to us the reason for our suffering in golus.
Similarly, Chazal tell us that the Yomim Tovim (holidays) will be abolished when Moshiach comes except for Purim. This is not to be understood literally, since there will be no change in the halachos of any of the Yomim Tovaim. Opurim is about Hashem’s hidden Presence within nature. This will become completely manifest only when Moshiach comes. Dayan Yechezkel abramsky zt”l asks why it says at the end of the Megillah, “And all the acts of his power and of his might…are they not written in the book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?” Why should we be interested in what those books have to say? The Megillah is telling us that if you are interested in reading a storybook, then go read those books, but for us the Megillah is a lesson in hashgacha protis (Divine Providence) and is kodesh.
The Yomim Tovim will not be actually be abolished, but they will pale in significance compared to Purim. The purpose of the chevlei Moshaich is to impress on us indelibly the message that Hashem is in charge and is the only Source of our salvation. If we completely internalize the message of the Megillah we will be saved from those travails, because they will become superfluous.