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.
View my complete profile


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 10, 2011

Ben Torah Every Step of the Way

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Unmistakable Identity

It says that “all of the congregation of the Bnei Yisrael departed from the presence of (milifnei) Moshe”. The mashgiach, Rav Elya Lopian zt”l, commented that it does not say “mei’eis,” but “milifnei,” because even after they had departed from Moshe and were no longer in his physical presence, his influence left its imprint on all aspects of their behavior and it was as if they were still standing before him.

Rav Sternbuch adds that this also contains a powerful message for future generations, namely that a genuine ben Torah acts the same way irrespective of whether or not he is situated physically between the four walls of a yeshiva or kollel, or in the supportive environment of a chareidi community, where his conduct may be determined to some extent by social pressure. Even during bein hazemanim (the times there is no formal yeshiva learning) or during a business trip far from any Jewish community, his learning schedule does not slacken, and his ethical conduct remains based on the standards of a ben Torah, just like the inhabitant of a town (ben ir) maintains his status even if he is physically situated in a town surrounded by a wall (k’rach), because his essence is not contingent on where he is physically located.

Understanding Charity

One of the things that exemplify a ben Torah is how he earns his money and what he does with it. The Zohar says that “take from among you an offering” comes to exclude gezel (stealing). Gezel does not only include outright theft, but also any type of dishonesty.

Centuries ago, the Maharsha (Kesubos 67) already complained about the many people in his generation who accumulate wealth dishonestly, such as through gezel akum (stealing from non-Jews), thereby creating a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name) and subsequently give donations in the hope of making that money “kosher,” Although these people may be given much honor for their actions, the Zohar emphasizes that is someone donates to charity from money gained through dishonest means, his actions will not be a source of any merits, but will only serve as a reminder of his sinful behavior.

Even if the source of our charitable donations is beyond reproach, we must still make an effort to make them with the proper intentions. On the pasuk, “And Betzalel made the Aron,” Rashi cites the Medrash that the Aron was in Betzalel’s name, because he devoted himself entirely to his work. Since the Aron was placed in the Kodesh Hakodoshim (the Holy of Holies), its construction called for special kavanos, which only someone of the stature of Betzalel was capable of, and he devoted himself entirely to ensuring that this crucial task was performed properly. That is why the Aron was called in his name.

If a person builds a yeshiva from his money or by inducing others to contribute funds and he dedicates himself to its continued existence, it will be called in his name, but if his sole purpose in making a donation is to see his name on a plaque in a prominent place in the yeshiva, it will not be genuinely called in his name. This will only take place if he puts his heart and soul into it and acts lesheim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven)

Eating Habits

“On the seventh day there shall be in you a holy day,” One way of sanctifying Shabbos is by eating in a proper manner. Rabbeinu Yonah suggests a novel reason for the obligatory third meal on Shabbos. He says that the introduction of an additional meal at an unusual time, especially during the winter, forces us to control the amount of food we consume in the second, main Shabbos meal, so that we will be able to eat the third meal, with sufficient appetite. This compels us to exercise self-discipline and also ensures that we do not spend all our time eating, leaving little time for learning Torah. By eating lesheim Shomayim we infuse kedushah into Shabbos. This also teaches us not to spend too much time during the rest of the week on eating, and not to overeat in general. A ben Torah is not preoccupied with food and does not waste his dime discussing it. Even this basic function should be a source of kedushah at all times.

According to Kabbalah, the time of seudah shlishis is a propitious one, especially close to nightfall, when the souls go back to gehennom, and our time then should be spent exclusively on the seduas mitzvah, on divrei Torah and inspiring divrei Chazal, or on saying Tehillim, because this time of the day is especially appropriate for acquiring the sanctity, and we should be careful not to waste it with nonsense or worse.

Educational Vocation

“And He has put in his heart that he may teach.” The art of being a teacher requires the ability to understand the mindset of a child in order to be able to explain the material properly to him according to his own understanding. Hashem put into Betzalel’s heart the ability to make himself understood.

Not everybody is cut out to teach. Teaching young children in particular often calls for a great amount of patience, and one who does not love his pupils sufficiently will not make a successful teacher. As for older boys, Rav Sternbuch heard several times from Rav Smiatizky zt”l that being a ram (rebbe in a Yeshiva) is a special art, and one should not automatically assume that every talmid chochom is able to teach Torah to others. He felt that the ga’onei hador (wisest of the generation) together with well-respected ramim should grant a type of semicha (rabbinical ordination) to candidates wishing to teach in yeshivos or kollelim, just like people receive semichah for the rabbinate. A thorough examination should be undertaken before awarding such a “semichah”, and nobody should be allowed to take up a teaching position without it.

In any case, when it comes to choosing a vocation, a ben Torah will not rely blindly on his own opinion and feelings about himself, but will seek objective Torah guidance before deciding on such a vital issue.

Fiery Enthusiasm

“And He has filled him with the spirit of Hashem, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge.” The pasuk says that Hashem filled Betzalel with the spirit of Hashem and Targum Onkelos translates it to mean “a spirit from before Hashem.” Betzalel’s superior level did not stem from his intellectual knowledge or understanding, but from the Divine spirit throbbing in his heart. It was the fiery enthusiasm to serve Hashem and do His will which set him apart.

“Every man and woman, whose heart made them willing to bring for all the work which Hashem had commanded by the hand of Moshe to be made”. By employing such lengthy phraseology, the Torah is teaching us that the Mishkan was not only constructed through the contributions of money and labor, but also by virtue of the generous and benevolent emotions (nedivus lev) which accompanied those contributions, because the Shechinah will only dwell in the Mishkan, i.e. amongst the Jewish nation, if they have a strong desire to come close to Hashem, and because of their nedivus lev. Am Yisrael merited to have the Shechinah dwell amongst them.

Although a ben Torah’s life is run by his intellect, neither it nor even his deeds alone characterize him. Rather, he is characterized by the degree to which all his actions are guided by the will of Hashem, and the extent to which they are suffused with passionate fervor to serve Him.