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 17, 2011

Heavenly Hierarchies

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Undeniable Reality

The medrash says that the statement “These are the accounts of the mishkan” was an atonement for the statement made by the erev rav (mixed multitude) at the time of the chet haegel (sin of the golden calf), “These are your gods, Yisrael”. Their sin had been based on the terrible misconception shared by the first idol worshippers that Hashem is too lofty to be involved in the affairs of ordinary mortals and wants us to serve Him through intermediaries. Once Moshe Rabbeinu had disappeared from the scene, they felt the need for a substitute. The calf miraculously showed sings of animation, and this seemed to corroborate the arguments of the erev rav.
Rashi in this week’s parsha cites the medrash that Moshe gave the nation a blessing that the shechiah should dwell on the fruits of their labor. Thus, “the accounts of the mishkan” constituted the antidote to the fallacy of the erev rav because in the mishkan the shechinah and Hashem’s direct connection to us were completely evident, so that their theory no longer had any chance of gaining a foothold. If anyone still harbored any doubts that may have been sowed by the erev rav at the time of the chet haegel about Hashem’s intimate and direct connection to us, these were shattered by the undeniable reality experienced by the entire nation.

Equal Opportunities

Although this reality was experienced equally by everybody, the degree of hasgochah pratis (Divine providence) earned by each individual differed and was based on their level of avodas Hashem. We mentioned two weeks ago that Moshe did not understand why specifically half a shekel was required to be given, and that Hashem’s response was that the physical act of giving only constituted half of the mitzvah, whereas the emotion accompanying the act and the desire to perform the will of Hashem are complementary and indispensable ingredients.
Moshe initially also did not understand why both a poor and wealthy person should contribute the same amount, and Hashem’s response was that He specifically wanted everyone’s contribution to be identical, in order to demonstrate that somebody’s financial or social status are completely irrelevant and that He is mainly interested not in the physical half-shekel donation, but in the other half consisting of our subjective intentions and devotion, and each person’s reward is based on the quality of that complementary half.
It is that complimentary half which primarily determines the status of our neshomah, and this naturally differs from person to person. Every time we perform a mitzvah we create an angel who serves as our defense counsel when the time comes for our heavenly trial, but that angel’s ability to plead our case depends on the extent to which we put our heart and should into the specific mitzvah by reason of which he was created in the first place, and the extent which we had to overcome our evil inclination when doing so. If the mitzvah was performed properly the angel created as a result of it has the power to counteract many prosecuting angels created by our sins.
The Chofetz Chaim once sent a message to an Orthodox member of the Rothschild family, who was gravely sick. His total wealth was estimated at some 50 million marks, a fabulous fortune at the time. The Chofetz Chaim suggested to him that if he made a donation of one million marks to rescue the Russian yeshivos, which were experiencing dire financial straits, he would receive a portion in the world to come. No response was forthcoming, but when the man passed away, his children were contacted to establish whether he had issued any instructions before his death or made any relevant provision in his will. The answer was in the negative. To this day it is known whether his heirs were telling the truth, or whether they intentionally concealed some information.
In any case, the Chofetz Chaim’s response was that it was totally illogical for a dying man who had lived an Orthodox lifestyle to refuse the offer of parting with one fiftieth of his wealth in order to acquire a portion in the world to come, and Hashem must be telling us that He wants many more people to be given the opportunity to participate in this important mitzvah. Hashem prefers the yeshivos to be supported by the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe, since many small donations accompanied by superior intentions and self-sacrifice are dearer in His eyes.

Imputed Creation

It says in Tehillim (62,13): “Also unto You, Hashem, belongs loving kindness for you render unto every man according to his actions”. The Baal Shem Tov asks why mercy has to come into play if Hashem is merely rewarding us for our actions. Surely even the requirements of strict justice require Hashem to do this, without the need to enlist chesed? The possuk in Tehillim is telling us that Hshem will reward us for each angel created as a result of our mitzvos as if we had actually created the angel ourselves, even though we are obviously incapable of doing so in the literal sense, and this is indeed a major chesed on the part of Hashem.
As we mentioned above, Moshe gave the bnei ysirael a blessing that the shechinah should dwell on the fruits of their labor (maasei yedeihem). This request can also be understood in the same light: Moshe was asking Hashem to give the bnei Yisrael credit as if they themselves, with their own hands (maasei yedeihim), so to speak, had been responsible for bringing down the shechinah to dwell in the mishkan.

Torah Fragrances

Even among the truly righteous, we find different hierarchies. The Targrum Yonoson on this week’s parsha (40,5) says that the ketores represents chachomim whose Torah exudes a pleasant fragrance. The oron hakodesh which contained the Torah in a closed concealed manner symbolizes the 36 concealed tzadikkim of each generation. The ketores represents revealed tzadikkim.
The actual ketores offering both on Yom Kippur and every day took place in the heichol and was not witnessed by anybody, but its fraganace could not be confined to the quarters of the heichal. Similarly, every genuine tzadik endeavors not to publicize himself or his actions. However, the fragrance of his Torah and good deeds cannot easily be contained, and he is willing and even eager to share them with others in order to influence the. For a tzadik to remain anonymous is, on the one hand, a great virtue, and can increase his reward in the world to come, because had he been given honor in this world this could detract from his reward in the next world. However, the revealed tzadik is on an even higher level, because his concern for the spiritual status of his fellow Jews overcomes any other considerations.
Rav Moshe Schneider told Rav Sternbuch that when he was living in Memel, Lithuania, the town was dominated by anti-religious circles and religious Jews were few and far between. However, there was one exceptional individual who was a true tzadik nistar (concealed tzadik). On one occasion Rav Shneider told the son-in-law of the Chofetz Chaim, Rav Hirsch Levinson, who was visiting Memel, about this tzadik. After he met him, Rav Levinson commented to Rav Schneider that this man was certainly a great tzadik, but Memel needed tzaddikim geluyim (revealed tzadikkim) to stem the anti-religious tide, and not tzaddikim of this kind who had no influence on the population.

Productive Rest

At the very end of this week’s parshah, Rashi states that in all the journeys undertaken by the bnei Yisrael, the onon (clouds of glory) dwelled with them, and that the locations where the bnei Yisrael encamped were also considered journeys. This seemingly paradoxical statement teaches us that in our avodas Hashem having a rest is not a means in itself, but rather a preparation for future activity.
As we mentioned two weeks ago, time is the most precious entity we have, and a ben Torah’s hours of rest should be limited to the amount of time required for revitalizing himself of the next seder during the zman, or for the next zman during bein hazmanim. As a gadol once noted, “I’m not interested in resing more than is absolutely necessary, there will come a time when I will be forced to rest as much as I want, so for now I want to make the most of the time allotted me”. If we strive to emulate talmidei chachomim and make our times of rest into preparations for the next journey, so that we can attain ever higher leves, the onon Hashem will dwell with us in our lives.