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.
Friday, March 25, 2011


By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Wake-Up Calls

Chazal tell us that earthquakes happen on account of our actions, even if we are not the actual victims. So the events in Japan are a wake-up call for us. However, ideally, our wake-up calls should not be of such seismic proportions, but should rather take a subtler and far more pleasant form.
“And Moshe was called and Hashem spoke to him out of the Ohel Moed saying.” Why does it not say in the pasuk who called Moshe, and why does it not say what Moshe was told? Every communication from Hashem to Moshe was preceded by a feeling of profound closeness and spiritual elevation as a result of which Moshe reached the state of disembodiment required for his unique level of perceiving the Word of Hashem. “Moshe was called” refers to this preliminary d’veikus (closeness) felt by Moshe, which served as a sign that Hashem was about to speak to him. Since Moshe did not yet hear the voice of Hashem speaking to him during this stage, the posuk does not say, “And Hashem spoke to Moshe nor are we told the content of any communication, since nothing was conveyed to him yet.
There are times in the life of every Yid when he feels closeness to the Shechinah, an isarusa dele’eila (a spiritual uplift from above), which is not preceded by any specific act on his part. Sometimes, in the middle of davening, he may feel a wonderful awakening and intense desire to come closer to Hashem, and his prayer becomes imbued with great devotion, or he may suddenly be overwhelmed by the insignificance and pettiness of his daily affairs and feel the need to improve his ways. Whatever the source of such unexpected elevated states, be it the merits of one’s ancestors or that his shoresh haneshema (the source of his soul) is now worthy of receiving something resembling a call from Hashem, anyone fortunate enough to experience such states, would be foolish not to react by thanking Hashem for this immense opportunity and beseeching His assistance that these sensations should indeed serve as an impetus for real change in his conduct.

Holy Beginnings

The Medrash says that when a boy first learns to read, we start teaching him Vayikrah, so that those with a holy unsullied neshama should first be taught the topic of holy korbanos (sacrifices). On a plain level, the reason we do not start with Bereishis is because if children would first be exposed to the narrative part of the Torah, they would think that it is merely a storybook, without any special sanctity, but when we teach them about korbanos, which epitomize mitzvos whose reason we cannot completely understand, they immediately realize that learning Chumash is about the will of Hashem and is a holy endeavor.

Sacrificial Mechanisms

Despite the explanations proposed by the Rishonim (early commentators), the ultimate rationale for korbanos and how they effect atonement remains a mystery. However, on a plain level, we can understand that what distinguishes a human being from an animal is his intellectual capacity, and when a person sins, it is due to his failure to utilize it. A sinner loses his superiority over animals. He has either let his intellect be overcome by an “insane spirit” (ruach shuts) or, I not the case of an inadvertent transgression, he has failed to use it at all. For this reason semichah (literally leaning on the animal) must be performed specifically on the head of the korban to bring home the point that when sinning, a sinner lowers himself to the level of this animal, and when he offers it up, he must realize that he was actually the one deserving of punishment, and therefore both he animal and the sinner receive their tikkun.
However, the action of bringing the korban is only the final stage an dmust be preceded by a complete process of teshuvah. This is clearly illustrated by the wording of the confession to be recited at the time for the semichah, which is cited by the Rambam (Maasei Hakorbanos 5:15): “…I have done such and such and have repented…” In other words, this viduy is made on the korban and is not part of the teshuvah process, because he has already said viduy previously as part of his teshuvah. In other words, the act of bringing a korban is not a substitute for teshuvah but its culmination. Similarly, we have to do teshuvah before davening or learning Torah if we want our tefillas (prayers) or Torah to have the optimum effect.
In Moreh Nevuchim (the Guide for the Perplexed), the Rambam says that the purpose of korbanos is to counteract idol worship, and in Hilchos Deos he talks about the influence of the environment. Even hearing about the acts of idol worshippers can cause a degree of intellectual confusion, even though one feels no emotional connection to them at all. Although we cannot comprehend the ultimate reason for korbanos or gain a complete understanding of how they work, the Rambam is telling us that the performance of this mitzvah properly, with all its details will neutralize such confusion and subjugate any urge for idol worship, leaving our hearts and minds free to serve the Creator.
Nowadays, most of us are not exposed to avodah zarah in the conventional sense, but we are bombarded on a daily basis with heretical messages, denying the very existence of a Creator or the fact that He runs every aspect of our lives. Although we are prevented from fulfilling the mitzvah of bringing korbanos reciting the parshiyos hakorbanos can have the effect of removing the pernicious influence of this contemporary yitzra de’avodah zarah. (the negative influence of avodah zarah)

All in the Same Boat

At the beginning of the parsha, it says, “When a man brings (singular)…you (plural) shall bring your offering.” Why is there a sudden change of tense?
When a person sins, it has an affect not only on himself but also on the public as a whole. Consequently, when he brings a korban and amends his actions, the blemish which attached to the nation also becomes removed, and the whole nation becomes elevated as a result. Therefore, the beginning of the posuk is referring to the individual sinner wishing to repent and the end of the posuk refers to the stage where the offering has already been sacrificed and had the effect of showering an abundance of shefah (heavenly influence) on the whole world, and the whole nation has been purified.

Elevating the Physical

An olah is brought for the non-performance of positive commandments and a chatas for the inadvertent transgression of aveiros (sins) punishable by krisus (being spiritually cut off), whereas an olah is consumed entirely by the mizbeiach. Thus, chatos seems to be the less severe korban, so why is it the one brought by someone who committed the more serious sin?
The kohanim’s consumption of the chatos is an integral part of the atonement achieved by the sinner. This elevated act must be performed completely lesheim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven) without any element of personal pleasure. This is one of the more challenging tasks of the kohanim in the Bias Hamikdash. It is much easier to burn the entire olah on the mizbeiach. Similarly, in many respects it is easier to fast on Yom Kippur than it is to eat lesheim Shomayim on Shabbos. Therefore, the olah is the appropriate korban for the less severe sin.
This concept also sheds light on the halachah in the Gemara that for anon-Jew, the equivalent of shelamim are olos. The non-Jewish concept of serving Hashem is through a complete negation of anything physical. The notion of eating for the sake of Heaven as an elevated act is completely foreign to them. Thus, the only korban with which they can feel any affinity is an olah, which does not involve any eating.
The story is told tahat one of the supporters of the Volozhiner Yeshiva in the days of its founder, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, once refused to give his donation to an emissary from the yeshiva, saying that he wanted to give the money directly to the Rosh Yeshiva himself. The donor felt that since the emissary took a small percentage of the donation for himself for his trouble it would be preferable if his complete donation would be used for its designated purpose. When he met Rav Chaim, Rav Chaim told the donor that his attitude was inappropriate for someone of Jewish lineage. The Jewish attitude is to be pleased with the opportunity to help a fellow Jew, just like Hashem takes pleasure in “sharing” a korban shelamim with the kohen and the owner of the korban.

Unintentional Transgressions

“If anyone commits a trespass and sins through error”. This phrase may be understood in accordance with the Vilna Gaon’s explanation on Mishlei (13:6) that person does not sin inadvertently unless he has previously sinned intentionally. The intentional sin caused him to stumble subsequently even without his knowledge. According to that, the posuk here is saying that only a person capable of intentionally transgressing against his Creator (simol maal) will then sin through error (vechata beshegaga) and can only obtain atonement by paying keren vechomesh and bringing a korban asham.

Character Blemishes

It says in the Pesikta, “Just like an offering will not be accepted without blemish, so too must a person be without blemish in order to be accepted”. This means that even if a person refrains from sinning in practice, in order for his actions to be acceptable he must be “perfect”. This perfection consists of cleansing himself from negative character traits which lead to sin, and which are also sinful per se.

Happiness not related to Economic Status

Every korban requires salt. Meat without salt is not food fit for a King. So too, the mitzvos have to be performed with taste and fragrance, in other words, with enthusiasm and devotion. Although the obligation to add salt applies to every korban, it is mentioned in the context of the minchah offering. This is in order to convey the idea that Hashem wants a poor person, who may have every reason to fell downcast, to still offer his minchas ani with complete joy and enthusiasm. Even if he cannot quite achieve this, any effort he makes towards improving his emunah and bitachon (belief in G-d) will go a long way.