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 3, 2011

Worthy Investments

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Heart of the Matter

Rashi quotes the Medrash that Moshe had difficulties with the machatzis hashekel (1/2 shekel), so Hashem showed him the form of a fiery coin. Why did Moshe have difficulties in understanding the shape of a coin, and what was the significance of the fire?

Moshe did not understand why specifically half a shekel was required. Hashem’s response was 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. If these are lacking, then not even half of the mitzvah has been performed. Since these aspects of the mitzvah are intangible, they are compared to fire, which cannot be touched.

Similarly, it says that someone giving tzedakah to a fellow Jew with a sour face loses his reward. The act of giving is only an empty shell that has to be filled with passionate and genuine love and concern for the recipient based on the recognition that the money with which we are parting is not ours in the first place and that by means of this act, money is being handed over to its rightful owner, and the oni (poor person) has enabled us to come closer to Hashem.

Day of Rest?

Another mitzvah mentioned in this week’s parsha requiring investment of time and effort on our part is kedushas Shabbos. We must not be influenced by the non-Jewish concept of a day of rest when we merely recharge our batteries. Shabbis is not a day when we refrain from physical labor. Many of the forbidden melachos do not involve any physical effort at all. It is rather a day when we acknowledge that Hashem rules the world and provides us with all our needs on the remaining days.

In this week’s parsha, it says, “You shall keep my Shabboses,” the emphasis being on “My”. Hashem is telling us that He determines the nature, quality and content of this day. In Minchah on Shabbos, we say that Hashem has given us a day of menuchah (rest) and kedushah. Kedushah in this context means learning Torah, saying divrei Torah, singing zemiros and conveying fundamental messages to our children at the Shabbos table.

Shabbos is not merely a time when we refrain from certain forbidden actions, but a day of positive, active kedushah, a day when we must strive to create (“la’asos es haShabbos”) our own Shabbos reality, an otherworldly experience, and to recharge our spiritual batteries, thereby sanctifying ourselves and this holiest day.

Holy Wealth

Rashi quotes the Medrash that Moshe rabbeinu became very rich from the remnants of the Luchos (tablets). Chazal are clearly not telling us that this was a profitable business venture for Moshe Rabbeinu. They are rather referring to the spiritual blessings bestowed on him due to the fact that he was in contact with the holy Luchos. Their kedushah was the source of these blessings. Similarly, we find in Tanach that the inhabitants of any place fortunate enough to house the Aron were blessed with wisdom, health, children and so on.

In addition, the pasuk in Tehillim says that “they who seek Hashem do not lack any good thing”. Wealth for the righteous does not consist of material possessions, but of the ability to feel that we lack nothing, and that, too, is the wealth with which Moshe Rabbeinu was blessed.

Constructive Destruction

The Aron was the source of many blessings, because it housed the Luchos, which are Kodesh Kodoshim. However, if someone learns Torah and does not observe it, the Torah serves no purpose, and for this reason Chazal tell us that Hashem praised Moshe for breaking the Luchos.

Paradigm Student

The posuk calls Yehoshua a youth (naar). However, the Ibn Ezra calculates that he was in fact 56 years old at the time. The reason he is still given this designation is to convey to us that despite his age, he acted like a young child, who is completely subjugated to his father, and like a student who subordinates himself to his teacher entirely.

Unlike Moshe Rabbeinu, we are not fortunate enough to be in close proximity to the shvtei Luchos, but the Gemara says that a talmid chochom (rabbinic scholar) is a source of even greater kedushah that the Torah itself, and everybody can and should make it their business to cleave to a talmid chochom.

Rav Sternbuch once spoke to the Brisker Rov about a certain person who had learned with his father, Rav Chaim Brisker, for three years. The Brisker Rov commented to Rav Sternbuch that although that person had indeed learned with his father, he could not be called his father’s talmid (student) since he had not sufficiently absorbed his father’s inner qualities, his character traits, outlook and daas Torah.

Yehoshua was a paradigm talmid and Hashem sees to it that every generation is blessed with sufficient gedolim whom we can adhere to, so that we can follow Yehoshua’s example, should we only invest the effort to do so.

Hidden Secrets

“Show me I pray You Your glory”. The Gemara tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu was asking Hashem to reveal to him why the righteous suffer and other related matters. Hashem responded, “You cannot see My face for man shall not see Me and live,” meaning that in this life we cannot be privy to the answers to such questions.

“You shall see My back (achorai) but My face (ponai) shall not be seen. Hashem is telling Moshe as follows: When the time comes for the Day of Judgment, you will understand retroactively (achorai) the secrets of My conduct in this world, but it is not possible for you to grasp these matters before that time (ponai). I have intentionally created the world in a way that such matters will remain unfathomable nisyonos (trials) until I choose to reveal the hidden explanations behind them.

Mutual Responsibility

Although some life situations call for absolute and passive acceptance of Hashem’s will, and the realization that, for now, some things will remain beyond our understanding, in certain circumstances we are expected to behave with unrestrained activism.

In the chet ha’Egel (sin of the Golden Calf), only 3,000 people actually sinned, but Hashem still wanted to destroy the entire nation because the majority had not done enough to protest the actions of the minority. Silence and inaction constitute consent. At Har Sinai we accepted on ourselves mutual reasonability (arvus) for all future generations, which means that everybody’s actions impact on the whole nation.

Indispensable Shechinah

“If your presence does not go with me, carry us not up from here”. We were not willing to enter Eretz Yisrael without the Shechinah. Similarly, we will not be able to remain here should the Shechinah chas vesholom depart from us. This is why we must be careful to be diligent in limud haTorah (learning Torah) and all aspects of our avodas Hashem in the King’s palace.

Moreover, the Gemara in Maseches Kiddushin states that the Shechinah only dwells with families whose lineage is clearly Jewish. If we countenance a situation in which there is any confusion about yichus matters, this can chas veshalom cause the Shechinah to depart from us.

Pure Intentions

We have considered several examples of how we can invest in various aspects of our avodas Hashem. These investments may take the form of enhancing our mitzvah performance, connecting to a gadol, accepting the Divine will, or when appropriate, adopting activism in order to ensure that we do not become associated in any shape or form with forces diametrically antithetical to kavod ha’Torah (honor for the Torah) and kavod Shamayim (honor for Heaven). If our actions are completely lesheim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven) they will surely be crowned with success.