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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, May 5, 2011

How to avoid imminent chevlei moshiach

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


The Chofetz Chaim once went to see a doctor during a period of particularly cruel pogroms against the Jews in the Ukraine. Men, women and children were slaughtered mercilessly. The doctor asked the Chofetz Chaim how Hashem could permit such things to take place, and added that he was beginning to wonder whether there was a G-d at all. The Chofetz Chaim responded by telling the doctor that he had doubts about whether he was a doctor. The doctor was taken aback. “But I have this certificate on the wall attesting to my qualifications!”. “Yes, said the Chofetz Chaim, but that certificate is 30 years’ old, how do I know about your qualifications today?”. The doctor was surprised: “I don't need to prove my skills again every day, once is enough, and anyway, everyone knows I'm a doctor”. The Chofetz Chaim concluded: "You should know, it’s the same with us. Before Hashem gave us the Torah, he showed us wonders and miracles in Egypt in order to convey to us that whatever trials and tribulations we will have to endure in the future, we must always remember that Hashem is in charge”.

So far from abandoning the world, as claimed by the ancient idol worshippers, Hashem continues to be intimately involved in His creation with divine individual providence. Yetzias mitzrayim (the coming out of Egypt) is Hashem’s certificate for all time that He rules the world and this is the message which we are obligated to inculcate in our children generation after generation on Pesach. The Or Hachayim says that we only fulfill this obligation if our children internalize the message to such an extent that they are able communicate it to others.

It is due to the fundamental importance of this message of blind and absolute faith in Hashem that many mitzvos, such as tefilin, tzitzis, and kiddush, are performed expressly in commemoration of yetzias mitzrayim. However, the story of yetzias mitzrayim has to be particularly emphasized on Pesach, and then only when matza and moror are in front of us. Some Jews say that they believe in G-d, but are not willing to keep the mitzvos. Pesach, i.e. faith, is valueless unless it is completely attached to Shevuos, i.e. Torah and mitzvos through the sefiras haomer, which prepares us and makes us worthy of receiving the Torah. After the first day of Pesach we only say half Hallel to highlight the point that the final goal of Shevuos still lies ahead.


Rav Mordechai Pogramansky zt”l, who went through the Holocaust, said that after having endured physical chevlei moshiach (the birth pangs preceding moshiach) we must now endure spiritual birth pangs, namely tests of faith. If we just open our eyes, we can perceive Hashem in a way that no previous generation could. On one day 160 missiles were launched, and not one single Jew was injured. This is a sequel to the miracles we experienced during the Gaza War more than two years ago, when thousands of missiles landed in the South causing little damage.

However, the powers of Amolek, which constitute the ultimate forces of tumoh, would have us believe that there is a natural explanation for everything, just like their spiritual progenitors argued that all the miracles of yetzias mitzrayim should be attributed to kishuf (sorcery). Until Amolek appeared on the scene, even idol worshippers acknowledged the existence of a Creator, but argued that He was too lofty to be involved in the affairs of men. Amolek denied the very existence of Hashem, and insisted that all phenomena were natural. The Rambam says that we are obligated to obliterate the memory of Amolek rather than Amolek himself. Reb Chaim deduces from this that our obligation consists in negating any force which argues that everything is nature.

Rav Mordechai Pogramansky noted that there is no hint either in tenach or in chazal that there will come a time when non-observant and anti-religious Jews will enjoy immense power in eretz yisroel itself. He posited that Yaakov ovinu was told about this situation, but had it been foretold to us, it would have caused unbearable despair.

However, we find that Rav Moshe Kordovero zt”l, who lived almost 400 years ago, does write in Or Yokor parashas noach that in the final generation Amolek will be represented by the leaders of the Jewish nation, who will endeavor to convince us that there is no such thing as yad Hashem. We cannot remain indifferent to the forces of Amolek in our generation, since their influence is unfortunately immense, and affects us too. If we remain strong and fight these forces we are fulfilling the commandment to obliterate Amolek.

Hashem peers through the lattice to watch our conduct. “From where (meayin) shall my help come”? Only if we acknowledge that nothing (ayin), no person, nation or force whatsoever, can be of assistance to us, will we be worthy of divine assistance. The purpose of the chevlei moshiach, in which we experience suffering on an unprecedented scale even in terms of our tortured history, is to instill the message that only Hashem can help us.


Last week Rav Sternbuch visited his brother-in-law, Rav Dovid Soloveichik shlita, who asked Rav Sternbuch the following question. Why is it that the Labor Party with a mere four seats in the Knesset, enjoys immense political power, whereas we have six seats, and are continuously taking a beating. On the educational scene they insist on introducing the core curriculum, the yeshivos and kollelim are being subjected to close scrutiny. Licenses galore have been issued to stores to open on Shabbos in Yerushalayim. After bringing in close to a million Russians, many of whom are not Jewish, thousands of avowed Christians are currently being brought here from Ethiopia. Why are we keeping quiet in light of all this, notwithstanding our political power?

Rav Sternbuch answered that it is because we are embarrassed, and lack the quality of our hearts being “lifted up in the ways of Hashem”. We lack the realization and conviction that any victory is due to our learning and prayers. We must tell our wayward brethren in no uncertain terms that the events transpiring before our eyes are the yad Hashem (the hand of G-d) and not them, and that they are taking place in the merit of the holy Torah and the tens of thousands of Torah learners. We are acting as if they are indeed all-powerful, whereas in reality they are nothing. The army with all its proclaimed power was not able to conquer Gaza, and could not win the war. Any failures on the political level are attributed to faulty public relations, and any success on the military front to our wonderful boys. They do not realize that every bullet or missile has its address, irrespective of actions taken on our part.

The headlines in the morning paper should say "Missiles were fired, no one was injured, this is one of the wonders of Hashem, and is due to the merit of the holy Torah and the prayers of the Jewish people”. In practice the media attribute events to happenstance or good fortune, and by our silence we implicitly accept this position. The Zohar (it appears in many hagodos before the seder) says that not only on Pesach, but any time that Hashem performs wonders and miracles for us we are obligated to relate them and talk about them. Of course, Hashem does not need this, but every time we react this way, the Zohar says that He convenes the angels and tells them: “Listen to what My children are saying, they are attributing these events to Me, and not to anything else”.

Dozens of professors from the Jerusalem and Haifa universities signed a proclamation declaring that the Arabs are right in their demands and they should all be met. These anti-Zionist actions do not bother anybody, and they feel totally at liberty to say whatever they want. They feel all-powerful and we feel powerless, whereas the reality is the opposite. We must have the courage of our convictions, we must lift up our hearts in the ways of Hashem, and declare the truth unabashedly, that without us, without our Torah and prayers, they are nothing. If we act this way, we will be worthy of experiencing the wonders of Hashem. This is what Hashem is waiting for.
Although there is no dearth of signs of the yad Hashem, we are unfortunately influenced by the media. Why should we wait until chas vesholom any of the various terrible scenarios facing this country will transpire before acknowledging the yad Hashem in both national and personal events, when we can already see it clearly here and now if we only open our eyes? Moshiach will come when we reach a sufficiently high degree of emuno.

Rashi brings the medrash that out of 10 million Jews, 8 million died during the plague of darkness. By this stage we had already experienced almost all the plagues, so those Jews must surely have believed strongly in Hashem and his omnipotence. However, they did not have complete faith in hashgocho protis and how the yad Hashem is evident in all aspects of our daily lives. This should serve as an important lesson for us in the future redemption. If we acknowledge and internalise the fact that only Hashem can help, and that everything that happens is due only to hashgocho protis, we will not have to endure all the terrible chevlei moshiach, but if we are influenced by Amolek and the media, we are actively destroying ourselves and the future of the nation.


In the hagodo, the chochom, unlike the rosho, knows that Hashem commanded us to observe the mitzvos, but he does not understand why we need this leil shimurim, why we commemorate something that happened thousands of years ago. We answer him that the seder night is a vehicle for instilling abundant dosages of emuna into our children, and perhaps also into ourselves, for the rest of the year. There has never been a period in our history where we have been in such dire need of boosting our emuna. The potential dangers confronting us are unprecedented, and should not even be uttered. The one thing we are lacking is emuno that Hashem is the only reality, and anything else possesses no power. Hashem peers through the lattice, and is yearning to redeem us as soon as we yearn only for Him. “My beloved knocks: ‘open to me’”.

Amolek derives his power from any weakness in our Torah learning. If we strengthen ourselves in Torah and all the mitzvos, if we learn hilchos shabbos, we will experience miracles and wonders that will make the miracles and wonders of yetzias mitzrayim pale into insignificance. Chazal and the Zohar tell us that at that time Hashem will reveal to us what happened in each generation, how moshiach was about to come, but we lost the opportunity. Let us utilize the spiritual elevation of Pesach to increase our emuno so that we may experience the wonders of Hashem speedily.