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.
Saturday, June 4, 2011

Past and Present Royalty

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai in the Ohel Moed.”

The Torah mentions that we received the Torah in the wilderness, outside Eretz Yisroel and at Har Sinai, which was not even a mountain, but only a small hill, in order to emphasize that we have to keep the Torah anywhere and at any time. Non-believers throughout the generations have attempted to induce us to remove the yoke of Torah by advancing various arguments. When most of the nation lived outside Eretz Yisroel, the argument went that the Torah was meant to be kept mainly or even exclusively in Eretz Yisrael. Zionist secularists, on the other hand, argued that the Torah was fine for chutz la’aretz, because it was needed to prevent national assimilation, but now that we have our own state, we have no more need for such antiquated things. In truth, by virtue of the Torah, Hashem’s Presence will dwell
anywhere,if we only let it, just like it did in the Ohel Moed in the wilderness.

The location of the wilderness also teaches us that we must live our lives as if we are dwelling in a wilderness and not let ourselves be affected by the conduct or mores of our environment. In fact, the Rambam says that in an extreme situation, where we are unable to overcome the pressure of the environment, we are obliged to literally move to the desert in order to escape pernicious influences.


“And they declared their pedigrees after their families, by their fathers’ houses.” Yalkut Shimoni: “The Jewish nation only merited to receive the Torah because of their pedigree.”

It seems very surprising that this is a reason why we deserved to receive the Torah.
However, the Medrash relating a fundamental difference between us and the other nations. It is a truism of Western culture that civilization progresses with time. Not only science, but even man’s moral dignity, is deemed to improve with each generation. Since belief in evolution has become an inextricable component of Western secular dogma, such an assumption is inevitable. It would be inconceivable for a descendant of monkeys to have anything other than contempt for former generations. By the same token, someone with such a mindset could not imagine that something 3,000 years old has anything of value to offer.

Rav Sternbuch once gave a talk in South Africa to some leading academics. When he
started ridiculing the theory of evolution, there was a veritable uproar from the audience, and even the Jewish attendees could not believe that anyone claiming to be enlightened could dare express such «heretical» views and impugn the cornerstone of modern science. How tragic that intelligent people still cling to this theory, which is responsible for many of the depravities of modern times. In reality, our moral preeminence is dependent on maintaining our connection with all generations going back to Maamad Har Sinai and to the avos hakedoshim. We see from the Medrash above that we only received the Torah in the first place because of our pedigree, i.e., our physical and moral connection to our forefathers, and each generation since then recognizes the moral superiority of its royal ancestors, strives to emulate them, and endeavors to reach their elevated levels.

Uniqueness of every Jew

“By a head count.”

Rashi says that the poll took place by means of coins, but other meforshim disagree
and state that a head count did indeed take place. Although it is forbidden to count the Jewish nation, even for the sake of a mitzvah, and Dovid Hamelech was punished for doing so, these commentators are of the opinion that this particular poll was permitted in order to demonstrate that the number revealed by this census was identical to the number that was arrived at six months prior thereto, even though some people must have died and been born during the interim period.

This teaches us the significance of each individual for the completeness of the nation as a whole. Where the poll itself constitutes a mitzvah in that it emphasizes the virtue of each individual, it is a mitzvah to perform the poll through a head count specifically. Hashem cherishes each and every individual Jew and each mitzvah he or she performs. We must endeavor to utilize our full potential and be cognizant of how our actions can create or, chas veshalom, destroy worlds. This is also the reason behind the mitzvah of being mesameiach chosson vekallah. For a whole week, the groom is treated like a king in order to inculcate the message that he is not just another number in the statistics of married couples aiming to build a new home. Each couple makes its own unique contribution to the nation and is therefore indeed of royal significance.


The tribe of Levi is so elevated that it was not even included in the same census as the rest of the nation. Just like every Jew is as precious as royalty and his privileged status goes hand-in-hand with increased obligations towards his fellow man and towards Hashem, so are the members of shevet Levi expected to fulfill their obligations with even greater force and punctiliousness in return for their prominent status. As the Rambam points out, anyone who dedicates his life to Torah and to running every aspect of his life in accordance with the demanding dictates of a ben Torah has the opportunity of acquiring the special royal status associated with shevet Levi.

The males of all the tribes were counted from age 20 and upwards, but the members of
shevet Levi were different. As soon as a boy was 30 days old, at which age it is presumed that he will stay alive, they were already included in the count. As with any royalty, the next generation has to be inducted into their obligations from an early age and be taught that they are obligated to serve in Hashem’s army. Similarly, anyone who wants his son to grow up to be a ben Torah must start educating him from the earliest possible age and instill the message that being a ben Torah calls for a great degree of self-sacrifice and dedication.

Shevet Levi was the smallest tribe. This teaches all future generations to consider only quality and not quantity. Bnei Torah, too, must realize that even if their way of life or opinions run counter to the majority view, this is, if anything, a sign that they are on the right path, since the majority view and daas Torah are, for the most part, incompatible.

Innocent by lack of Association

At the time of the Eigel, shevet Levi demonstrated supreme dedication. The whole nation witnessed a golden calf, which had been created seemingly out of nothing, miraculously talking and eating. Nevertheless, only 3,000 actually worshipped it and had to be killed for their sin. When Moshe Rabbeimu declared, “Mi laShem eilai,” most of the nation was reluctant to take up his call, because they felt that the miracles accompanying the golden calf had led the sinners astray, and only shevet Levi separated themselves from the rest of the nation, having no hesitation in killing even relatives. Due to this act of dissociation, shevet Levi was counted in a totally separate census, as mentioned above.

During the time of the spies, too, shevet Levi was the only tribe which did not send a representative, because they had complete trust in Hashem and did not feel any need to investigate the country. All the other tribes were punished, because they failed to protest the statements made by their representatives, who acted as their agents. Only shevet Levi was spared the punishment of all male members more than 20 years old having to die before entering Eretz Yisroel. All this serves as a lesson for future generations that when faced with a choice between maintaining “peace” with erring brethren for the sake of “unity” and completely dissociating ourselves from them, we know which route to take, both for the sake of the nation
as a whole and for the sake of our own future.

Life mission

The descendants of the three sons of Levi were each assigned their own unique tasks,
which were not interchangeable. For example, someone who was meant to sing could
not decide that he was better suited to guarding the Aron. During the times of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l, there was a mashgiach who told him that he felt it was time to move on to do something else, but Rav Yosef Chaim responded that it would not be a good idea, and he should continue with his current position, as that was his mission in life. Each of us has our own unique shoresh haneshama and potential, and Hashem determines whether we have met it. If we have been given children, it is our duty, in our capacity as parents or teachers, to help them maximize their specific potential. Once we are adults, we must do this on our own. Furthermore,
each tribe makes its own unique contribution to the nation, and regardless of the specific role given to each of us, we must never forget that we are all part of a royal team.