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, June 23, 2011

Utilizing Anavah Properly

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Swimming against the Tide

"Let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh"

Rashi cites Rav Moshe Hadarshan who says that the Leviyim had to undergo this procedure to atone for the firstborn who had engaged in idol worship, which is called "sacrifices of the dead," and since a metzora is termed a dead person, the Leviyim were required to be shaved just like a metzora. However, according to this explanation, it is difficult to understand why the Leviyim, and not the firstborn, had to be shaved, and, in any case, we also do not find anywhere that idol worshippers are shaved.
A metzorah who speaks lashon hara is sent out of the camp and shaved so that he will become repulsive and other people will keep a distance from him. That way, he will learn to bridle his speech and refrain from speaking lashon hara in the future. Similarly, the Leviyim had to shave their hair in order to look different from the rest of the nation. Since they were the recipients of ma'asros (tithes), some members of the nation are likely to consider them to be "parasites," who are living off other people. By shaving their heads, the Leviyim are given the message that they must be willing to endure humiliation like a metzora and that they must not let this affect their pride at being soldiers in Hashem's army.
Nowadays, as the Rambam tells us, anyone who dedicates his life to Torah acquires the status of a ben Levi and they too must have the confidence and positive pride to be able to swim against the tide of public opinion, and against warped ideologies and materialism. Only daas Torah guides their actions, regardless of the reactions of people around them. Happy is the lot of those fortunate enough to come close to Hashem.

Moving and Stationary Torah

"When the Aron traveled, Moshe said 'Rise up, Hashem and let Your enemies be scattered, and let them who hate You flee before You'" (10:35)
"And when it rested, he said, 'Return Hashem, to the tens of thousands of the families of Yisrael" (10:36)

The Gemara (Shabbos 116a) says that these two pesukim constitute two separate parshiyos in their own right, and for this reason, two inverted Nuns appear before and after them, so these pesukim must be conveying a message of fundamental importance.
It is only when the Aron, i.e. the Torah, travels, only when it is being disseminated to distant quarters and learned around the globe, that the Jewish nation is worthy of defeating its enemies and having them flee before them. Swimming against the tide does not entail a rejection of those who are swimming with the tide. On the contrary, it is only when bnei Torah are concerned not only for themselves, but for the whole nation, that we are saved from misfortunes. It turns out that outreach is a recipe not only for spiritual growth, but also for our physical survival.
However, for the Shechinah to remain with us, we must ensure that the Aron rests, i.e. that the Torah remains concentrated in and focused on its main abode, the yeshivos and kollelim. Without them, the nation has no hope of surviving.

The Levels of Anavah

"And Aharon did so" (8:3). Rashi (quoting the Sifri): "This is to Aharon's credit, to teach us that he did not change."

One interpretation of this Medrash is that most people have ups and downs in their avodas Hashem, but Aharon did not change, and every time he went up to light the neiros, it was with the same degree of joy and enthusiasm for performing Hashem's will which he had the first time he performed this mitzvah.
However, the Sifri can also be taken as expressing another point. IN principle, even a zar (non-Kohen) may light the Menorah, but iin the desert only Aharon was privileged to light it. Aharon did not understand why he was different from the kohanim gedolim of future generations in that only he enjoyed this exclusive privilege. Even though this seemed strange to him, he did not ask any questions, but simply accepted it as a Divine decree. In his humility, it did not occur to him that he was on a higher level than future kohanim gedolim. The pasuk is praising him for not deviating from the Divine command, even though he did not comprehend it.
Once, when Rav Akiva Eiger arrived in Warsaw as a guest, he noticed a crowd around him walking together. He assumed that they were on the way to a funeral, and so he joined in the crowd in order o participate in the mitzvah of accompanying a meis. Since so many people had gathered for the occasion he wanted to know more about the meis who was being accorded such great respect, and so he asked the person next to him who it was. He was astonished to be told that the crowd was actually honoring him, and after that he endeavored to remain incognito.
There are two types of genuine anavah. One is when people are aware of their positive deeds but do not take credit for them, knowing that they are due to G-d given strengths and talents. They are not interested in the honor bestowed upon them by others, because they do not feel worthy of being honored or praised. Other people, like Rav Akiva Eiger are not even aware of having performed anything out of the ordinary entitling them to be honored. Moshe Rabbeinu was the ultimate embodiment of this higher type of anavah. As the Torah testifies in this week's parsha, "The man Moshe was more humble than any man on the face of the earth. (12:3) When Hashem tried to convince Moshe to agree to lead the nation out of Egypt, Moshe responded by saying, "Send by the hand of him whom You will send," which the Medrash explains to mean "There is no person in the world not more suited than I for this mission." Moshe Rabbeinu only saw the positive qualities in others and totally disregarded his own.
Some people have such a low opinion of others, and denigrate them in their minds to such an extent, that they feel no interest in being honored or praised by them. This is not humility, but conceit disguised as humility. Another type of false humility is when we denigrate our own capabilities. This type of humility is discussed in the next section.

Understanding the Sin of the Mis'onenim

"And the mixed multitude that was among them lusted" (11:4)

The commentators have difficulty understanding this incident. How could people who witnessed Maamad har Sinai and all the other miracles in the desert seek to distance themselves from Hashem? Adie from that, they were about to enter Eretz Yisrael, and there they would surely not be lacking any meat take as spoils.
The whole lifestyle of the nation in the desert was a supernatural one, without any physical actions. The monn was spiritual food, and even though it contained various tastes and was filling, it was not accompanied by the usual gastronomic pleasures o normal food. The Bnei Yisrael thought that they were not on a high enough level to be worthy of spiritual food, all the more so since they were about to enter Eretz Yisrael, the Palace of the King, where much more was expected of them. They knew that those who benefit from miracles are expected to live up to higher standards, and they preferred to live an ordinary lifestyle, in which they we not dependent on spiritual food or other miracles requiring them to live on very high levels.
Their mistake was that Hashem does not expect His creations, and not even the Bnei Yisrael, to be perfect angelic beings. Although it was true that they were expected to meet very high spiritual standards, they should have had more confidence in their ability to do so. The sin of the meraglim stemmed from the same flaw. They did not feel worthy of conquering the country through miracles and wanted to see if it could be done naturally. They suffered from a false type of humility, seeing themselves as insignificant "grasshoppers". These two terrible sins and their consequences demonstrate how important it is not to belittle our own G-d given capabilities.

Awaiting the Redemption

"And the people did not travel until Miriam was brought in again" (12:15)

Rashi cites the Sifri that she was accorded this honor by Hashem as a reward for having waited for Moshe, when he was thrown into the Nile. On the face of it, anyone would have done the same out of pure curiosity, so why did she deserve this reward?
The Gemara (Shabbos 31a) says that one of the questions we will be asked when the time comes for our Heavenly judgment is whether we "expected the redemption. "Rav Yechezkel Abramsky zt"l explained that it does not say that we will be asked whether we "expected" it. Great people, like the Chofetz Chaim did indeed "expect" the redemption at any time, and they lived their lives accordingly. Here, too, Miriam was utterly convinced that Moshe would be saved, and she merely waited to see how Hashem would guide events to bring about this result, and in the merit of her emunah, the whole nation waited for her. We too, must strive to reach such a level of emunah regarding the future redemption, so that we will be able to respond confidently that we did "expect the redemption."