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, August 4, 2011

Footsteps of Moshiach

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“These are the journeys of the Bnei Yisroel...and Moshe wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of Hashem” (33:1-2).

The Torah is usually very sparing with its words, and yet in this parsha we find 42 journeys in the desert enumerated, together with all the place names. The Medrash says that all these places were mentioned because, in the future, Hashem will cause these arid places to flourish. The fact that the Bnei Yisroel settled in these places accords them importance and sanctity. All the more so, concludes the Medrash, do the homes of people who host talmidei chachomim acquire sanctity. The very presence of a talmid chochom in a house elevates it.

In the days of Moshiach, Hashem will lead the Jews into Eretz Yisroel through these very same places in the desert. They thus served as a preparation for the future redemption. We also have a tradition that all the tragedies and misfortunes of this bitter exile are hinted at in the 42 journeys of this parsha. When Moshiach comes, the secrets of Hashem's Providence will be revealed to all.

On the plain level, the enumeration of these 42 journeys teaches us that neither Eretz Yisroel nor the future redemption are acquired easily, but only following many stops on the way accompanied by much suffering. Rav Yechezkel Abramsky zt”l used the following parable: People who swam across the Channel separating England from France would be awarded a prize. There was one swimmer who, just before reaching the French side, declared that he just could not swim any further. People tried to encourage him and convince him of the folly of giving up his prize just before attaining it, after having invested so much time and energy. Similarly, we have suffered so many tragedies during this long exile. All we have to do is hang on with determination and perseverance, because we are almost there.


“In the fifth month, on the first day of the month” (33:38).

The Torah does not mention the date of death of anyone else, not even of the forefathers. Because of his peace-loving nature and ability to reconcile even sworn foes, Aharon’s death was felt universally by the whole nation. The Torah emphasizes this fact by mentioning the date of his death and thereby implying that even though it was Rosh Chodesh, on which no eulogies are ordinarily held, an exception was made for Aharon due to the enormous impact of his passing.


“And you shall drive out the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein” (33:53).

The commandment to dwell in Eretz Yisroel is made conditional on driving out not only idolatrous inhabitants, but also idolatry. Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfed zt”l was once asked why he did not call for all the Jews in the Diaspora to come and live in Eretz Yisroel in order to fulfill the important mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

He replied that we can learn from the precedent of the mitzvah of bris milah, which is not less important than mitzvas yishuv Eretz Yisroel. After all, it even overrides Shabbos, and yet if someone had two sons who died as a result of the performance of this mitzvah, the third son is not circumcised. Similarly, concluded Rav Sonnenfeld, unfortunately, many people suffer a spiritual death, which is worse than physical death, due to the heretical atmosphere prevalent in Eretz Yisroel, and so I cannot encourage people to come and live here, because a person is not obliged to expose himself to such a danger, and he must wait to fulfill this mitzvah until he is certain that no danger will be posed to the spiritual future of himself or his family as a result of living here.


“This shall be the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance” (34:2).

The Medrash says that this teaches us that Hashem showed Moshe all future events that were due to take place in Eretz Yisroel, and the leaders of each generation, both righteous and evil. What connection does this have to showing Moshe the nature of the country?

Moshe Rabbeinu did not yearn to see Eretz Yisroel like a tourist wishing to enjoy some beautiful scenery. What he wished to experience was the ways in which the Shechinah dwelled in Eretz Yisroel. Hashem showed him that the degree of sanctity in this country differed from generation to generation, in accordance with the sanctity of its leaders and of each specific generation as a whole. The extent to which the Shechinah would dwell in Eretz Yisroel in future generations depended on the level of the nation at any particular moment in time.

Anyone learning or supporting Torah in Eretz Yisroel participates in the mitzvah of conquering the country from the powers of tumah which seek to defile it and lower it to a level considered to be corrupt even by the standards of the metukanim (those with a basic degree of morality) among the non-Jews and thereby cause the Shechinah to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.


“You shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer (35:31).

It seems strange that the Torah should have to state that a murderer cannot achieve atonement by paying compensation to the relatives of his victim. Of what value is money compared to the life of a person?
The posuk is actually coming to warn the wicked person against deluding himself into thinking that he can atone for his sin by giving charity. Only by repenting completely for his sins and receiving the punishment allotted to him by the Torah can he cleanse his soul and achieve complete atonement.
Similarly, we must realize that the Creator cannot be “bribed,” not even with mitzvos. A mitzvah cannot extinguish a sin, and a person's sins can only be erased with complete repentance, which purifies a person from all his iniquities.


“You shall not pollute (literally: flatter) the land” (35:33).

Some people imagine that due to its great sanctity, Eretz Yisroel atones for all sins committed in it, and that by observing mitzvas yishuv Eretz Yisroel, they receive atonement for all their sins. In reality, the opposite is the truth: The blemish caused by sins committed in Eretz Yisroel is actually far greater than that of sins committed in chutz la’aretz, as is the punishment for transgressors in the Palace of the King.


Let them be married to whom they think best; only into the family of the tribe of their father shall they be married” (36:6).

There is an apparent contradiction here. The first part of the sentence implies that they can be married to whomever they wish, even if he is not a member of their father’s tribe, whereas the latter part seems to limit their choice to members of their father’s tribe.

The daughters of Tzelafchad were exceptionally righteous, and therefore their zivug (predestined marital partner) was prepared for them forty days before conception. Hence, Hashem would guide events in such a manner that they would choose their zivug, so that the person whom they favored as a husband would, by definition, also be a member of their father’s tribe, because their zivug could not possibly be anyone outside that tribe.

Nowadays, most people marry not their zivug, but the person whom Hashem deems worthy of being their partner based on their deeds, because even the first marriage of most people these days has the status of a zivug sheini (which is based on the deeds of the people involved).


The arei miklat (cities of refuge) were designated only for someone who unintentionally killed another person. If a person acted so recklessly that his action was deemed to approximate a deliberate act (shogeg karov lemeizid) rather than a completely inadvertent action (shogeig), the perpetrator was not entitled to seek refuge in an ir miklat. Moreover, even someone whose action was accompanied by the requisite degree of inadvertency was still permitted to be killed by the go’el hadom (person avenging the murder) should he step outside the ir miklat. Clearly, even completely inadvertent manslaughter is a grievous sin.

Thankfully, despite two recent anomalous events (concerning which the reader is referred to the “Shailos Uteshuvos” in this week’s Yated), it may be assumed that almost none of us have descended to the level where our nekudas habechirah (level of free choice, a coin termed by Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler zt”l) would permit us to murder someone intentionally. However, when it comes to manslaughter, there is another area relevant to all of us, which must be emphasized.
Traffic laws overseas or in Eretz Yisroel are not only binding halachically, but Torah legislation in fact mandates much stricter laws to ensure the safety of car passengers and pedestrians, so that anyone who does not abide by even the minimal standards of non-Jewish (or Israeli) regulations, whether they pertain to speed limits or any other matter, is a wicked sinner, and the magnitude of his sin should something, G-d forbid, happen due to his negligence cannot be overestimated. Especially during the period leading up to Tisha B’Av, we are required to take special care in this area.