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.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shailos UTeshuvos with Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rosh Av Bais Din of Yerushalyim

Learning Tanach

Question: I am an avreich in kollel and I have been learning Gemara and halachah b'iyun for a number of years. I did not learn Tanach as a child and my knowledge of Nevi'im and Kesuvim is almost non-existent. I feel that there is something missing from my knowledge of Torah without Tanach, yet I am very busy with my other learning endeavors. Should I be spending time learning Tanach?

Answer: While learning Tanach is important, it can also be very dangerous. If a person is an accomplished talmid chochom (Torah scholar), then he should learn Tanach. However, if a person does not yet know Shas and poskim, he should focus his effort on them, and only learn Tanach afterwars.

Teach Your Children

The Rambam Talmud Torah 1:7 writes that a father is obligated to teach his son all of Torah Shbeksav (the Written Torah) and the Shulchan Aruch follows this ruling (Yoreh Deah 245:1) This implies that children should be taught Nach, yet the custom in many chadorim is not to teach it. What is the reason that we are seemingly so lax in fulfilling this halachah?

In truth, it is critical for every Jew to know Tanach. In fact, Rashi quotes Chazal who tell us that just as a bride is adorned with twenty-four pieces of jewelry, so too, a talmid chocham should be adorned with knowledge of the 24 books of Tanach. Yet, as important as it is to know Tanach there is also an inherent danger that lies in learning it.

Tanach explains many of the Almighty's attributes in physical terminology. While these references are anthropomorphic, there is always the possibility that one may take them literally and start to relate these characteristics to Hashem. Even if one realizes that these value, nonetheless, hearing these references over and over could lead us to a severe misunderstanding about the essence of the Almighty. For this reason, it is often more difficult to learn and teach Tanach than other sections of Torah.

Another reason why the learning of Tanach is downplayed is because the apilrsim (heretics) is downplayed is because the apikorsim have taken some of the pesukim of Tanach and twisted them to show that their crooked ways are true. The intentions of these apikorsim show that even the tzaddikim of Tanach transgressed, and that in the backdrop of all of the misdeeds that are found in Tanach, their actions are not so bad. Chas veshalom to be drawn after such perverted thinking!

The Chasam Sofer (Torah Moshe, Parshas Shemos) adds another dimension to this halachah. He explains that after the non-Jews had the Torah translated into Greek, the Jewish people started being drawn after the simple meaning of the verses of the Torah and started to reject the drashos of Chazal. We see the after-effects of this today and therefore must be extremely careful when it comes to learning and teaching Tanach.

Chazal, in fact warn us to restrain one's children from learning higayon (Brachos 28b). Rashi explains that this refers to teaching them too much Tanach, especially Neviim and Kesuvim. In this vein, Rashi writes that a father is only obligated to teach his son Chumash and not the rest of Nach (Kiddushin).

Tosafos in Maseches Kiddushin adds that since Talmud Bavli consists of a composite of Tanach, Mishnah and Gemara, one fulfills his mitzvah of learning all three of these parts of Torah through learning Shas. Based on this, the Shach (Yoreh Deah 246:5) explains why we do not teach Tanach to children. We rely on the fact that the Gemara contains pesukim of Tanach, and all the verses of Tanach that we need to know in order to fulfill the mitzvos properly will be seen eventually by someone who is learning Shas.

This restriction only applies to a person in his early years of learning. During this time, a person should focus on learning Chumash, Mishnah and Shas. Someone who has been studying Torah for a number of years and has already filled himself with Shas and poskim should set aside time to learn Tanach. In doing so, he adorns himself with the 24 seforim of Tanach.

When learning Tanach, one should keep in mind that without the aid of Chazal, it is impossible to understand Tanach properly. Metzudas, Radak, Abarbanel and Malbim are some of the meforshim that open up the stories of Tanach and help us understand their deeper meaning. Even with the help of their explanations, there are still many parshiyos in Tanach that are difficult to understand properly.