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, September 15, 2011

Lessons of the Ben Sorer Umoreh


When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and Hashem your God delivers it into your hands (21:10)

Our main enemy is the evil inclination, and if we make a point of waging battle against it, Hashem will deliver him into our hands. Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l always said that if we remain inactive the evil inclination will succeed, and we can only hope to overcome it by engaging in combat tactics.

The possuk starts off in the plural (“enemies”) and immediately moves over to the singular ("it"). The evil inclination adopts various personalities. Sometimes it does not disguise its evil intentions, but at other times it dons the mask of righteousness in an attempt to confuse us. In either case, our job is to muster the willpower for a lifelong fight in which our main weapon is Torah learning (or tznius-modesty in the case of ladies).


And would take her to you as a wife (21:11)

Rashi quotes the medrash that in the end the eshes yefas toar (the beautiful woman that a person during war takes as a wife) will give birth to a rebellious son. The woman in question was sent to the war for immoral purposes wearing alluring clothes.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the offspring of such a woman will become not only rebellious (sorer) but will also teach others (moreh) wayward ways. The mother is the mainstay of the Jewish home, who maintains its sanctity, and the spiritual success of her children depends on the degree of her internal and external tzenius.


Then shall his father and his mother lay hold of him (21:19)

The gemara says that it the father comes without the mother their son does not acquire the status of a sorer umoreh. This is because if the father comes without his wife for such a crucial matter it is probably because they are quarrelling and therefore the son's immoral behavior must be attributed to the unsettling environment in the home, and is not due to his fault.

Harmony between parents is absolutely crucial in the domestic arena, and, at the very least, there should these be no disagreement or arguments chas vesholom in front of the children. In any case, it would not be appropriate to subject such a son to the death penalty in the expectation of future wrongdoing, because the external cause of his current behavior – his parents’ lack of harmony - may disappear, and in its wake, his unacceptable behavior.

This explanation also helps to resolve a discrepancy between this possuk and the one further on (22:16 in the parshas mozi shem ra) where Rashi quotes the Sifri that a woman does not testify before a beis din, because in the case of a potential ben sorer umoreh it is crucial for the beis din to hear what the mother has to say and gave an impression of the nature of the relationship between the parents, since they have to determine whether domestic harmony prevails between the father and mother, this being an essential prerequisite that has to be fulfilled before their son can be declared to be a ben sorer umoreh.

The Yerusahlmi says that the halochos of the ben sorer umoreh do not apply in Jerusalem. The commentators are puzzled about the reason for this. The atmosphere in Yerushalayim in the time of the beis hamikdosh was so suffused with purity and holiness that if someone still committed transgressions and gave in to the pull of his desires, there must have been something fundamentally wrong with the education he received at home. There must have been a lack of domestic harmony or some other serious educational problem, which the son cannot be blamed for. Moreover, in this situation too it cannot be said with any degree of certainty that the son will commit more serious transgressions in the future, because the intense local spiritual environment may have a salubrious effect on the child in the long term.


And you shall eliminate evil from your midst, and all Yisroel shall hear and fear (21:21)

The Jewish nation is one unified body. All its members are in the same boat, and if one of them drills a hole at the bottom of it, he cannot defend himself by telling everybody else to mind their own business. Even a minor transgression committed by one Jew has an effect on the entire nation. It was said that if a Jew in Warsaw cuts off his beard his fellow-Jew in Berlin will be more likely to take the final step towards complete apostasy.

The Torah is telling us that if we eliminate evil from our midst by exercising capital punishment against one transgressor this will have a positive effect on the entire nation which will draw the appropriate conclusions. Of course, we are not aware exactly how our actions effect others, but the knowledge that they do have such an effect should serve as an additional deterrent to refrain from sinning and as an impetus to enhance the quantity and quality of our Torah and mitzvos.


You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seeds (22:9)Rav Chaim

Yosef Dovid Azulay zt”l, the Chido, suggests that this possuk may be taken as an admonition not to intermingle sinful elements with mitzvos. For instance, someone who speaks loshon horo or creates disputes with supposedly pure intentions is guilty of sowing a vineyard with two kinds of seeds in addition to the transgressions of loshon horo and causing machlokes (disagreements between people). Other examples are someone who learns with the intention of lording it over others or giving charity whilst embarrassing the recipient.


You shall not lend to your brother upon interest, so that Hashem your God may bless you (23:21)

The Kli Yokor explains the rationale behind this prohibition. An ordinary business transaction entails a risk of loss as well as profit. Therefore, the believing businessman will always turn to Hashem to ask Him to make his business succeed so that he may support his family. An interest-bearing loan, on the other hand, usually entails no risk of loss whatsoever, and the lender will imagine that his fixed profit is a certainty and is in no need of divine assistance.

“He who trusts in Hashem is enveloped with mercy” (Tehillim 32:10), whereas he who deludes himself into thinking that he does not need Hashem’s assistance will not merit His blessings. Hence, this transaction is forbidden “so that Hashem your God may bless you” when you seek His support in your other business transactions.


When you lend to your neighbor any manner of loan (Rashi: a loan of no substance) (24:10)

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l explains Rashi’s enigmatic words on the basis of another Rashi in Shmos 22:24. Hashem tells the lender how much he owes Him, since his soul comes up to Me every night and after presenting an account of its deeds it is found to be lacking, and yet I still return it to you the following morning day after day. How much more so then should you have mercy on the borrower and not insist on your right to have the money returned. This is what Rashi is referring to in this possuk too. All the debts in the world are considered to be nothing compared to those which
a person owes Hashem in the eternal world.

A person who has parnosso or other worries weighing him down should tell himself that as serious as they seem, they are as nothing compared to what awaits him in the eternal world, and he would do well to invest his thoughts and energies into how to be saved from those genuine worries.

Elul is the time to think about these matters and to fight the evil inclination by intensifying our Torah learning (or reinforcing tznius in the case of ladies). The mazal of Elul, the month of mercy, is the besulo (maiden), symbolizing the rejuvenation we should aspire to achieve in our lives in preparation for the yomim noroim (High Holy days)