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.
Saturday, September 3, 2011

Relating to Hashem as Our Father

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“If you will hearken to the ‘insignificant’ commandments that a person tramples on with his heels” (7:12, as expounded by the Medrash Tanchumah cited by Rashi).

One of the prerequisites of genuine repentance is the realization that any sin constitutes a rebellion against the Creator. This realization is more difficult to come by in the case of sins, which appear to be comparatively insignificant, since a person tends to belittle the consequences of such sins. The Torah is telling us here that, in reality, there is no “scale of severity” when it comes to sins, and that if we relate to the Ribbono Shel Olom as a son does to his father, we will want to perform His Will through His mitzvos in all areas of our life irrespective of our perception of the severity of specific commandments.

On the plain level, the posuk is admonishing us to be particular about mitzvos related to monetary matters, which we do not always observe in as punctilious a manner as we should. Someone once told Rav Yisroel Salanter zt”l that he was thinking of leaving the rabbinate to go into business, since there were so many pitfalls in his current occupation. Rav Yisroel responded that there were even more hazards involved in being a businessman, such as observing the prohibition against deceiving a non-Jew about the nature of merchandise, the intricate laws against charging or paying interest, and many other matters that apply in the day-to-day affairs of a businessman. And therefore, he advised, he should think very carefully before embarking on such a move.


“Nor should you serve their gods, for that will be a snare for you” (7:16).

The choice of the term "snare" seems surprising. Surely we should refrain from serving idol worship simply because it is one of the major prohibitions. Why is it merely a “snare”?

In the times of Tanach, everybody was aware of the existence of a Supreme Being and Creator, but, as the Rambam explains, people thought that He was too lofty and far removed to be interested in the affairs of mortal beings and that instead, His handiwork, such as the sun, should be praised as intermediaries. This type of idol worship was superficially attractive and therefore the Torah warns us not to be ensnared by its allure.

Nowadays, we are unfortunately also not lacking people who would have us believe that they are acting for the sake of Heaven when trying to entice us to diverge from our outlook and way of life handed down from generation to generation. It is up to us to remain strong and not be lured by them.


“And you shall eat and be satisfied and bless (es) Hashem your G-d” (8:10).

We do not forget Hashem even when eating and we eat like human beings in order to have strength to serve Hashem, and not like animals, which fill their bellies in order to satisfy their hunger. Moreover, the phrase in this posuk may be compared to the one later on in the parsha, “You shall fear (es) Hashem your G-d” (10:20), from which Rabi Akiva derives: “es - to include talmidei chachomim.” Similarly, when we have enough food for sustenance, we must not forget talmidei chachomim who may not have even the bare minimum to eat.


“What does Hashem your G-d require of you but to fear Hashem your G-d” (10:12).

The most important thing to Hashem is a person's fear of Heaven and fear of sin. Someone who performs the commandments not out of habit, but with the awareness that he is always in the presence of Hashem, and is in awe of Him, will not sin.

The Gemara (Brachos 33b) expresses surprise that the Torah designates the attainment of fear of Heaven as a small matter, and replies that for Moshe it was indeed a small matter. The meforshim ask the obvious question that this posuk is addressed to the whole nation and not only to Moshe.

The Dubna Maggid explains in the name of the Vilna Gaon that someone who is privileged to cleave to talmidei chachomim and spends much time in their presence will easily emulate their deeds and have no difficulty acquiring their fear of Heaven. A tzaddik suffuses his environment with his yiras Shomayim like a vessel bursting at the seams. Moshe Rabbeinu, too, as the leader of the nation, recognized the greatness of its members and realized that, due to their lofty levels, he was able to convey his own superior level of yiras Shomayim to them. Thus, he told them that they did not have to toil much, because they were close to him and therefore in a position to attain the required level of yiras Shomayim.


“That you may gather in your corn, and your wine and your oil” (11:14).

The Gemara (Brachos 35b) says that this posuk refers to a time when we do not fulfill the will of Hashem, because when we do, our work will be performed by others. However, the posuk preceding this one says, "And it shall come to pass, if you shall hearken diligently to my commandments etc." This sounds as if the promise contained in the following posuk envisages a situation in which we do fulfill the will of Hashem. How can this be reconciled with the Gemara?

There are two types of people who serve Hashem. Some serve Him out of fear or awe, the same way that a slave serves his master. It is this lower level that the above Gemara refers to as "not fulfilling the will of Hashem.” Only when we serve Hashem the same way as a son, who wishes to fulfill his father's every wish, are we considered to be "fulfilling the will of Hashem" completely and are deemed worthy of having our work performed by others.


“And you shall put My words unto your heart and unto your soul” (11:18).

Rashi cites the Sifri which states that even after being exiled, we must still put on tefillin and affix mezuzos, so they will not be like new mitzvos to us when we return. They function like “indicators.” What is this coming to teach us? Surely our obligation to observe these mitzvos is not related to any specific place, and they are not merely “indicators” just because we no longer reside in Eretz Yisroel.

We find that Yaakov Avinu observed the prohibition against being married to two sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Due to the sanctity of Eretz Yisroel, the avos hakedoshim, when they were dwelling in the Palace of the King, felt the need to observe even mitzvos that they had not been commanded to observe. In chutz la’aretz, we keep the mitzvos because we have been commanded to do so by the Creator. That is what the Sifri means that they are “indicators.” In Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, if we are worthy of sensing its holiness, we reach the level where we observe the mitzvos even without being commanded to do so, but rather because we feel the need to observe them in order to perfect ourselves with the luminosity afforded by the mitzvah.

When he was still a bochur, Rav Sternbuch went to see Rav Mordechai Pogromansky zt”l and told him that he was on the way to Eretz Yisroel. Rav Pogromansky asked Rav Sternbuch if he was ready to live there, since this requires one to live on a different level. For example, speaking lashon hara in Eretz Yisroel is not the same as speaking lashon hara in chutz la’aretz. Rav Pogromansky was in fact reluctant to agree to Rav Sternbuch’s going to live there at all, until he heard that the Chazon Ish zt”l had given his blessing for such a move. This should certainly serve as a stark reminder of the standards that must be maintained by those of us who live in Eretz Yisroel or even come for a visit.

Rav Pogromansky also warned Rav Sternbuch to be careful in Eretz Yisroel, since there were spiritual birth pangs of moshiach that had to be endured there, which would be followed by physical ones.


“That your days may be multiplied” (11:21).

This posuk may be explained with the posuk in Mishlei (10:27) which states, “The fear of Hashem prolongs days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” Since the days of the righteous are imbued with holiness and dedicated to keeping mitzvos and serving Hashem, each day is of incomparable significance and deserves to be counted as a day. The wicked, on the other hand, spend their time - at best - with vacuous matters, so that their days are not deemed to be “days” at all.

If we internalize the fact that Hashem is our Father, Who, in His great love for us, gave us the Torah and mitzvos in order to perfect ourselves, we will surely not squander our meager years here by pursuing wealth or other valueless worldly pursuits, but will rather focus on how to maximize whatever time has been allotted to us in order to realize the purpose of our existence, which is to keep the Torah and mitzvos in order to rejoice in Hashem and derive pleasure from the splendor of His Presence (Mesillas Yeshorim, Ch.1).