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, October 8, 2011

Shailos U'Teshuvos with Rav Moshe Sternbuch, Rosh Av Bais Din of Yerushalyim

Question: I grew up as a secular Jew and only recently have found my way to Torah observance. I must say that I am overwhelmed by the vast number of mitzvos and feel ashamed at the way I acted beforehand. Yom Kippur is coming up and I do not know where to even start in regards to doing teshuvah.

Answer: A person cannot change his life around overnight and you should work with a rav to advise you. As far as your previous way of living, you should not focus on it. Rather, you should try and forget about it and get a fresh start as a Torah observant Jew.

Mastering Teshuvah

A baal teshvuah is literally someone who has "mastered" teshuvah. Only a person who has achieved complete self-control can be considered a baal teshuvah. Before reaching that pinnacle, one must be very careful to avoid pitfalls that can block him from getting there.

Rule No. 1 when doing teshuvah is to live in the present with a view on the future. Although doing teshuvah entails charatah, regret over one's past transgressions, dwelling on one's mistakes can lead to depression and is counterproductive. Every mitzvah must be performed with simcha (joy), and indeed the greatest joy can come from the knowledge that you are renewing your relationship with Hashem.

Because of the greatness of the mitzvah of teshuvah, the yetzer hara will stop at nothing to stand in our way. At times, it may argue that our friends and family will ridicule us, or that our attempts at teshuvah are feeble and will not succeed. Alternatively, the yetzer hara may argue that a person has reached such a low level that teshuvah will no longer help him.

Sometimes, the yetzer hara will acknowledge the importance of teshuvah, but argue that it should be postponed for another, more opportune time. We must keep in mind that every moment that one delays doing teshuvah, the tumah (impurity) that accompanies the transgression gets stronger and stronger. This tumah prevents us from changing our ways and returning to Hashem.

As soon as one transgresses, one should strengthen one's heart to immediately do teshuvah. If a person lives likes this, his life will be raised to a new dimension. He will taste the true sweetness of life and will experience true simchah.

The seforim (holy books) discuss difficult regimens for those who want to do teshuvah. In today's reality, these prescriptions for fasting and self-denial are unnecessary. Battling the overwhelming temptations that the world around us seeks to drag us down with at every moment is a sufficiently rigorous challenge for anyone who sincerely desires to do teshuvah. Until one has mastered teshuvah completely, he should not thing about taking any drastic measures.

In front of the King

In order to do teshuvah, one must first admit that one did something wrong. At the start of Hilchos Teshuvah, the Rambam advises that we confess as follows: "Please Hashem I have sinned, transgressed and rebelled in front of You, in doing the following actions…I am embarrassed and regret my misdeeds and I will never return to these ways.

The Rambam stresses that one must mention that one sinned "in front of You." Transgressing the King's command in the King's very Presence is particularly severe, and under such circumstances even the slightest act of of disregard may be considered full fledged rebellion. When a person internalizes the gravity of this situation, he grasps the significance of what he has done and his teshuvah becomes acceptable to Hashem.

The novi Hoshea emphasized this point when he said, "Return (Shuvah) Yisrael to Hashem, your G-d, for you have stumbled in transgression…We will not consider the work of our hands to be G-d" (Hoshea 14:2,4) Every aveirah (transgression) is a temporary lapse in one's awareness of Hashem's absolute control of the world, generated by a feeling that the person guides his own destiny. In order to repair this, a person must strengthen his recognition of Hashgacha Protis, the awareness that Hashem knows the thoughts and actions of man, and that He alone directs everything that transpires in this world.

For this reason, on Rosh Hashanah, we recognize hashem's Kingship before we ask for forgiveness during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. Only after we have accepted Hashem as the Absolute Authority in the world can we come before Him on Yom Kippur and ask for complete forgiveness. Without recognizing Hashgacha Protis and strengthening emunah, our teshuvah is lacking the most basic element - the recognition that we have transgressed before the Master of the Universe.

It is for this reason that we precede our teshuvah with the words, "And Hashem Please Hashem". In doing so, we show that He does not need or have to accept our teshuvah. Rather, we plead in front of Hashem that He should accept our request and forgive us at His discretion.

If you follow these above guidelines, and try and forget about your past and focus on the future, while at the same time infusing Hashem's Kingship into your personal life, you will be successful in your endeavors to do teshuvah.