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, November 2, 2011

Celestial Lessons

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“In the beginning Hashem created” (1:1). Rashi: “…for the sake of the Jews, who are called the first-fruits (reishis) of the increase”. Medrash Rabbo (1:4): “The world was created in the merit of three things, in the merit of challo, maasros and bikurim”.

Why was the world created in the merit of these three specific mitzvos as opposed to any of the other 610 mitzvos? These mitzvos are all characterized by the separation of a small amount from a remaining large amount. What remains after the separation retains the status of chulin (lack of sanctity), whereas the separated matter acquires sacred status.

The same applies with regard to the purpose of the creation of the world. Hashem created the various nations so that the superior sanctity of the Jewish nation should be discernible by way of contrast to the remaining nations which are chulin.

The Jewish nation is called reishis, because they are different from the rest of the nations, and the remaining nations were only created for the sake of the Jewish nation. It thus turns out that the purpose of the creation of the world is for the kodesh to be discernible specifically by way of contrast to the chol.

The importance of this principle cannot be overestimated. Since the world was created in order for the Jews to perform mitzvos and act like a holy nation to distinguish them from the other nations, if they do not act in a sanctified manner and behave in the same way as the other nations chas vesholom, they are acting in contravention to the main purpose of creation.

Although chareidi society has b”H grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades, due to the exposure to non-Jewish or non-Torah elements in our daily lives coupled with the abundance of unprecedented technological devices purveying all the cardinal sins, this has not always been accompanied by a qualitative growth.

In addition to ensuring that our homes bear no traces of any objectionable material or media, in this day and age parents cannot take anything for granted.

For example, the fact that their neighbor bears a famous name or is in full-time learning unfortunately does not automatically mean that their son or daughter should be friendly with their neighbor's children. It is the parent’s job to conduct a thorough examination with regard to the nature of any potential friend and what he or she may be exposed to. The spiritual future of both the child and the parent depends upon it.

The more that we maintain our sanctity by disassociating ourselves from any non-Jewish or non-Torah influences, the less will we have to endure during imminent chevlei moshiach (birth pangs preceding the coming of moshiach).


Connecting the final letters of the first three words in the Torah - Bereishis boro elokim - produces the word emess. (truth) In this way the Torah emphasizes that someone who is not careful to speak the truth damages Hashem’s Creation which was based on emess from the very outset.

The medrash relates that truth argued against the creation of man since he would be full of falsehood, as did peace on the grounds that he would be full of quarrels and disputes. Hashem's response was to throw truth to the ground, as it says "and He cast down truth to the ground”.

This means that the Torah, which is the absolute truth, claimed that man, who was to be a physical being, would not be capable of fathoming the depths of the Torah, and this would result in conflicting interpretations and disputes between people regarding the real meaning of the Torah. In response, Hashem threw the Torah to this physical world, i.e. He gave it to its inhabitants so that they would observe it to the best of their human understanding.

Hence, it is an halachik principle that the "the Torah is not in heaven", and the implementation of principles such as rov (going by the majority) or deciding various laws pertaining to doubtful situations on the basis of principles which may not reflect absolute heavenly truth is dearer in Hashem's eyes than the preservation of divine truth, since this was the mechanism from the very outset through which the Torah was meant to be observed by us.


“And Hashem divided the light from the darkness” (1:5)

Chazal tell us that prior to the creation of the sun Hashem created a special light but then stored it away for the righteous in the world to come. This seems to have been a special non-solar source of illumination, the intensity of which was dependent on the degree of righteousness of the recipient. Hashem decided to postpone the implementation of this regime until the world to come, perhaps because it would all but abolish free choice. What power would be left to the evil inclination to entice people to sin if the effects of transgressing would be so ubiquitously apparent?

In any case, those who fail to make the most of their time in this world by learning Torah and performing good deeds will not merit a large amount of luminosity in their future eternal existence. This thought should surely serve as an incentive to improve our avodas Hashem.


“Let us make man in our image” (1:26)

Hashem is speaking to the angels, who were created on the second day (see Targum Yonoson), since they had a personal interest, so to speak, in the creation of man, because the status of the upper worlds, including that of the angels, depends on the actions of man in this world. Of course, Hashem does not need to hear the opinions of any being, but wished to teach us that even people less important than us must be consulted concerning any matter in which they have a personal interest.

Alternatively, Hashem is addressing man himself. The essence of man is not his physical body but rather his divine image. By observing the Torah and performing the mitzvos properly man perfects himself and completes his own original creation on a daily basis. This act of creation on man's part is in emulation of the Creator.

If we could see our spiritual image, we would get a shock. The Arizal had the ability to discern a person's spiritual form and could perceive the effects of even seemingly insignificant transgressions, such as speaking between mayim acharonim and bentshing, on a person’s spiritual form.


“And Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it” (2:3)

The main purpose of Shabbos, the day of rest and sanctity is to serve as a source of blessing for the remaining six days, in which we are immersed in worldly matters and can easily lose sight of the fact that the eternal life is the only thing of paramount importance. Shabbos serves as a recurring reminder of the world to come, and symbolizes it. The six weekdays are only blessed by Shabbos if we do not become too immersed in our affairs during the week, and recognize that Shabbos is the source of any mundane success that we achieve and not the hishtadlus (efforts) we put into our work.


It is now considered beyond dispute that the heliocentric model of the universe advocated by Copernicus correctly reflects the reality created by Hashem. Jewish anti-religious elements attempted to use this theory of modern science to discredit various statements of Chazal and even of Dovid Hamelech, which seem to state clearly that the earth does not move, such as "Who establishes the earth upon its foundations, that it should not be moved forever" (Tehilim 104:5).

Scientists are at a loss to explain the phenomenon of the sun’s distance from the earth. If the sun were just a tiny bit further removed from our planet we would freeze to death, and if it would be slightly closer to us, temperatures would be much too high for any life to be feasible. It is this remarkable feature of Hashem's creation, the position of the earth vis-à-vis the sun, and not the static nature of the earth, which Dovid Hamelech is referring to in the above possuk.

The very existence of the sun and the stars and the whole science of astronomy point towards a Creator: see Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah, end of chapter 4. The Rambam also notes that the stars and planets are in fact spiritual beings (ibid, 3:9) (despite the Vilna Gaon’s admonition of the Rambam for his affinity for philosophy, the Rambam did in fact sometimes incorporate kabbalistic views into his writings).

However, although epikorsim (heretics) will clothe their views with an intellectual veneer, in reality the source of their outlook is negative character traits. Deep down they feel the emptiness of their lives, and seek to justify their licentious behavior by citing sundry intellectual “problems” they claim to have detected with regard to leading a religious lifestyle. Rav Yeshoshua Leib Diskin zt”l noted that heresy which denies the existence of Hashem, claiming that the only reality is nature, is so irrational that it can only be explained as a supernatural phenomenon created by Hashem. This explains how Amolek could have espoused such views after the unprecedented miracles of yetzias mitrayim, and how their modern-day counterparts explain the showering of numerous potentially lethal missiles on unpopulated areas as “miracles” which have nothing to do with Hashem.

This week’s parsha teaches us that the entire creation is the handiwork of Hashem Who supervises our lives with individual divine providence. We are totally dependent on Him, and must do our utmost acquire to acquire immunity to heretical views which are so pervasive in modern society, and to non-Jewish or anti-Torah views as a whole, and live with the awareness that we are constantly creating ourselves and continuing Hashem’s initial work of creation.