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, November 5, 2011

Keeping the teivo afloat

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


"Noach was a righteous man” (6:9).

Rashi quotes the gemoro (Sanhedrin 108a) that some people interpret this phrase as a tribute to Noach, and in a generation of righteous people he would have been on an even higher level whereas others argue that it is derogatory, because in the generation of Avrohom he would not have been considered righteous. Since the Torah testifies that Hashem said: "For you I have seen righteous before me in this generation” (7:1) how can we understand the view which maintains that the phrase at the beginning of the parsha is derogatory contrary both to its plain meaning and the possuk below?

In truth, according to both opinions Noach was righteous because he withstood trials on a daily basis surrounded as he was everywhere only by wicked people, and this alone entitled him to be awarded the title of a righteous person, and if he would have had the opportunity to engage in avodas Hashem in a generation which did not require him to constantly withstand tests, he would have been even more righteous, whereas those who say that he would not have been considered to be a person of stature had he lived in the generation of Avrohom contend that although he was righteous in his generation specifically because he exercised tremendous dedication, determination and self-discipline by refraining from sinning in such a challenging environment, if he would not have had to face such challenges he may not have attained such high levels. It therefore turns out that both opinions praise Noach for his actual behavior during his lifetime.

The Arizal told his student Rav Chaim Vital zt”l that his neshomo was exceptionally pure, but he responded, "who am I compared to the Tannoim and Amoro’oim”? The Arizal replied that in a generation suffering from a proliferation of tum’o and the sitra achra, Hashem grants great rewards to those who overcome such circumstances, and for this reason he had attained such high levels.

Rav Dessler zt”l pointed out that Rav Yosef Karo zt”l , a contemporary of the Arizal, stated that there were 300 rabbonim in Zfas in his time who were worthy of being appointed to be members of the Sanhedrin in the time of the Beis Hamikdosh, and yet the Arizal still termed his generation as being filled with tum’o. What, then, concluded Rav Dessler are we to make of our generation with its immorality and the spiritual poison of its media? The reward of those who withstand these challenging surroundings must be even greater and Hashem is yearning for us to grab as many mitzvos as we can. Rav Dessler passed away in 1953. It is not difficult to imagine what he would say about our generation, and the further deterioration of moral values that has taken place since his time.

It is said about several great zaddikim who lived in times of various misfortunes of klal yisroel that they promised before they died that when they would get to heaven they would not rest until Hashem would bring the final redemption. After they passed away and Moshiach still did not come they came to someone in a dream and revealed to him that in the world to come things appear different and that they now realize that for now it is better for the nation that each individual should still have the opportunity to chap more merits for all eternity in a challenging environment rather than insisting on Moshiach coming, when we will no longer have such opportunities, because free choice as we know it will no longer exist.


“For all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (6:12)
Rashi quotes the medrash that even animals mated with different species. This seems surprising since animals live by instinct and not by free choice, so why would they change their nature?

Before the mabul nature was not fixed and constant, but rather sensitive to the spiritual status of human behavior. Just like nowadays we have infectious diseases in which someone in the environment of a sick person can catch his disease, so too before the mabul human sins caused spiritual diseases which were "caught" by the animals.

The physical nature of creation was also different before the mabul. For this reason rabbomin who were told about findings of fossils in Madagascar or elsewehre were not perturbed. Firstly, the methods used to determine the age of these fossils is far from sound. Secondly, to cite these findings as proof that we are descendants of monkeys makes no scientific sense. Thirdly, scientists can have no way of measuring the age of creatures, which lived before the mabul, since their composition was fundamentally different from any post-diluvuian creatures.


“Make yourself an ark” (6:14)

The Zohar says in parshas Vayakhel that the teivas noach was not only for the generation of the mabul, but whereever there is heresy or an anti-religious environment we must flee and take refuge in the teivo.

The Alter of Novardok zt”l said that nowadays the street is full of tumoh and we are in need of a teivo.The Satmarer Rebbe zt”l once met the Chazon Ish zt”l and told him that in view of the Rambam which states that if a person finds himself in an environment full of wicked people he must run away and live in the desert (Hilchos Deos 6:1), since the streets nowadays were full of kefira (heresy) we should follow the Rambam's advice. The Chazon Ish responded that there was no need to do so, since the yeshivas, which are full of Torah and fear of Heaven were our "deserts", and there was no need to go any further than that.


“On the very same day ” (7:13)

Rashi brings the Sifri that Noach’s contemporaries threatened to kill Noach if he attempted to enter the ark. Although they believed that a deluge was imminent, they still refused to repent. Similarly, the Egyptians continued to chase the Jews who were in the sea, even after having already witnessed the miracle when the yam suf split. Miracles in and of themselves are not enough if they are not preceded by an intensified level of faith.

Rav Sternbuch was once at the Brisker Rov zt”l when an American visitor told the Brisker Rov that in America people were waiting for Moshaich to come. The Brisker Rov asked him whether people were preparing themselves for this great event. The visitor responded that moshiach should come already with or without our preparations. The Brisker Rov replied that this would not work. We must start the process of repentance and strengthening our faith now, so that we will be worthy of witnessing unprecedented miracles and welcoming moshiach.

On the topic of Americans awaiting moshiach, Rav Pardes zt”l, a rav in Chicago, told Rav Sternbuch about a meeting he had with the Chofetz Chaim zt”l where he asked him where he was from, and when Rav Pardes said that he was from America, the Chofetz Chaim asked him whether Jews in America were talking about and awaiting moshiach. Rav Pardes didn't know what to answer but decided to say “avade” – of course they are. When he heard this, the Chofetz Chaim went to a corner and started crying to Hashem as follows: It is one thing for us, who are suffering so much from poverty and other material problems to yearn for moshiach, but even our affluent brethren in America are yearning for him to come - how much longer must we wait?

As Hashem continues to shower us with more miracles in Eretz Yisroel where we are completely surrounded by hostile elements, our job is to strengthen our emuno so that we will be worthy of miracles of an unprecedented scale, may they come speedily.


“Come out of the ark” (8:17)

The Zohar contrasts Noach’s conduct with that of Moshe Rabbeinu, who asked Hashem to delete him from His Book rather than founding a new great nation. Noach too after having been told about the forthcoming mabul should have pleaded for his contemporaries to remain alive until they repent, instead of thinking only of himself and his family.

Hashem could have found another way to keep the animal world alive other than the ark, but it was a way for Noach to achieve atonement for his sinful conduct in the period leading up to the mabul. Hashem was telling Noach: “You wanted to live a solitary life, and did not care enough for your fellow men, now you will be forced to live for an extended period on your own with your family in ‘solitary confinement’ from the rest of the world. Moreover, you refused to act with kindness to your fellow men, now you will be forced to perform ceaseless acts of chesed for an entire year for all the animals”.

Since the period he was to spend inside the ark was a punishment to atone for his previous behaviour, Noach would not quickly leave it until commanded to do so, so that he could be sure that his sin had been forgiven.


“I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake ” (8:21)

The medrash says that Hashem promised that there would not be another mabul of water, but there would be one of fire, in other words prior to moshiach the world will be full of epikorsus. Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin zt”l would weep profusely at the end of the hoshana kel lemosho’os which says sholosh sho’os hoshano - which he understood to mean: Hashem, save us from the three hours before the coming of moshiach when the world will be full of heresy!

The Maharshal says at the end of the fourth chapter of Bovo Kamo that we are obligated to fight any distortions of the Torah with dedication. The Torah is a precious treasure given to us as a present which must be safeguarded with devotion. Moreover, the desert, or teivas noach of a mokom Torah, which the Chazon Ish referred to, only works if the Torah studied there is not distorted.
Everyone is entitled to voice their own personal opinion, but if a rav states as his daas Torah that it is permitted to release more than a thousand prisoners, including cruel murderers, in return for one captive soldier, citing a halachik principle, totally irrelevant in this context, that in a clash between a certainty and a doubtful scenario, the certainty prevails, then that is a distortion of the Torah.

The teiva is currently floating in a sea of heresy, but it is intact and will continue to survive. The only question is who will have the merit of remaining strong until the last moment when Hashem will reveal himself. We must pray that Hashem will save us so that we can remain within the teiva with the same dedication and determination exhibited by Noach until His Kingdom will be revealed for ever.