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.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Our relationship with the not-yet righteous

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“And Hashem appeared to him” (18:1).

Avrohom told Hashem to wait, so to speak, and ran to his guests to serve them (see Rashi on 18:3), reckoning that seeing to the needs of his guests was the most important thing to do at that moment.

They say about the Chofetz Chaim zt”l that when he invited poor people from Radin to eat at him on Friday night, he would leave out sholom aleichim because the angels could wait, whereas his guests were hungry and it was forbidden to keep them waiting. He would make Kiddush, wash, start the meal, and only then invite the angels into his house by singing sholom aleichim.

In the same vein, in the Mishna Bruro, Hilchos Sukko it says that on the first night of sukkos one must wait a while for the rain to stop before making kiddush and eating in the house, but if there are guests one should not wait at all, because each moment that the host does not feed his guests he is transgressing the prohibition of bal te’acher (delay)¸ and that overrides the obligation to wait for the rain to stop in order to make kiddush in the sukka.


“And gave it to the lad” (18:7). Rashi: this was Yishmoel, in order to train him to do mitzvos.

A parent’s job is not only to teach his child positive and negative commandments, but also how to perform chesed . Furthermore, Yishmoel, who was also on the third day after his bris at the age of 13, must also have been in pain, and Avrohom wanted to demonstrate to him that mitzvos, and specifically chesed, have to be performed even when it is difficult.

Perhaps this what is meant when it says: "For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Hashem, to do righteousness and justice” (18:19). Hashem loved Avrohom for the righteousness and justice he performed with regard to actions which others belittled. Educating our children towards good middos, both by setting a personal example and by training them in practice, is the type of chinuch which Hashem loves.

Education can be such a powerful tool that the lessons taught can become ingrained second nature for life for those who benefit from it. A stark example of this is Lot who, despite his wickedness in every other respect, insisted on ensuring the security of guests whom he assumed to be Arabs, even at the cost of his daughters’ morality. This was due to the example set by Avrohom, the effect of which even all the subsequent evil acts committed by him could not erase.


“Maybe ten will be found there” (18:32).

Avrohom did not try to argue that the whole of Sdom should be saved in the merit of less than ten righteous people. The Chofetz Chaim zt”l explains that even though it says that sometimes a whole community can be saved in the merit of one righteous individual, the righteous people Avrohom was talking about were people whose actions were not completely wicked, and were thus “righteous” compared to the totally wicked population of Sdom. Even ten such people could not be found, and therefore the whole town was worthy of destruction.


“And Avrohom got up early in the morning” (19:27).

The gemara in Chulin (91a) says that a talmid chochom should not go out alone at night. Tosfos there (91b) explains that we learn this from the above possuk. Avrohom got up in the morning to pray for the people of Sdom, and did not pray for them at night, because then he would had to be accompanied by two of his servants, and since he did not want anybody to be present when he prayed for these people, he waited until the morning. The question is why did Avrohom not want anybody to be present?

Rav Sternbuch heard the following answer from the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel zt”l. It was imperative that the limud zechus (finding merit and pleading their cause) of the wicked people of Sdom should only be in the form of a private dialogue between Avrohom and Hashem. If it would be overheard by anybody, they would be likely to think that the actions of these wicked people were not so bad in reality.

Transgressors themselves must be rebuked in no uncertain terms, it is only when we will be pray to Hashem that we must ask Him to judge them favourably. Similarly, added the Satmar Rebbe, I mince no words when rebuking our wayward brethren, but when I pray to Hashem, I plead to Him to judge them favourably, after the terrible churbon in Europe, and the effect it had on many people. However, chas vesholom that anyone should be aware of my limud zechus.


“Listen to everything that Soro says to you” (21:12)

Avrohom argued that Yishmoel could be influenced for the good by Yitzchok, whereas Soro countered that the influence would be unilateral, so that only her son would be influenced for the worse by Yishmoel, whereas Yitzchok would not have a positive effect on Yishmoel. Hence, therefore he and his mother had to be driven away immediately. The Torah testifies that in this argument Soro was right.

This shows that the approach adopted by the Mizrachi, that we must attempt to influence the irreligious from within their own organisations, was doomed to failure from the outset. Fraternising with them will not influence them for the better, and will only dilute our own outlook and religiosity. The way to influence them is by intensifying our own conduct without compromises, not by direct contact with them, and certainly not on a regular basis.


“For now I know that you fear Hashem” (22:12)

When we mention the merit of our forefathers, the merit of Avrohom ovinu is emphasized more than that of Yitzchok. The Zohar says that Avrohom’s test was greater since his whole essence was that of chesed, and the commandment of the akeido appeared to be the very opposite; the essence of Yitzchok, on the other hand, was gevuro (self-control), so that his test was not as great.

Moreover, only Avrohom heard directly from Hashem that he would have descendants from Yitzchok, so that it was more difficult for him not to question Hashem about the contradiction between that promise and the commandment of the akeido.

Why was Avrohom’s act called the akeido, even though the act of binding Yitzchok appears to have been subsidiary to the seemingly more important act of putting him on the mizbeach? Yitzchok had asked his father to tie him him to make sure that he would not move and invalidate the shechito, so that this act proved that both of them desired to perform the mitzvah, and to perform it properly. For this reason, we ask Hashem to have mercy on us in the merit of the akeido¸ in particular on Rosh Hashanah, because Hashem deemed the desire of both Avrohom and Yitzchok to complete the shechito as if they had in fact done so. So too we ask Hashem to consider our genuine desire to improve our ways as if we have kept all the mitzvos properly, since the act of the akeido demonstrated the paramount importance of intentions in Hashem’s eyes.