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.
Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Ultimate Sacrifice

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“Hashem said to Avram, "Go from your land” (12:1)

The act of walking itself as a mitzva.

The wife of the Vilna Gaon had a friend with whom she used to to collect and distribute charity funds. The two ladies made an agreement between them that the first one to pass away would appear in a dream to the surviving friend to relate to her what takes place at the Heavenly Court. The friend passed away first and indeed came to visit her in a dream. She told her that she was not at liberty to disclose the details of the Heavenly Court, but since she had made a vow to come and tell her what was going on, she received special permission to reveal one detail.

She reminded her about one time when they were distributing charity funds and they saw a certain needy person coming towards them on the other side of the street. The friend went on: "At that point you raised your finger and gestured to the needy person to cross the street to receive the donation”. Her friend told her in the dream that in Heaven part of her merit was deducted because she should have crossed the road herself to give him the money. The Vilna Gaon’s wife told her husband about the dream, and he instructed the Vilna chevra kadisha (burial society) to make a record of it.

Both Rav Shach zt”l and Dayan Abramsky zt”l told Rav Sternbuch that they had themselves seen the records of the chevra kadisha in Vilna, which stated that the Vilna Gaon had asked them to record this incident. Dayan Abramsky added that after he read this, often when donating money to charity he would do the mitzva himself and not through a messenger. For example, he would go to the post office to mail a check overseas instead of asking someone else to go there.


I will make you into a great nation (12.2). Rashi: "Hashem promised him children, wealth and fame”

Both Rashi and the Rambam (on Ovos 5:3) state that Hashem’s commandment to Avrohom to leave Choron for an unknown destination was one of the ten trials by which he was tested. Since Hashem promised him children, wealth and fame, why was this considered to be such a great test?

The Rambam writes (Hilchos Avodo Zoro 1:3) that Avrohom brought tens of thousands of people close to Hashem by disassociating them from idol worship. The rewards for these actions was very great, because Avrohom was credited for all the good deeds performed by these people, and now Hashem was telling him to leave all his students and work and depart to an unknown destination. He had no idea whether he would be as successful in his new place of residence, but instead of telling Hashem: "please let me stay here to continue my important work", he had pure and simple trust in Him and asked no questions, in the complete conviction that everything Hashem does is for the good.

The gemara says (Brochos 61b) that "with all your might" in parashas kriyas shma refers to someone whose material possessions are dearer to him than his body. The Chofetz Chaim zt”l comments on this that someone who sacrifices his spiritual welfare for the sake of Hashem is included in this category. For example, sometimes a person gives up a great career as a lamdan (a rabbinic scholar) for the sake of devoting his time and efforts to bringing others closer to Hashem.


And I will make your name great (ibid). Rashi: This is the basis of saying: "G-d of Yaakov."

One might think that the first berachah of Shemoneh Esrei should be concluded by mentioning all three ovos, the text therefore states ‘And you will be a blessing’, only with your mention is it concluded and not with them [Yitzchok and Yaakov]

Avrohom Ovinu excelled in the trait of chesed, and therefore Hashem performed acts of chesed for him in return, without deducting any of his merits. Hashem as it were put up a shield (mogen – cf. onochi mogen loch (15:1) "I will protect you”) around his merits to protect them and ensure that they remain intact, and He acts in the same way with any of Avrohom’s descendants who perform sufficient acts of chesed.

For this reason the first brocho in shmone esrei ends with "Who protects Avrohom”: we ask Hashem to shower us with His goodness even in this world in Avrohom’s merit, and at the same time to erect a shield around any merits that we have accumulated, so that they need not be used to “pay” for Hashem's kindness to us in this world at the cost of being rewarded for them in the next world.

Chesed is the basis of success in any of our endeavors, whether material or spiritual. As we saw above, it is performed not only with our physical actions and possessions but also by giving up our time for the sake of others in order to draw them closer to Judaism, and a yeshiva bochur performs as great a deed by giving up some of his time to teach weaker boys. It is a fundamental principle of yiddishkeit that we cannot hope to attain spiritual perfection solely by acquiring spiritual merits of our own without at the same time drawing others closer to Hashem.


He took him outside and said: "Look towards the heavens and count the stars if you are able to count them." He then said to him: "So [numerous] will your descendants be" (15:5)

This cannot be understood literally, since there countless billions of stars, but currently only about 13 million Jews in the world.

The Rambam notes that the stars and planets are in fact spiritual beings (Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 3:9). Many of them are larger than our planet and yet to our eyes they appear as no more than tiny dots, and some are totally invisible to the naked eye. Similarly, each Jew is a world onto his own, and the entire heavenly firmament depends on his actions, for the good and for the bad. Every mitzva or aveiro has an effect on the upper worlds, which, in turn, affects all aspects of our life in this world.

Moreover, just like each star has its unique role to play (as it says: "you count the number of the stars and gives them all their names" - Tehillim 147:4), so too is each Jew provided with a unique soul and task to fulfill in this world. Each one of us is endowed with different strengths and destined to face different challenges. In order to fulfill our task in this world we would do well to stop comparing ourselves with others. We have no knowledge or control over other people’s unique abilities and trials or their internal world. Instead, we should concentrate on becoming familiar with our own unique strengths and utilizing them to the utmost.

When Rav Sternbuch was 13 years old on his very first day at Rav Schneider’s yeshiva, Rav Schneider zt”l, told the students that they had the ability to become as great as Reb Chaim Brisker. One boy objected that he was not capable of being a Reb Chaim Brisker, so what was he expected to do? Rav Schneider replied that if he would realize his potential to the fullest extent the way that Reb Chaim did, he will have fulfilled his duty in this world.


He will be a wild, uncivilized man. His hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand will be against him" (16:12)

The angel had just comforted Hogor by reassuring her that “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they cannot be counted because of their great number…Hashem has heard your prayer” . Why, then, did he go on to make the above statement, which was surely likely to have done anything but comfort the ancestor of such people?

When Hogor gave birth to a boy, she haughtily assumed that she was more righteous than Soroh. The angel was in fact coming to rebuke her by telling her that, on the one hand, you will have a multitude of descendants, but, on the other hand, his hands will rise up against his enemies and his enemies will avenge his evil actions.

In other words, the supposed blessing contained in the previous possuk was actually a disguised curse.

The angel was teaching her not to judge actions superficially, and not to become haughty just because she had had a child, and her mistress was still barren. The workings of heaven are impenetrable, and what seem to be blessings may turn out to be curses, and what seem to be curses may turn out to be good tidings in the long-term.