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, December 28, 2011

It's worth the effort

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“And Yaakov settled…” (37:1); Rashi: Yaakov was seeking to live in tranquility, when the troubles of Yosef were thrust upon him. Whenever the righteous seek to live in tranquility, Hashem says, "Is it not sufficient for the righteous to have what has been prepared for them in the World to Come that they should also want to live in tranquility in this world?

Yaakov had already endured much suffering by this stage: he had learnt for fourteen years uninterruptedly without lying down, had spent twenty years with the fraudster Lovon, had met Eisov accompanied by 400 men, and had struggled with the angel. Why then was his desire for tranquility held out against him?

Yaakov ovinu, who was called Yisroel, a servant of E-l, should not have requested tranquility in this world, since that state is reserved for the world to come, whose inhabitants’ spiritual status is more or less static. In this world suffering and challenges are the tools that elevate a person both here and now and in preparation for the next world, where the fruits of those efforts will be enjoyed. The same applies to Yaakov’s descendants.

A bochur once came to Rav Sternbuch’s Rebbe, Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l to ask for a brocho before his wedding. Rav Schneider asked him what brocho he wanted, and he responded that everything should go smoothly in his life and he should have no difficulties. Rav Schneider said that that was no brocho, and blessed him instead that when faced with challenging situations, he should overcome them successfully, and added that living a tranquil existence is not an ideal. For this reason too the serpent’s curse was “dust you shall eat all the days of your life”. Dust is always freely available, and in that itself lies the curse. Something attained effortlessly has no value.


“…in the land of his father's residence” (ibid)

Chazal derive from this phrase that Yitzchok had been responsible for producing converts. We know that Avrohom, who epitomized the trait of chesed, brought many people closer to Hashem, but our image of Yitzchok is that of a holy self-contained individual, so how are we to understand this statement of Chazal?

Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l noted that there are two types of righteous individuals. Some, like Avrohom, actively engage in various public activities to disseminate yiddishkeit, whereas others, like Yitzchok, have an influence by virtue of their very avodoh performed with dedication and gevuroh (self-sacrifice). Yitzchok, unlike his father, did not travel from place to place and actively spread the Word of Hashem, but he still managed to create converts, because his very avodoh exuded holiness and truth and had an immense influence on those who witnessed it.

Similarly, neither the Vilna Gaon zt”l nor the Chazon Ish zt”l had yeshivas, kehillos, or many students, but their incomparable influence for all future generations was due to the force of their holy personalities and way of life, which inspired anybody who met them or heard about them, and created a strong desire to emulate their deeds.

In truth, all of Yitzchok’s descendants, and not only his exceptionally righteous or famous ones, must be aware of the power of their private actions, even if they remain unknown to others. Each time any yid overcomes his yetzer horo - and the greater the effort required to do so the greater the result achieved - to learn Torah or perform a mitzvah or good deed, he or she increases kedusho (holiness) in the entire universe and beyond, thus enhancing the spiritual atmosphere in our world and making it easier for other yidden to do the same and bringing the not-yet religious that much closer to Hashem and his Torah.


“For he was a son of his old age” (37:3) Rashi: Onkelos translates it: "He was a wise son to him, because everything that Yaakov had learned from Sheim and Eiver, he transmitted to Yosef.

Yaakov himself learned Torah from his father and grandfather. Would it not have been sufficient to transmit this Torah to Yosef?

Sheim lived in the generation of the mabul (flood) and Eiver in the dor haflogo (the generation which was dispersed following the building of the tower of bovel), in other words they were both surrounded by wicked people and therefore had to lead a secluded existence. The Torah of Sheim and Eiver refers to the conduct required to maintain one's righteousness in an atmosphere of total wickedness without being affected by one’s surroundings.

Yaakov Ovinu knew through ruach hakodesh (divine inspiration) that Yosef would be faced with difficult challenges in Egypt and therefore taught him specifically that that even if he finds himself in an environment consisting only of wicked individuals, he had to imagine that he was the only person alive in the world and still fulfill his duties to the Creator.

Unfortunately, most of us cannot shut ourselves off entirely from elements that are reminiscent of the society in which Yosef would have to spend most of his life, so this Torah of Sheim and Eiver, which teaches us to seclude ourselves either physically, or at least intellectually and emotionally, from moral depravity, is of great relevance for us too. Moreover, on the national level, we as bnei Torah, must also make sure not to let the harangues of our ignorant brethren against Torah learning or leading a Torah lifestyle affect us or our children.


“And he made him a colorful coat” (ibid)

The obvious question is why Yaakov would want to provoke the jealousy of his other sons by showing extra love to Yosef? The Chasam Sofer zt”l explains that Yaakov wanted to demonstrate to his sons that Yosef was a bit different to them and his nature was such that he needed to wear nice clothes. For this reason too, he spent more time learning with him, because he needed that extra bit of attention to keep him on the right spiritual track.


“Come, I will send you to them” (37:13)

Why did Yaakov, who knew of his brothers’ hatred towards him, send Yosef to meet them in a secluded place without worrying for the well-being of his beloved son?

Yaakov sent him in the hope that Yosef would understand that Yaakov was concerned for them and loved them, and in order to prove to him and to the brothers that he had no bad feelings towards them. However, even before they had a chance to meet, the brothers saw him from a distance, and before he even approached them they plotted against him to kill him. That was the great tragedy in the sale of Yosef: they did not even want to speak to him, and so the chance for a dialogue was missed.

The mishna in Ovos (5:17) cites the machlokes between Hilel and Shamay as being a dispute for the sake of Heaven. The disputes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamay were not personal disputes between two different camps, but were rather exclusively concerned with matters of halocho. On the other hand, the mishna continues that the machlokes of Korach and all his congregation was not for the sake of Heaven. Korach and Moshe themselves might have been able to come to an agreement, but once Korach’s congregation got involved, who were not interested in peace, the whole dispute became one that was not for the sake of Heaven.

Nowadays too disputes between two Rebbes can be sorted out between them, but once their followers join in it becomes a machlokes shelo lesheim shomayim. Similarly, many initially minor disputes that could have easily been settled at an early stage develop into major conflagarations once "friends" on both sides join the fray and create a seemingly irreparable chasm between the parties.


“Please recognize to whom this signet (chosemes)” (38:25)

When a person is brought to be judged by the heavenly tribunal after he passes away, he is not introduced as ploni the son of ploni. Instead, the good angels he has created as a result of performing mitzvos, as well as the mal’ochei chabolo (destructive angels) created following the commission of sins are brought before him, and he is told “please recognize these angels”, and he recognizes them and signs (chosem) his own judgment.


He would not listen to her, to lie next to her, nor to be with her” (39:10) whoever commits one sin in this world it envelops him and goes before him in the Day of Judgment…Rabi says, it remains connected to him like a dog, as it says, to lie next to her, in this world, nor to be with her in the world to come (Masseches Soto 3b)

The Chofetz Chaim zt”l explains that a person's sins accompany him to the next world, so that wherever he is, he is seen together with her and she envelops him and accompanies him to the Day of Judgment. He concludes (at the end of Shem Olom) that anybody who contemplates this thought for a moment must shudder at the thought that all his actions both bein odom lemokom and interpersonal matters, which are performed in secret, or even in the recesses of his heart, will be revealed to all eventually, and the depth of divine judgment should act as a spur in all our actions in this world.

It is also brought down in the name of the Chofetz Chaim that the telephone and movies were invented specifically for these final generations in which faith has been weakened, and the maskilim mock statements in Chazal about the heavenly "seeing eye”, which records everything for posterity, which cannot be subsequently denied, so that we now have some concrete idea about how even in this world at least our physical actions are recorded for anyone to see.

Anyone who resists temptation for no ulterior motive, such as fear, or the desire for honor, but merely to fulfill the will of Hashem, fulfils the greatest mitzvah of sanctifying the divine name (see Rambam Yesodei Hatorah 5:10). Moreover, it says in Yalkut Shimoni that in the past a person who performed a mitzvah would have his deeds recorded by the prophets, but now that there are no more prophets Eliyohu and moshiach record his deeds and Hashem Himself kivyochol signs.

Sometimes a person passes away and he or she may have accomplished much during their lifetime, either in the public sphere by dedicating themselves to the material or spiritual welfare of klal yisroel or in the private sphere in the form of victories against their yetzer horo, but they leave nothing obvious behind them to eternalize them, such as an important sefer. The medrash makes it clear that in the future such people will have the privilege of having their names recorded in a commemorative book, which will be read by everybody like a sefer Torah.