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, December 22, 2011

Trials and Tribulations of the Final Golus

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“Yaakov left Beer Sheva” (28:10).

Comparing his situation with that of Eliezer when he went to Choron to look for a wife for Yitzchok, Yaakov had every reason to despair. Eliezer had plenty of money and goods to offer, whereas he had nothing. The Medrash states that Yaakov said, “From where (mei’ayin) shall my help come? My help comes from Hashem, Who made heaven and earth.” When I acknowledge that I have nothing (ayin), and a "natural” analysis of events leads to hopelessness, I recall that Hashem created heaven and earth from nothing, and then I realize that even though I have nothing, and seemingly no hope of salvation, I deliver my future into the hands of the Creator in the expectation that He will save me.

The same applies to our situation in this final stage of golus. (exile) If we put our faith in human or other forces, such as armies or nations, imagining that our destiny is in our own hands, Hashem will leave us to the fate of those idols in which we put our trust. Only when we acknowledge that nothing (ayin) - no person, nation or force whatsoever - can be of assistance to us will we be worthy of Divine assistance. The purpose of the chevlei Moshiach, in which we experience suffering on an unprecedented scale even in terms of our tortured history, is to instill the message that only Hashem can help us. Of course, we can obviate the need for such suffering by internalizing Hashem's individual Providence nationally and individually, here and now, and living our lives accordingly.


“And he went toward Choron” (ibid.).

Rashi (on posuk 17, based on Maseches Chullin 91b) notes that when Yaakov passed the site of the Bais Hamikdosh on the way to Choron, Hashem did not detain him there, because if it had not entered Yaakov's mind to pray in the place where his fathers prayed then, why should Hashem detain him? Only once he reached Choron did Yaakov say, “Is it possible that I passed the place where my fathers prayed without my having prayed there?" He then decided to go back, and he returned as far as Bais El, at which stage he experienced kefitzas haderech.

On the way to Choron, Yaakov did nothing. He did not even think about going to daven at the site of the Bais Hamikdosh. Therefore, there was no reason for Hashem to have assisted him by detaining him in some manner in order to encourage him to pray there. It was only when Yaakov resolved upon going back, and took the first steps towards realizing his intention, that he received immediate Divine assistance in the form of kefitzas haderech.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt”l said that in material matters, we must have bitachon, but when it comes to spiritual matters, bitachon does not help. In ruchniyus, the level of siyata diShmaya we merit is dependent upon the amount of effort we devote toward Torah, tefillah and tikkun hamiddos (working on improving our character traits), whereas the reverse holds true in the area of gashmiyus: The more we minimize the amount of time, effort and money we invest in material affairs, and the more we place our trust exclusively in Hashem, the more He will repay us with Divine assistance, leaving us free to invest all our energy in spiritual matters, which reap eternal returns.


Why, in fact, did it not occur to Yaakov to daven where his fathers had prayed in the first place?

The Tchebiner Rov, Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l, explained that initially Yaakov reasoned that since he was on the way to learn Torah with mesirus nefesh at the Yeshiva of Sheim and Eiver, it was not necessary to delay his journey by stopping to daven, until he eventually realized that he should not be different than his ancestors, and he went back to daven.

Tefillah is the pillar of creation and the source and key to success in Torah. A talented individual may imagine that his success in learning depends on his intellect, or even his application, but this is a mere delusion. Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l would always emphasize how crucial it is to daven properly and how our success in learning depends upon it. He would say that we must be concerned that someone who comes late for davening or does not concentrate properly on his tefillos may have the status of a Talmudic student rather than that of a yeshiva bochur. Through tefillah we acquire sanctity, and siyata diShmaya, which enables us to absorb the sanctity of Torah.


“He took some of the stones of that place and arranged them around his head” (28:11).

The Gemara (Maseches Chullin 91b) says that the stones quarreled, with each one saying, “Let this righteous one place his head on me",” until they were merged into one unit. It seems unclear how this resolved the problem, because even after the merger, Yaakov would still place his head on what used to be one particular stone. This teaches us that when there is true unity between individuals, they become a completely unified body, and everybody is happy for each other's success. Therefore, it was considered as if he placed his head on all the stones.

Similarly, Hashem never despises tefillah betzibbur, because it is much more powerful than just the sum total of ten or more prayers. Our tefillos were formulated in the plural, since each person prays not just for himself, but also for all his fellow congregants. Moreover, if a tzaddik is present, it is as if he prays all the prayers of his fellow congregants. It is worthwhile to look for a minyan that davens slowly and with proper devotion and concentration.


“A ladder was set up on the earth and the top of it reached toward heaven” (28:12).

The ladder symbolizes the Torah and tefillos which connect the Jewish nation to their Father in Heaven. The top of it reached heaven, because their avodah is accepted by Hashem. The ascending angels are the ones created by our avodah, because when we serve Hashem properly, they become elevated, but when our avodah is deficient, the angels "descend,” i.e., their level decreases accordingly.

We cannot fathom the number and size of the stars in the firmament, and the number of angels created by our actions is even greater. The quality of each angel depends on the intensity and devotion that accompanies each mitzvah or, chas veshalom, each sin. If someone standing at the bottom of a ladder attempts to shake it, this has a drastic effect on anyone standing on the upper rungs. Similarly, the upper worlds are dependent on our actions in this world. If we lived with the full awareness of the consequences of our actions, we would not sin.


“Behold it was Leah” (29:25).

Leah was meant to be one of the foremothers from the outset, so why did she marry Yaakov stealthily?

Yaakov had deceived his father with the brachos, and even though he had done so at his mother's request based on her ruach hakodesh (for the reason outlined in last week’s article), this was still capable of chipping away at the trait of truth. Hashem therefore wanted to demonstrate to him the potentially disastrous repercussions of deceit, which can even result in someone marrying the wrong person, in order to reinforce the middah of truth, which personified Yaakov.

Similarly, in addition to displaying a lack of bitachon and risking a serious chillul Hashem, dishonesty in business also affects our attachment to the fundamental middah of emes.


“Rochel was of…beautiful appearance but they seemed to him like a few days, so much did he love her” (29:17,20). Usually, if someone desires something very much, he suffers tremendously if he has to wait for the fulfillment of his desire, and yet here the Torah states the opposite.

The avos hakedoshim knew that they were establishing the basis for the Jewish nation for all future generations, and Yaakov knew that Rochel was meant to give birth to Yosef Hatzaddik, whose appearance would be as beautiful as his mother’s. As a result, he would be subjected to difficult challenges that would test his ability to maintain a high level of morality. He succeeded and thereby instilled this high level into all his descendants.

Being aware of the crucial nature of this future development, Yaakov loved Rochel, because through her the purpose of the avos would be completed. When he saw that he would have to wait another seven years before he could marry her, he assumed that this was the Soton's attempt to prevent the fulfillment of the Divine plan, so that his love for her and the desire to bring that plan to fruition became even greater.

The greatest and final test of the end of this golus lies in the area of pritzus. We should therefore not be surprised at the emergence of the internet and the unprecedented exposure to the very opposite of the sanctity which has characterized us since the time of Yosef. Anyone wishing to participate in both individual and national salvation must adhere to our historical standards.