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.
View my complete profile


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, January 19, 2012

Expecting and Praying for the Redemption

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

History repeats itself

“A new king came into power over Egypt” (1:8) Rashi: “Rav and Shmuel, one said literally a new king, while the other said his edicts were renewed.”

According to the latter opinion, if these edicts were renewed, what were the contents of the original edicts?

Initially, Paroh wanted his Jewish subjects to become totally assimilated and he was opposed to the territory of Goshen becoming a semi-autonomous kingdom. Thus, he had
suggested to “appoint them livestock officers over my cattle” (Bereishis 47:6). In other words: “Let us all become one nation and let them serve our religion.” When this attempt failed and our ancestors refused to change their names, language or clothing, Paroh decided to enact new laws that denied them any rights as citizens, and emphasized that they were nothing more than slaves and a nation unto themselves.

This scenario repeated itself in Western Europe. When the ghetto walls were removed,
we were enticed into assimilating into the surrounding non-Jewish culture by being offered equal rights and opportunities. Unfortunately, this strategy succeeded only too well in many countries, and after more than a century, the country, which up to that time in many ways epitomized everything that Western culture had to offer, renewed its edicts. Within a very short period, these new laws resulted in crimes which by common consent outdid even the terrible misdeeds of Paroh’s compatriots.

Slaves of Hashem

“The Egyptians enslaved the Bnei Yisroel with body-breaking labor [beforech]” (1:13).

Chazal expound: “befe rach - with soft words.” Just like in Germany, the persecutions
did not start overnight. At first, Paroh announced that he would be paying for the Jews’ labor, and they worked overtime. He then rebuked them: “You see, for money you are willing to work overtime; from now on you will do back-breaking work for me overtime without any payment!”

Similarly, when Hashem will put us on trial le’achar mei’ah ve’esrim and ask us why we did not sufficiently accept on ourselves the yoke of Torah, and we will argue in our defense that it was too difficult for us and surely it was enough to have served Hashem for a few hours a day, we will be told: “To earn some more cash you were willing to work more with all your energy, so surely for the sake of your avodas Hashem and earning eternal life you could have worked harder.”

Taking no credit

“But the midwives feared Hashem [Elokim] and did not do as the Egyptian king had told
them” (1:17).

Fear of Hashem is a motive for complying with halacha, but the conduct of Yocheved and Miriam went far beyond what they were required to do. On the face of it, these acts which put them at risk of their lives were acts of self-dedication and were not performed out of fear of sinning, so why does the posuk specifically
stress the aspect of yiras Hashem?

Great people don’t consider acts of this magnitude to be acts of chessed. They know
no boundaries between the letter of the halachah and its spirit, which consists of the will of Hashem. The midwives feared Elokim (symbolizing the trait of judgment): If this was the behavior that Hashem wanted and expected, then that is what the din requires. With such an attitude, there is no room for patting oneself on the back, since one is merely performing Hashem’s will. Therefore, the posuk is not understating the motives of the midwives, but is in fact paying them the ultimate compliment of any true baal chessed, who does not feel that he is doing chessed with his spouse, child, relative, neighbor, or total stranger. He is merely doing what he is bound to do according to the dictates of Hashem.

This point applies to all areas of avodas Hashem. For example, it is related that Rav
Akiva Eger zt”l was once sitting in a carriage traveling to Warsaw when he noticed a large crowd of people coming towards him. He asked what it was all about and was told that they were coming to welcome him to the city. He responded in disbelief: How could he, a simple Yid, be mistaken for some important personality
worthy of such a reception?

Rav Akiva Eger was of course not blind to his many qualities, but he refused to take credit for them. He felt that since he had been blessed with talent and other traits facilitating avodas Hashem, notwithstanding his constant spiritual growth, he
could always have achieved more. And what was he compared to his illustrious ancestors? And besides, what was he compared to Hashem, Who had bestowed on him the ability to learn so much Torah and perform so many acts of chessed? He
was just a simple Yid, who, at best, was doing what Hashem expected him to.

Judging our expectations

“And his sister stood herself at a distance to see what would happen to him” (2:4).

Chazal say that because she waited here, Miriam was rewarded by having the whole nation wait for her when she became a meztora after she spoke negatively about Moshe Rabbeinu. On the face of it, she did little more than satisfy her natural curiosity to see what would transpire with her baby brother, so why did this
act deserve such a great reward?

The first thing we will be asked when we are judged is whether we expected (tzipisa) the redemption. Rav Yecheskel Abramsky zt”l noted that it does not say “kivisa leyeshuah,” because every believing Jew hopes for the redemption. The question we will be asked is whether we expected it the same way that we expect someone to arrive for an appointment at a prearranged time. We don’t hope that the person will arrive.
We expect him to. Hashem has not revealed a prearranged date for Moshiach to come, but we are meant to hope and wait for him in eager anticipation and expectation bechol yom sheyavo.

Similarly, Miriam waited with the conviction that the yeshuah would come for her
brother. She did not know exactly how, but she harbored no doubts that he would be saved, and she merely waited to see what form the salvation
would take.

Education starts at birth

“She named him Moshe, for she said, ‘I drew him from the water’” (2:10).

The Medrash says that Moshe was known by several other names. Why is he known in the Torah by this name? Both his natural and his adopted natural mothers exhibited extraordinary mesirus nefesh in raising him. Basya risked incurring the wrath
of her father by saving the Jewish child and she entrusted him with Yocheved to bring him up for a while, which she did, at great personal risk, in order to ensure that he received a proper Torah education.

As we saw in last week’s column, if we want a child to grow up to become a gadol beYisroel, it is imperative for parents to have the right intentions from the very beginning and to take the appropriate steps to make sure those desires are realized. Moshe Rabbeinu is known to us by that name in order to bring home this
fundamental point.

Purity of speech

“I am slow of speech [kevad peh] and of a slow tongue” (4:10).

The Ran says that Moshe was burdened with these speech defects so that we could not
subsequently claim that we had been persuaded into accepting the Torah by his oratory skills. Since he had those speech impediments, it was clear that we only accepted the Torah because of our own conviction and not because of some
external compulsion.

The Rashbam, on the other hand, says that Moshe was not fluent in Egyptian, because he left the country when he was young, and he cites proofs from other pesukim that kevad peh refers to someone who is not familiar with the language of royalty. Moshe preferred to speak the language of Midyan rather than Egyptian, because, being steeped in immorality, the language of the Egyptians was full of vulgar expressions.

As we saw above, the Jews in Egypt also refused to converse in Egyptian and, historically too, the languages spoken by us were not sullied with unsuitable expressions, at least not for as long as the only people speaking them were religious and G-d-fearing.

The virtues of a donkey

“Moshe took his wife and his sons and set them to ride on the donkey” (4:20). Rashi:
“The special donkey, the same donkey which Avrohom saddled for Akeidas Yitzchok, the
same one on which Moshiach is due to reveal himself.”

This is not referring to literally the same donkey, but rather alludes to an important concept. The donkey is the symbol of foolishness and submission. Avrohom Avinu set out for the Akeidah riding on a donkey to perform the will of Hashem, even though he had just been told that Yitzchok would perpetuate his name and deeds, and now he had been told to slaughter him. Similarly, Moshe Rabbeinu was safe and sound in Midyan and was told by Hashem to go back to Egypt where his brethren were suffering unspeakable persecution. Neither Avrohom nor Moshe asked any questions.

Similarly, Moshiach will reveal himself when we are very “poor” in deeds, and he will
wonder why he has been sent on this mission specifically in such a generation, and why so many previous generations, which seemed to have been so much more worthy, did not merit the redemption. Moshiach, too, will not ask any questions, but will fulfill the will of Hashem.

Utilizing the potential of the Shovevim Period

“Now [ve’atah], behold, the cry of the Bnei Yisroel has come to Me” (3:9).

What is the meaning of ve’atah in this posuk? Perhaps the prayers of the nation in Egypt had not been recited with sufficient outpouring of emotion, but Hashem, taking into account their dire situation and suffering, said He would nevertheless be willing to accept their prayers “now” even though they had not sufficiently repented, because of the state of the generation. We, too, should plead with Hashem to consider the condition of our generation and hasten our redemption.

We have entered the period of Shovavim, and the commentaries make a distinction between superior [illa’a] and inferior [tata’a] repentance, saying that although, strictly speaking, in order for repentance to be effective the sinner must achieve the level described by the Rambam (that He Who knows the hidden secrets of our hearts knows that we will not repeat the sin even when faced with the same situation), in our situation today in this bitter exile, when tumah is so pervasive to such an unprecedented scale, Hashem listens to the cry of the Bnei Yisroel and makes do with “low grade” repentance. The main thing is to regret the past and remove any trace of tumah from our homes. If we do so, Hashem will surely have pity on us and listen to our prayers.