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, January 5, 2012

Gevuro is the answer to anti-religious incitement

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“Let your servant speak a word in my master’s ears” (44:18) Rashi: "may my words penetrate your ears”.

The Brisker Rov zt”l related that before the war the Polish government enacted a decree requiring everybody to learn Polish and mathematics. The rabbonim considers this to be a grave interference by the government with their internal affairs, and convened a meeting which was attended by all the rabbonim and admorim in order to discuss ways to abolish this decree. The rabbonim decided that the best way to proceed would be to send a delegation of gedolei yisroel to the Minister of Education and explain to him why this matter was of such deep concern to them. None of the rabbonim spoke Polish except for one rov, and it was proposed to send him as a spokesman. However, the Chofetz Chaim zt”l opposed this, arguing that the authorities would be likely to respond: "you see, you can produce enlightened Polish-speaking rabbis, so why are you opposed to our new law?”

Instead, the Chofetz Chaim, who like all the others only spoke Yiddish, offered to be the spokesman himself. When he appeared for the interview with the Minister, he started to speak in Yiddish but quickly burst into uncontrollable tears. Although he did not understand a word of what the Chofetz Chaim was saying, the Minister was much moved. He said that he had not realized that this issue was so important for the rabbis, and assured them that he would issue instructions for the decree to be abolished.

Similarly, Yehuda thought that Yosef did not speak Hebrew, but he decided to speak it nevertheless in the hope that his words would penetrate Yosef’s ears and heart.


“"I am Yosef, is my father still alive?" His brothers could not answer him for they were shocked at his presence” (45:3) Medrash:”Woe onto us from the Day of Judgment, woe unto us from the Day of Rebuke! Yosef, the youngest of the tribes [rebuked his brothers and] they were unable to answer him, when Hashem will come and rebuke each individual according to who he is...how much more so [will we not be able to answer].

The Bais Halevi explains that Yosef's statement "is my father still alive?" was made in astonishment and by way of rebuke: "I don't understand how my father can still be alive after all the sorrow he has endured until now because of my absence”. Yehuda had claimed that their father would not be able to live with the anguish of Binyomin’s absence, to which Yosef was now responding: "If that is so, why were you not worried about our father’s sorrow when you sold me?"

The above medrash, adds the Bais Halevi, is to be understood accordingly. In the future the inconsistency of our very own words will also be pointed out to us. For example, if we will be asked why we did not give more charity, and reply that our financial situation did not allow for any greater generosity, the heavenly tribunal will respond by noting how much money we invested forbidden things or even permitted material things - where did we find the money from for those things? Or if we will be asked why we did not spend more time learning, and reply that we were so busy making a living, bringing up a family etc, we will be shown how much time we wasted on stupid or unnecessary things.


“Tell my father about all my honor in Egypt” (45:13)

Why did Yosef think that Yaakov would be pleased that the Egyptians were honoring him? In truth, Yosef was conveying to his father that even though he enjoyed royal influence he had not abandoned the Torah or the way of life which he had been taught at home, neither during his time as a servant, nor now that he was in a position of power. He wanted to emphasize to Yaakov that he had remained faithful to everything his father stood for and conveyed to him, even in the most trying circumstances.

By contrast, the gemoro in masseches Brochos (32b) brings Moshe Rabbeinu’s argument in defense of the Jewish nation that they had sinned with the Golden Calf due to the abundance of silver and gold which Hashem had showered upon them. In other words, following the test of poverty as slaves in Egypt, which they had withstood admirably, Hashem then tested them with wealth, but this proved too much for them, to such an extent that Hashem wished to destroy the whole nation.

Just two generations ago, just after the end of the Second World War, Rav Mordechai Programanski zt”l told Rav Sternbuch that following the slaughter of millions of Jews, the nation would now be tested with wealth. There was about to be an unprecedented phenomenon: dozens of strictly religious Jewish millionaires, who would be tested to see whether they would use their wealth for the purpose supporting the needy and Torah institutions. If they will pass this test, added Rav Programanski, the redemption will come imminently.


“He said to them, "Do not be troubled along the way” (45:24); Rashi: “Do not become involved in halachic discussion lest the road become a menace to you".

The Brisker Rov zt”l expressed amazement at the righteousness of the tribes. Anyone else in their situation would most likely have discussed the latest astonishing developments of the discovery of Yosef all the way home, but Yosef knew his brothers and their great love of Torah, and that they would not waste their time with stories, but only talk (it says al tisasku - don't delve) in learning. That was why he had to warn them of the perils on the road.

Contemplating how much time valuable time we waste discussing topics that should not concern us, such as politics and current affairs, must make us shudder. It says that we are obliged to say, "When will our actions reach (yagiu) the actions of our forefathers". Even if we cannot emulate their actions altogether, let us do our utmost to at least touch (lagaat) them.


“Yisrael…offered sacrifices to the G-d of his father Yitzchok” (46:1)

The commentators struggle to explain the phrase "the G-d of his father Yitzchok". Why is no mention made of Avrohom?

Avrohom’s avodas Hashem was based on chesed and bringing people closer to Hashem, whereas Yitzchok’s had the aspect of yiroh and gevuro, which involves focusing more on oneself. Even though Avrohom surely also endeavored to acquire fear of Hashem, and Yitzchok also dealt in chesed, Avrohom’s main avoda concerned chesed and Yitzchok’s dealt with yiroh and gevuro.

Avrohom received no guidance from his father and was completely self-taught. Following investigations about the nature of the universe, he reached the conclusion that there must be a creator, and since the source of his faith was intellectual he continued in his path until he acquired love of Hashem, so that he was strong in his faith and was not afraid to reach out to the wicked and draw them closer to Hashem. Yitzchok’s faith, on the other hand, was based on what his father taught him, and therefore the main aspect of his avoda was fear of Hashem. He dedicated himself to becoming an olo temimo and strengthening himself in his avoda more and more all the time.

For as long as he was in Eretz Yisroel Yaakov ovinu chose the trait of truth, i.e. Torah, in his avodas Hashem (serving of G-d), but when he moved to Egypt, the source of tumoh and immorality, he decided to adopt the path of his father, Yitzchok, by developing ever greater yiras Hashem reasoning that that was the only way he could be saved from the tumoh of Egypt, and he secluded himself in Goshen learning Torah day and night with gevuro (self-discipline and fortitude).

Nowadays the tumoh of Egypt is prevalent everywhere, so that we must adopt the same approach as Yaakov ovinu when he moved to Egypt. Although we should not of course ignore the trait of chesed and charity, and do everything in our power to try to bring our erring brethren back to their source, our avoda must focus primarily on strengthening ourselves in Torah and yiras shomayim.

We have recently been witnessing incitement against Torah Jews, Judaism and Torah values. However, this hatred should not bother us; in fact it is to our benefit. When we were in exile amongst non-Jews, as long as the surrounding environment was that of enmity, or at best neutrality, our spiritual status was not affected, but with the dawn of emancipation and equal rights, large parts of the nation in Western Europe decided to avidly embrace their host cultures. This approach led to total assimilation in many cases, and culminated in the Holocaust one and a half centuries later.

The same applies to our exile amongst yiden in Eretz Yisroel. We have to be forever wary of any attempts by them to assimilate us into their culture. It is far better when their latent enmity towards us becomes manifest: that way they show their true colors, and the weaker elements amongst us will be less tempted to join any elements of their society.

What should bother us though is an advertisement which appeared on the front page of the Hebrew chareidi press last week asking the public for suggestions about how to dispel the separation and hate between us and the secular public and strengthen unity and love.

The Brisker Rov zt”l said that the Nazis killed our bodies, but the Zionists are killing both the bodies (a Yid without Torah is spiritually dead) and the souls of our Sephardi brethren. More recently, about a million people - many of them non-Jews - were imported into the Jewish state from the former Soviet Union with the express purpose of attempting to ensure the continued secular nature of the state. Never mind the fact that many of these non-Jews are anti-Semitic and likely to be a fifth column in a war, the main priority is to maintain the secular nature of the state.

Instead of encouraging unity and love we should follow in Yaakov's footsteps by strengthening our Torah and yiras shomayim with fortitude and looking with disdain at both the non-Jewish elements of society today, which are so reminiscent of Egyptian culture and at those of our brethren who seek to absorb us into their culture, which is so antithetical to that of the Torah. Our erring brethren will disappear off the face of the earth just like their Hellenistic or other “enlightened” predecessors, but Torah Jews will outlive their foes, as they have always done.