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 12, 2012

Torah the Ultimate Happiness

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years” (47:28)

Instead of vayechi we would have expected the possuk to say vayogor, that Yaakov dwelt in Egypt. Until he moved to Egypt Yaakov suffered from Eisov, Lovon, Elifas, Dinah and Yosef. It was only during his last 17 years in Egypt that he enjoyed an undisturbed existence. Although Yaakov accepted his misfortunes with love and they forged his character to ever greater heights, the Torah employs the word vayechi to make the point that only in those last 17 years was he truly "alive" and able to lead a peaceful existence.

“The days of Yaakov, the years of his life were 147 years…“the days of Yisroel's death drew near” (47:28-29)

The life of a tzaddik consists of the sum total of all his days, since he utilizes them to the fullest extent by engaging in Torah and avodas Hashem and conducting an account of his actions at the end of each day. Such days are complete and add up to complete years. This is what the possuk is emphasizing by mentioning both Yaakov’s days and his years.

In a similar vein, the Zohar hakodosh says here that a day filled with Torah and mitzvos is a complete day whereas a day tainted by sin is a defective one. When a person has to account for his actions before the heavenly tribunal he or she will be shown what they have accomplished, and whether any days have been lost by being spent on sinful or unnecessary activity. However, in Shulchan Hatohor Rav Aharon Roth zt”l notes that as part of the process of teshuva days which have been taken from us are returned to our credit.

Yaakov utilized the potential inherent in each day of his life to the utmost, both during the periods when he suffered from hardship, and in the last stage of his life, when he was finally able to live a secluded undisturbed existence in Goshen.


“He [Yaakov] said, "Swear to me," and he swore to him. Yisroel prostrated himself at the head of the bed” (47:31) Rashi: for his bed was perfect and none of his offspring was wicked. Witness the fact that Yosef was a king who was also a captive among the non-Jews, yet, he was steadfast in his righteousness

Yosef, the second most powerful man in Egypt, was asked by his father to take an oath. Someone else in Yosef’s position would have been likely to get angry that his father did not trust him to fulfill his request after having told him “I will do as you say”, but Yosef subjugated himself completely to his father and without saying anything unhesitatingly and immediately took an oath. When Yaakov Ovinu saw this response and realized the extent of the kibbud av voem exhibited even by Yosef, who had spent so much time in the Egyptian environment and had become a powerful figure there, he was satisfied that his bed was indeed perfect.

Under the laws prevailing in Egypt, Yosef, as a royal figure, was forbidden to visit a commoner, such as his father, and so the medrash says that for 17 years Yosef did not visit his father in Goshen. Instead, he sent his son Efraim to learn Torah with him. Perhaps Yosef comforted himself with the maxim of Rabi Yochonon: "Happy is the person who has not seen them [his parents]” (Kiddushin 31b), Rashi: “because it is not possible to honor them as much as necessary, and he is punished on their account”. Rabi Yochonon’s own father passed away before he was born, and his mother passed away in childbirth.

Kibbud av voem is a critical component in the education of our children. With us it is a given that the closer a person is to maamad har Sinai the more do we look up to him. By contrast, according to the non-Jewish or secular attitude as technology, science, and medicine progress so do we, and the further a person is removed from these advances the more are they looked down upon. As a corollary to this approach, the relationship between parents and children has become almost egalitarian. Unfortunately, elements of this attitude have seeped through to us so that some parents have become more lax in insisting that their children observe all the details of kibbud av voem. This can sometimes have catastrophic results.

“And I will lie with my fathers” (47:30)

Yaakov was privileged to have children following his path, and someone who passes away leaving behind children following the path of the Torah has not died, but is merely "lying”. The Zohar in bechukosai states that it is a great merit for a father in gan eden if his son follows in the path of the Torah. In fact, the mitzvah of kibbud av voem after a parent has passed away is even stricter then when he was alive, and when a son or daughter lead a Torah lifestyle Hashem has pity on the parents in gan eden and they go mechayil el chayail in the heavenly echelons.

Whenever the Baal Hapardes performed a mitzvah he would say that he was performing it in order to fulfill the will of Hashem and also for the mitzvah to be a merit for his father and mother in gan eden. Some people think that the main tikun ("rectification" of the soul) they can do for a deceased parent is to say kaddish and be a chazan, but they are making a mistake. The medrash does indeed emphasize the importance of these actions, but it is more important - especially during the first year when the judgment of the neshomo is still strong - to endeavor to add additional hours of learning, to pray with greater devotion, and give more charity, and whenever doing so, to say expressly "I am giving this leiluy nishmas (to elevate the soul) of father/mother followed by their name and their mother's name”.


“And he blessed them on that day saying: "Through you shall [the People of] Yisroel bless saying; 'May Hashem make you as Ephraim and Menasheh and he placed Ephraim ahead of Menasheh” (48:20)

The greatest blessing a person could hope for is to be blessed with sons who are talmidei chachomim. As we just saw, such a person will live forever. Efraim was placed ahead of his older brother, as he was the one who learnt Torah from Yaakov, in order to teach us that the foremost priority of any father must be to educate his son to become a godol beyisroel and dedicate his life to Torah. The alternative is to educate our sons to be like Menashe, who learnt from Yosef how to behave like a ben Torah in every situation in life, but this must always remain only the second-best option.

Targum Yonoson on this possuk comments that "that day" refers to the day of a child’s bris milo. Already on that day the parents must resolve to do everything in their power that their son should grow up to become a godol batorah and not merely a simple baal habos, since ultimate happiness in this world and the next for both parent and child is to be found only in the Torah. Although we do not have a custom to verbalize the blessing contained in this possuk at a bris parents should certainly have the message in mind and act accordingly in the years to come.

By referring to Ephraim and Menasheh when blessing our children we also pray that there will be harmony between our children, just like there was between Ephraim and Menasheh when Menasheh was not upset and did not envy his younger brother for being mentioned first by Yaakov.


“Hashem who was my shepherd from my inception until this day, the angel who redeemed me from all evil” (48:15-16)

Only Hashem Himself takes care of our livelihood, because angels cannot comprehend why a person would be so preoccupied with his worldly needs in this temporal existence. Similarly, in the parasha of bikurim it says, “View, from Your sacred residence, from the heavens, and bless Your people”: we ask Hashem directly to bless us with His material abundance. However, when we are in trouble and in need of redemption, we can appeal to the Angels to redeem us, because that is something they can understand.

To a superficial observer the geulo is a greater miracle than parnoso, but in reality the reverse is the case: unlike geulo, parnoso comes straight from Hashem. The efforts we expend in making a living are not the cause of our income, but merely mandatory hishtadlus (human effort). As we have emphasized in previous articles, putting in too much hishtadlus can only be counter-productive, if not in the short-term then in the long-term.


“Gather around and I will tell you” (49:1)

The Medrash says that Yaakov warned his sons against disputes and told them to maintain unity, that they should all be like one joint gathering. In our times there are different communities, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, litvish and chassidish, but we are all united by the Torah and each community conducts itself in the way it thinks is most conducive to increasing kvod shomayim. When there is unity amongst us, we have the power to overcome our enemies who wish to destroy us.

However, there can be no unity with those who rebel against the Torah. In fact, we have to make sure to keep our distance from them and not let their outlook, or way of life, have any effect whatsoever on us. Even if they want "unity" with us, that is merely a call for us to assimilate into their way of life, and all the more reason for us to keep our distance.