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, February 16, 2012

Tangible Faith

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“When (Vayehi) Paroh sent the people away” (13:17).

The Medrash states that vayehi is an expression of distress, and here Moshe was upset that he was taking the Jews out of the Egypt, but would not take them into Eretz Yisroel. However, Moshe had already been told before the onset of the plagues that he would witness what would be done to Paroh, and not that which will be inflicted on the kings of the seven nations (Sanhedrin 11a cited by Rashi at the end of Parshas Shemos). Why, then, did Moshe wait until now to express his distress?

The real reason why Moshe did not enter Eretz Yisroel was because Hashem makes greater demands there, and if Moshe would have had the merit of leading us into the country and subsequently would not have observed the mitzvos properly, we would not have been able to withstand the indictment against us. Hashem therefore saw to it that Moshe Rabbeinu would not lead us into the country.

Now that he had led the nation out of Egypt with open miracles, Moshe thought that they had become worthy of entering Eretz Yisroel under his leadership, but when he saw that Hashem wanted them to take the long way lest the people change their minds if they encountered war, Moshe realized that the Divine decree preventing him from entering Eretz Yisroel was final: the nation was not worthy of entering at this stage and he would indeed not have the opportunity of leading them into the country.


“Moshe took the bones of Yosef with him” (13:19).

The Gemara says in Maseches Sotah (12a): “Look how dear the mitzvos are for Moshe Rabbeinu, for while the whole nation was busy taking spoils [from the Egyptians], he was dealing with a mitzvah.” Why does the Gemara place such emphasis on Moshe’s set of priorities? This may be understood in light of the Zohar which says that the significance of a mitzvah and the reward for it increase manifold when we invest financial resources or forego financial reward for the sake of the mitzvah. Moshe gave up the opportunity of becoming rich easily and quickly for the sake of an important mitzvah.

In addition to being a famous gaon, the Bais Efraim, Rav Efraim Zalman Margulies zt”l, was also a very wealthy businessman. He told his wife that until 1 p.m. every day, he did not want to be disturbed by any business or other mundane matter. One morning, a merchant came to his house and told his wife that he needed to speak to her husband urgently for just a few moments in return for which her husband could make an easy profit of 10,000 rubles. The rov’s wife was under strict orders to make no exceptions to his learning routine in the mornings, and so she had to turn the person away. When the Bais Efraim heard about what had happened, he was delighted and he told his wife that a few minutes’ worth of Torah learning was surely worth at least 10,000 rubles, and he had now been granted the opportunity to demonstrate that.

Anyone who wants to succeed in his learning and receive all the myriad benefits associated with being koveia ittim laTorah must set aside fixed hours which are sacrosanct and not just spend time learning when he has nothing else to do, and those who are in full-time learning must be koveia ittim during times when they are not obliged to do so by their kollel.


“The camps did not approach each other that whole night” (14:20).

The Gemara says in Maseches Megillah (10b) that when the Jews crossed the sea and the angels came to sing before Hashem, Hashem complained to them that they were singing when His handiwork was drowning in the sea. If that is how we should be relating to wicked people such as the Egyptians, who persecuted us, why does the posuk state (Mishlei 11:10), "When the wicked perish, there is joy," and why does the Rambam (Avel 1:10) rule that we do not mourn the death of wicked people who harm the Jewish nation?

Objectively speaking, the mandatory joy at the downfall of the wicked must be accompanied by sorrow about a pure soul which has become so terribly sullied in this world, and that is what Hashem Himself, kevayachol, feels, and it is the level which Hashem expected from the angels when he interrupted their singing. Some exceptional gedolim also attain this level, but most of us are not expected to feel anything other than joy and relief when wicked people who cause us harm perish.


“The people believed in Hashem” (14:31).

The Zohar asks what this means, since the posuk already stated, "The people believed” (4:31), when they were still in Egypt. The answer given is that now they stood firm and saw the deliverance of Hashem (14:13). Who does this mean?

The Gemara (Maseches Chullin 11b) mentions a presumption that a person's legal father is also his biological father, because the majority of mothers are faithful. Rav Chaim Rabinowitz zt”l, the Telzer Rosh Yeshiva, noted that, in practice, a person’s conviction that his father is indeed his father is based on deep feelings and instinct and not merely on this majority.

Similarly, there are many intellectual proofs of Hashem's existence, and Avrohom Avinu attained his faith (emunah sichlis) through such proofs, but not until Krias Yam Suf did we attain emunah chushis, faith based on the same kind of emotional conviction with which a son recognizes his father. This type of emunah became potentially entrenched in the soul of every Yid for all future generations and can be accessed by anyone who makes an effort to do so.


“If you vigilantly obey the voice of Hashem, your G-d, and do what is upright in His eyes, hearken to His commandments, and preserve all His statutes, then every sickness that I brought upon Egypt I will not bring upon you, for I am Hashem Who heals you” (15:26)

If Hashem is promising us that there will be no disease, why does He need to add that He will heal us?

One explanation is that physical diseases have a spiritual source, and here we are being promised that if we obey Hashem, we will not suffer the same physical diseases as the Egyptians did, because Hashem heals us in advance by taking away the spiritual sources of those diseases.

Alternatively, Hashem is telling us that if we fulfill His will, He will not impose punitive plagues on us as he did on the Egyptians, so that even when he smites us, the disease itself will heal us, because when a sick person realizes that the disease itself comes from Hashem, this strengthens him and makes him repent.

Rav Sternbuch’s rosh yeshiva, Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l, told Rav Sternbuch that he still remembered how when he was young (some 130 years ago), the students of the students of the Vilna Gaon zt”l would visit the hospital every Friday to see how people were suffering from various diseases in order to increase their gratitude to Hashem for their health and to strengthen their desire to pray fervently to Hashem to be spared such suffering in the future.


“What are we” (16:7).

Some people are considered to be humble because they do not run after honor, but if the reason they do not do so is because they denigrate others in their mind and do not feel any interest in being honored by them, then they are, in reality, guilty of gross arrogance. A genuine anav feels that he has no superior quality whatsoever. This was the trait possessed by Moshe Rabbeinu, who told Hashem in Parshas Shemos that whoever He decided to appoint as leader of the nation would be more qualified than him.


“Aharon and Chur supported his hands, one of them on one side and one on the other side” (17:12)

Aharon, who pursued peace and increased harmony between people, is the symbol of ahavas Yisroel. Chur, on the other hand, who was stoned to death for his attempt to stop the sin of the Eigel, symbolizes the zealot. Just like the first battle against the physical Amaleik, the battle against the forces of the spiritual Amaleik, who deny Hashem's existence and claim that everything is nature, can only be won through a combination of prayer, ahavas Yisroel, and zealotry. Irrespective of who the opponent is, genuine zealotry is accompanied by prayer, love of peace and our fellow Jews, and complete subservience to halacha and to the gedolim.