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, February 2, 2012

Wake-up calls and redemption

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“And so that you may relate in the ears of your son and grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians” (10:2)

Paroh made himself into a laughingstock amongst the members of his own nation by shouting "Hashem is the righteous one and I and the nation are wicked” one moment, and then, as soon as the plague stopped declaring: "Who is Hashem that I should listen to him?"

Similarly, in times of distress we are quick to pray with great sincerity to Hashem making all sorts of vows if we are saved from our woes, and then, once they disappear, forgetting about the vows, or diluting them with various rationalizations. Even if we stick to our promises, we tend to go back to our daily routine as if nothing has happened, until the next misfortune strikes rachmono litzlon, (G-d forbid) and so on and so forth in a never-ending cycle.

The Torah tells us that we have a duty to tell our children about this fickleness on the part of Paroh and to stress to them the importance of making fundamental and lasting changes in our lives following divine wake-up calls, lest we become guilty of the same pattern of behavior as Paroh.


“Speak, please [‘no’], in the ears of the people, and let each man borrow from his friend” (11:2). Rashi: “’no’ can only indicate pleading”.

Why did the yiden have to be implored to take gold and silver for free?

The Egyptians were actually keen for the Jews to take as much as they wanted, as long as they left them alone and put an end to their troubles, and after so many decades of unpaid for slavery they were more than entitled to take anything that took their fancy. However, as the wording of the possuk indicates, Hashem specifically wanted us to receive loans and not presents. Even though these loans were de facto gifts, since in the circumstances it was obvious that they would not be returned, had they taken the form of an outright gift some merit would have accrued to the Egyptians for having paid the Jews a salary for the slavery services, and Hashem wanted to prevent that and therefore begged Moshe that each man should borrow from his Egyptian neighbor.


“About the time of midnight” (11:4). Rashi: “About midnight, either [slightly] before or after, and he did not say ‘at midnight’ lest Paroh's stargazers make a mistake and say, ‘Moshe is a liar’!"

By this stage Moshe Rabbeinu had already overturned nature no less than nine times by means of the plagues throughout Egypt, and yet Moshe was still concerned that if the plague of the firstborn would appear to commence one moment before or after the designated time, Paroh would say triumphantly that Moshe was a liar and all the previous miracles were one big hoax. In the middle of all their anguish and the death of the firstborns, Moshe was worried that they would still not lose the opportunity of "discrediting" him and Hashem.

Deep inside, the wicked recognize the truth and the vacuousness of their idol worship and materialism. However, in order to grant legitimacy to their way of life, when faced with a holy righteous personality whose entire life is devoted to Hashem, they endeavor to find even a miniscule alleged defect in order to magnify it and declare that person and everything he stands for to be a lie.

It was the same with Homon. The possuk says “Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordechai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate". Given that all the other king's servants were bowing down to him, one would think that Homon would be totally unconcerned about the actions of an insignificant Jew, so what is the meaning of this possuk? Homon knew that all the obsequiousness demonstrated by the others was completely false, and that the only man of truth was Mordechai. Hence he was afraid of him, and felt that all the"honor" accorded to him was completely valueless as long as there was someone representing the truth. That was the cause of his fury, which led him to attempt to destroy the whole nation to whom Mordechai belonged. Following nine plagues, the Egyptians too had no doubts that Hashem controlled the world, and that all their idol worship was false. They were therefore likely to go out of their way to attempt to prove that Moshe was a liar.

Not much has changed since then. One person spits at a girl in Beit Shemesh, and thanks to an anti-religious journalist, this “sensational” news item becomes a top news story in the national and international media. Overnight all religious Jews become discredited. Anything of value that religious Jewry or the Torah has to offer suddenly become irrelevant because of this “earth shattering” event.

However, the fact that Moshe Rabbeinu felt the need to minimize the Egyptians’ ability to engage even in such completely irrational behavior, does demonstrate how vital it is for us to conduct ourselves as behooves the am hanivchar (chosen nation) in all areas of life and create a Kiddush Hashem in our dealings with Gentiles or not-yet-religious Jews lest we become the cause of rational criticism. No one in their right mind would spit at a young girl or engage in violence or other anti-Torah activity, but we must always remember that business ethics and other aspects of our interpersonal behavior are at least as important as mitzvos bein odom lamokom, (mitzvos between man and G-d) especially in an age of instant and worldwide communication.


“This month shall be reckoned to you as the beginning of months” (12:2)

The Ramban says that the names of our months originated in the Babylonian exile, and we continued using them upon our return to Eretz Yisroel. Why did we continue using these non-Jewish names?

Zionists argued that the observance of the Torah was restricted to chutz looretz serving as a bulwark against assimilation, whereas here in our homeland we should forget our “galuti” past, and simply adopt nationalism. By contrast, the holy chachomim (rabbis) at the end of the Babylonian exile knew that the period of the second Bais Hamikdosh did not yet constitute the final redemption, and we would still have to undergo a further period of exile.

They therefore wanted to create a link between the period of exile and the period of our return to Eretz Yisroel, so that the masses should not think that now that we had returned to our homeland, anything had changed in terms of our connection to Torah, and all the takonos (decrees) enacted in Bovel, and, of course, subsequently, the Babylonian Talmud, are of central importance for all generations both in chutz lo’oretz and in Eretz Yisroel.


“The blood will be for you as a sign on the houses” (12:13). Rashi: “’As a sign to you’ but not as a sign to others.

Blood signifies mesirus nefesh (dedication and self-sacrifice). This may be taken as an injunction to perform private acts of Kiddush Hashem within the confines of our own homes, to which no one is witness, which the Rambam talks about (Yesodei Hatorah 5:10). This takes place every time we overcome our evil inclination by refraining from sin, performing a mitzvah, or performing it with fervor, and when we set aside regular times for learning Torah and educating our children properly. In other words, the sign, which is situated outside as it were, should always be before us inside too, serving as a constant reminder of our duty to serve Hashem with dedication and to refrain from sinning.


“When your children will ask you, ‘What is this service of yours’? You shall say, ‘It is the Pesach-offering to Hashem’” (12:26-27)

This is the question asked by the rosho in the hagodo. The rosho cannot grasp that divine worship can consist in eating and enjoying meat. He thinks that closeness to Hashem can only be attained by living the life of a monk and abstaining from all material pleasures.

We answer him that when we perform actions which give us material pressure in order to fulfill the will of Hashem they indeed constitute a lofty form of avodo. For us there is no dichotomy between serving Hashem and material pleasures.

The Hagodo concludes with a directive to "sharpen" the teeth of the rosho. With him eating is for his own personal pressure, and he only needs teeth in order to chew, whereas the chochom contemplates the wonders of Hashem when he is eating, so that his teeth are tools for elevating himself in his avodas Hashem. “And for this sake Hashem took us out of Egypt”: so that each movement of ours should be done for the sake of serving Him.


“There was total darkness in the entire land of Egypt” (10:22)

Rashi at the beginning of parashas Beshalach (13:18) says that 4/5 of the Jews died during the three days of darkness. Since 600,000 men left Egypt, this means that 2 million died during the plague of darkness, and this figure does not include women and children, so that an estimated 10 million people died altogether. The medrash says that Hashem saw that these people enjoyed wealth and honor and did not want to leave Egypt, and were therefore not worthy of being redeemed together with their brethren. They were killed during this plague in order to prevent a situation where the Egyptians would witness the majority of the nation they hated suffering the same fate as them.

However, how could so many yidden have failed to reach the required spiritual levels after having witnessed eight unprecedented supernatural plagues during which the wicked Egyptians received so much retribution? We would have thought that these must have made a profound impression on them.

As noted last week, it is a fundamental principle that in order to maintain our free choice the forces of kedusho have to be counterbalanced by a corresponding yetzer horo. In this case the evil inclination took the form of natural explanations that were produced to account for all the plagues, allowing people to be deluded into believing that people died "from natural causes" and not by way of divine punishment on account of their sins.

Chazal tell us that in the future and final redemption, we will experience miracles surpassing even those we experienced in Egypt. Hence, people assume that even completely wicked people will repent during that time. However, the Brisker Rov zt”l told Rav Sternbuch this is not the case, and only those who constantly contemplate the wonders of Hashem will be able to recognize that He is the Creator, because the evil inclination acts in tandem with the miracles, and it requires effort on our part to overcome it.

Since the end of the churbon in Europe, we have witnessed a long succession of miracles here in Eretz Yisroel. Our task is to constantly contemplate the greatness of Hashem and the kindness with which He showers us constantly both on the national and the personal level. If we do so, we will successfully resist any attempts to produce natural explanations and will perceive miracles for what they are. We will not require any wake-up calls from any of the seventy wolves that wish to destroy us or personal tragedies chas vesholom, and be deemed worthy of experiencing unprecedented miracles and redemption.