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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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Followers

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.
Monday, March 26, 2012

Absorbing Torah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Earning a Living

"Work may be done six days" (35:2)


It does not say "you shall perform work," because the amount of money a person earns is predetermined and does not depend on the effort expended to acquire it. A person is not an active agent, but merely performs the will of Hashem Who decreed that that we have to toil to make a living. For this reason, the Maggid of Kelm suggested that instead of saying "with the help of Hashem" ("be'ezras Hashem"), we should say "birtzos Hashem" ("if Hashem wills it") since the former phrase implies that although we need Hashem's assistance, we also have some influence regarding the results of our actions, whereas in reality they are solely dependent on the will of Hashem.

Rav Elchonon Wasserman zt"l told Rav Sternbuch's mother that having bitachon included the conviction that it is not possible to "snatch" anything in this world, and a person who exerts himself too much in his efforts to make a living, even if he gains money in the short term, is likely to lose it in the future on items such as medical expenses, which will "balance out" his previous "gains." Hashem wants us to earn a living in a way that allows us to set aside fixed times for Torah and tefillah, and to refrain from anything that even remotely resembles dishonesty. That way, He will shower as with all the material benefits we require to fulfill our purpose in this world.

Sanctity of Each Yid

"But the seventh day must be holy to you" (ibid). Rashi: "He just admonished them concerning Shabbos before commanding them about the works of the Mishkon, saying in effect, that it does not supersede the Shabbos"

The sanctity of Shabbos is even greater than that of Yom Kippur, because in many ways it is easier to serve Hashem when we refrain from eating and drinking, whereas on Shabbos we must sanctify ourselves specifically by elevating and sanctifying material pleasures. If we are successful in this endeavor, the sanctity that is attained is of the highest degree.

It is because of this awesome sanctity of Shabbos, which resembles that of the World to Come, that it supersedes even the work of the Mishkan, which houses the Shechinah. The Shechinah could not dwell in a place where chillul Shabbos (breaking Shabbos) has been committed. Moreover, chillul Shabbos is such a severe aveirah (transgression) that it is the only one which accords the transgressor the status of a non-Jew when it is committed in public.

On the other hand, saving the life of even one Jew, or even prolonging the life of a dying Jew, supersedes the sanctity of Shabbos. If necessary, hundreds or thousands of Jews are obliged to perform melachos on Shabbos to save the life of one fellow Jew such as to look for someone who has gone missing. Hashem waives the requirement to observe a fundamental commandment of the Torah for the sake of preserving or even just prolonging the life of a Yid. This teaches us how precious the life of each Jew is in the eyes of Hashem, and it should inspire us to use our time here to the utmost and not waste parts of our precious life on nonsense.

The Chiddush of Rav Chaim Volozhiner's Mother

"And they came, both men and women, all who were generous of heart brought bracelets, nose rings, finger rings, and buckles" (35:22)

The simple explanation of this event is that the men accompanied the women to demonstrate that the donations of the jewelry were made with their consent, because it is forbidden to receive large amounts of donations from women without their husbands' consent (see Bava Kama 119a)

However, the mother of Rav Chaim Volozhiner zt"l noted that the reason why a wife's earnings belong to the husband is because he is responsible for her sustenance. In the generation of the wilderness, the women ate monn in their own merit and the husbands did not support them, so it was only appropriate that their handiwork belonged to them. For that reason, the women's donations were received even without their husbands' permission because they belonged to the women.

It may be objected that the husband received the monn based on the number people in his household, in which case it belonged to him, and since he sustained his wife, her handiwork must belong to him. However, in defense of Rav Chaim's wife, it could be argued that even though a husband, under normal circumstances, has the right to refuse to sustain his wife he does not acquire the fruit of her labor, the husband in the midbar was obliged to pass on the portion of monn which he had received from her, and was not entitled to deny her this, even if he did not acquire her handiwork.

Giving Charity in Difficult Financial Times

"And the people stopped bringing" (36:6)

The Baal HaTurim cites a tradition linking this posuk to another posuk after the Mabul which uses the identical vaykol. "And the downpour from the heavens was withheld" (Berishis 8:2. This may be taken as a hint to people who refrain from giving charity when they are not the beneficiaries of material abundance symbolized by rain).

Rav Sternbuch once knew a diamond merchant who admitted that during certain periods, he earned almost one million dollars a month, but when Rav Sternbuch asked him for a donation, he said that he was not earning so much at the moment because of an economic slump and he refused to give anything. Rav Sternbuch responded that Hashem had paid him in advance on account and instead of providing him with a living in dribs and drabs. He has paid him huge amounts during a short period from which he could live comfortably in the future and he was now obligated to pay Hashem back by giving charity out of the fund he had received in advance.

The posuk here is telling us that the people only stopped making donations when there was no longer any need for them, unlike a flood, where in a period of material abundance you pay a lot and when the good times stop you give nothing, because someone acting in this way shows disrespect and lack of gratitude for Hashem's kindness to him.

A Home for the Aron

"Betzalel, son of Uri, son of Chur, of the tribe of Yehudah, made all that Hashem commanded Moshe" (38:22) Rashi: "Moshe had instructed Betzalel to first produce the vessels, and afterward the Mishkan, whereupon Betzalel said to him: "It is customary in the world to first construct a house and afterwards put furnishings in it. Moshe responded to him: '[You are right]' That is indeed what I heard from Hashem, Moshe [then also] said to him. 'You must have been in the shadow of Hashem, for certainly, so did Hashem command me.' And so [Betzalel] did it - first the Mishkan and afterwards he made the vessels"

Why did Moshe Rabbeinu initially tell Betzalel to make the vessels before the Mishkan?

Before the sin of the Eigel Hazohav (the Golden Calf) they were indeed commanded to make the Aron even though no special place had yet been designated for it, because they had not yet been commanded to construct a Mishkan. Due to the elevated state of the nation in which the Shechinah dwelt inside the tent of each individual, and the whole camp was holy, there was no need to limit the Aron to one special place in the Kodesh Hakodoshim. That only became necessary after the sin of the Eigel Hazohav, when the nation was no longer worthy of having the Aron dwell in its midst, and the Aron required a place of its own. Therefore, the Mishkan had to be constructed first. That is why in Parshas Termuah, the commandment was for the Aron to be constructed first, and after the sin of the Eigel we were told to construct the Mishkan first.

Moshe Rabbeinu's heart was overflowing with love for the nation, and he thought that since the nation had now received atonement for their sin, they were once again worthy of having the Aron dwell in their midst. He therefore told Betzalel to construct it first, but Betzalel realized that notwithstanding the atonement they had achieved, the nation was no longer able to revert to its previous spiritual level and required a Mishkan to constructed first house the Aron.

Bein Hazemanim

"Place the laver between the Tent o f Meeting and the altar, and put water into it." (40:7)

When a sinner wishes to repent and purify himself, he can only do so if he no longer has the crookedness which made him sin in first place and he is "straight" like water (see Targum Yonosan on the above pasuk). It is not sufficient for him to be purified from his tumah. The main test is whether all his future conduct will be without crookedness. Just like water which has no color, so too will he be careful not to become haughty because of his positive qualities, and all his actions will be characterized by simplicity, humidity and straightness, just like a flowing stream of water.

The halachah is that someone who has dipped himself into a mikvah only becomes tahor once he has stepped out of the water and not while he is still inside it. Similarly, with regard to Torah, which is compared to water, to determine the degree of a person's taharah, it is not sufficient to see how he learns when immersed in the mikvah of a yeshiva or kollel, but rather what he does at times such as Erev Shabbos and bein hazemanim. If he remains totally immersed in Torah during those periods, and the Torah he has absorbed is reflected in all his conduct and prayers then he is genuinely tahor.
Friday, March 9, 2012

Kabbalos HaTorah on Purim

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

KABBOLAS HATORAH WHILE EXPERIENCING HESTER
PONIM


Har Sinai was accompanied by kollos uverokim, miraculous thunder and lightning.
The heavens opened up and we were privileged to see the greatest revelation of Hashem’s Yet, despite the obvious benefit of such an open display of Divine glory to elevate our faith in the Almighty, there is also a disadvantage.

Chazal tell us, “Modah rabba le’oraisa. We seemingly have an excuse to free ourselves
from our acceptance of Torah.” Klal Yisroel can say that we only accepted the Torah because we were privileged to these open displays of glory. There were no kabbolas
haTorah for future generations when the Almighty’s Presence would be hidden by the
guise of teva, nature.

Purim is characterized by nissim nistarim, hidden miracles. Hashem’s Name is deliberately not mentioned once in the entire story, for He wished to show us His interaction in the world through the vise of hester ponim. As a result, the Megillah tells us, “Kimu vekiblu haYehudim.” After the hidden miracles of Purim, we reaccepted the Torah even during a time when the Almighty’s Presence was hidden from us.

THE SIMCHA OF PURIM

The Vilna Gaon adds another dimension to the simcha of Purim. He explains that on Yom
Kippur, when we received the second set of Luchos, we should have celebrated with great joy. However, since Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and repentance, that was not possible. How did Hashem make this up? He gave us a second opportunity for Kabbolas HaTorah on Purim. On Purim, we can express our great joy that we were given the Torah.

Chazal tell us, “Chayov inish levesumei bePuria ad delo yoda bein arur Haman
uboruch Mordechai - A person has to celebrate on Purim until he can no longer recognize the difference between the fact that Haman is cursed and Mordechai is blessed.” On a simple level, Chazal meant to express a very high level of joy.

However, we can understand this halachah on a deeper level as well. The Zohar writes
that the festival of Yom Kippurim is Yom K’Purim, a day like Purim. In fact, it is the mitzvah of drinking on Purim that makes it like Yom Kippur.

When a person gets drunk, his real essence comes out. This true display of self is the same level of truthfulness that we are meant to reach on Yom Kippur, when we admit our sins in front of Hashem and accept that we will not commit them again. Once we have reached this level of clarity on Purim, we can understand the level of truth we are meant to achieve on Yom Kippur.

UNITY

Drinking wine is one of the mitzvos of Purim Matanos la’evyonim and mishloach manos
play important roles in creating the nature of the day. How do these mitzvos contribute to the Kabbolas HaTorah of Purim?

When we received the Torah, the Jewish people were in a state of complete unity,
ke’ish echad beleiv echad, like one person with one heart. In order to accept the Torah again, we need to return to that state. The mitzvos of matanos la’evyonim and mishloach manos help create this state of perfect unity on Purim day.

AMALEIK

Amaleik’s basic assumption is the opposite of what we have described. Only teva,
nature, has true existence. Anything that does not fit into this framework is discounted. The Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvos 188) writes that the mitzvah of destroying Amaleik is to eradicate their descendants from the world.

The Targum Yonason (at the end of Parshas Beshalach) tells us that during Acharis
Hayomim, at the End of Days, the strength of Amaleik will approach world domination.
Their power will grow almost overwhelmingly, until, suddenly, Moshiach arrives and they will disappear entirely. This is comparable to a flame, which blazes brighter with a final spark just before it is extinguished.

Today, we are witnessing the fulfillment of this vision of Acharis Hayomim. The flame of Amaleik blazes stronger daily, and it appears as if their ascendancy is all but unstoppable. Hashem’s Presence seems to be increasingly shrouded and hidden, and those who doubt His existence seem to be gaining greater influence.

AN END TO ALL HOLIDAYS

Chazal tell us that all chagim will come to an end with the exception of Purim (Medrash Shachor Tov 9:2). We know that even after Moshiach comes, the commandments of the Torah will not change at all. How are we to understand this statement of Chazal? In truth, all of the festivals will remain intact as they are now. However, there will be a significant change vis-a-vis the way we celebrate Purim and the other chagim. This difference once again revolves around the nature of the festival of Purim.

Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos are all based on Yetzias Mitzrayim, the exodus from Egypt.
Miracles that will accompany the messianic era will dwarf the revelations of leaving
Egypt. Thus, while we will still celebrate these festivals, it ill not be with the same excitement as now.Purim, however, celebrates the nissim nistarim, the hidden miracles that Hashem has performed throughout the ages. When Moshiach comes, we will be shown why everything had to happen - the destruction of the first and second Botei Mikdosh, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and all of the other seeming tragedies that we have experienced throughout the ages. Understanding the good behind these outwardly tragic events will be a reason for great joy.

The Ramban at the end of Parshas Bo writes, “A person does not have a portion in
Toras Moshe until he recognizes that everything is miraculous, that there is no such thing as nature in the world.” These words of the Ramban set the tone for the Yom Tov of Purim. Purim is about looking for the Almighty when He does not seem to be there and recognizing that He alone is behind the scenes, setting the stage for the grand finale, the final revelation in the days of Moshiach.