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.
Monday, May 7, 2012

Overcoming Tum’oh

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


 Some people are under the mistaken impression that tzora’as is some type of contagious leprosy, and they interpret the requirement for the metzora to leave the camp as a precautionary measure to protect the health of his family and friends. In reality it is a spiritual ailment, a divine sign, which we are only privileged to experience when the whole nation is on an elevated level, and only in Eretz Yisroel when the Bais Hamikdosh is standing.

 For this reason a person must show the signs of tzora’as to a kohen and he only becomes tomei due to his sins, primarily loshon horo, once the kohen has declared him to be tomei. Clearly this whole process is not natural, but completely supernatural, otherwise why would a person's clothes or the walls of his house be affected by tzora’as? Even when the level of the nation is not elevated enough for us to experience the external signs of tzora’as with our current physical senses, they are still very much there, and the Shlo Hakodosh zt”l states that in the World to Come they will be evident for all to see unless we utilize our time in this world to rectify our deeds and cleanse our soul in order to return it to our Maker in the same unsullied state in which we received it. A person's home is like a miniature Bais Hamikdosh¸ and the words he speaks are absorbed by its atmosphere. Words of Torah and musar constantly augment the inherent kedusho of a Jewish home, whereas words of loshon horo create the form of tumo’h known as tzora’as. People from previous generations would find it inconceivable that using various previously unknown technological methods a person could make himself heard to his friend at the other end of the world. Similarly, we must realize that our words are not only captured, but also absorbed by the walls of our homes. In this vein too can we understand the Chazal (Megilla 29a) that the botei keneisiyos and botei medrash of Bovel will be transferred to Eretz Yisroel in the future. This is not referring to a physical relocation, but rather to the permanent sanctity created there over the generations as a result of the Torah and prayers absorbed in those places, a sanctity reminiscent of kedushas Eretz Yisroel, and which will be transferred to there in the future. The Vilna Gaon zt”l in his famous letter tells the female members of his family they should rather pray alone at home than go to shul, because it would be impossible for them not to hear some loshon horo there. Similarly, Rav Eliyohu Eliezer Dessler zt”l told Rav Sternbuch that the women in Kelm never went to shul, because it would have been very difficult for them to keep away from women who spoke loshon horo. In previous generations the home was sanctified and only those who left its safe quarters would be exposed to this most serious sin, but nowadays this is no longer the case, and the only way to be saved from it is to remain strong and teach our families hilchos loshon horo and to emphasize the severity of this transgression and the tumoh it creates.


 The medrash says that after the Jews heard the section dealing with nego’im from Moshe Rabbenu they were afraid, and Moshe told them not to be afraid because these matters only applied to the nations of the world whereas they could eat and drink and be happy. This medrash seems puzzling. What reason can there be for being happy, and what does it mean that these matters only applied to gentiles? Tzora’as is a very severe punishment. To be declared tomei by the kohen and the ensuing public degradation must have been a very traumatic experience. For a Jew a more gentle reminder in the form of yisurim that do not entail such suffering is usually sufficient for him to mend his ways, and he can continue leading an ordinary life, eating and drinking and being happy. Only if these divine messages do not have the desired effect, does Hashem need to resort to the more drastic punishment of tzora’as. For others, on the other hand, the standard punishment is nego’im, or their equivalent, since their nature is such that only a more severe form of punishment will produce a change in their sinful lifestyles.

  CUSTOMIZED CURES “When a person has on his skin a burn from a fire (mischvas esh) and on the healthy flesh of the burnt part came a snow-white spot tinged with red or pure white spot” (13:24). Rashi: The signs of a burnt spot (michvo) and the signs of an inflammation (shchin) are the same; why did the Torah separate them? To tell you that they cannot be combined with each other: if inflammation the size of half a half-bean develops, and half a half-bean of burnt spot, they may not be judged as a whole half-bean. In other words, two types of nego’im do not combine for the purposes of creating tumoh based on the size of a gris. Shchin and michvo are two types of nego’im, and yet each one has to be rectified in its own specific manner. Shchin is a deep nega, which indicates internal corruption, and is thus a symbol of all corrupt character traits, whereas michvas esh, although less deep, sometimes causes great damage because it consumes without mercy. Its source lies in a person's trait of anger. This teaches us an important principle. Just like cures for nego’im differ from nega to nega, because each one stems from different sources, so too do the cures for negative character traits, such as anger and pride, differ, since they too have different foundations. Anger and pride, for example, may share some common origins, but they are far from identical, and their remedies must therefore be tailored to their specific sources in a person's character.

  OUTCASTS “This shall be the law (toras) of the metzorah” (14:2)

 Anyone who wants to become a ben Torah must be willing to be treated like an outcast (metzorah) and be derided for living an unproductive "parasitic” lifestyle, or pressurized to learn a trade by his own family, but if he remains strong he will merit the crown of Torah. The commentators struggle to explain the rationale for the commandment requiring the leviyim to shave their hair. However, the Torah is conveying the same message that they must be willing to endure humiliation like a metzora and not let this affect their pride at being soldiers in Hashem's army. Nowadays talmidei chachomim and those who dedicate their lives to Torah acquire the status of a ben levi (see the Rambam at the end of Shmita Veyovel) and they too must have the confidence and positive pride to be able to swim against the tide of public opinion or their own families, and against warped ideologies and materialism. Only daas Torah guides their actions, regardless of the reactions of others.

  RELATIVE EFFORTS “If he is poor and his means are not sufficient” (14:21)

 The type of sacrifice that was brought depended on a person's financial situation. For the poorest even a korbon mincho of flour and oil was sufficient. Hashem does not expect more from anybody than they are capable of giving. This does not apply only in the financial sense. In all areas of avodas Hashem we are only judged on the basis of our own specific talents and capabilities. For example, the reward of someone who overcomes an inborn restlessness or less-than-average intellectual ability to nevertheless apply himself to learning Torah, eventually becoming a talmid chochom, is much greater than that of someone with a perceptive mind and a temperament conducive to protracted periods of study, who only learns for a few hours a day.