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, June 14, 2012

Types of Emuno

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Pride of Bnei Torah
Let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh (8:7). Rashi: Since they [the leviyim] were submitted in atonement for the firstborn who had practiced idolatry [when they worshipped the golden calf], which is called sacrifices to the dead - and one afflicted with tzaora’as is considered dead - they required shaving like those afflicted with tzaora’as

It is difficult to understand why the Leviyim had to be shaved, and not the firstborn, and, in any case, we also do not find anywhere that idol worshippers are shaved.

A metzora who speaks loshon horo is sent out of the camp and shaved so that he will become repulsive and other people will keep a distance from him. That way he will learn to bridle his speech and refrain from speaking loshon horo in the future. Similarly, the Leviyim had to shave their hair in order to look different from the rest of the nation. Since they were the recipients of ma’asros and other gifts some members of the nation are likely to consider them to be "parasites" living off other people. By shaving their heads the Leviyim are given the message that they must be willing to endure humiliation like a metzora, and must not let this affect their pride at being servants of Hashem who are responsible for the nation’s continued existence against all the odds.

Nowadays, as the Rambam tells us, anyone who dedicates his life to Torah acquires the status of a ben Levi, and they too must have the confidence and positive pride to be able to swim against the tide of public opinion, and against warped ideologies and materialism. Only daas Torah guides their actions, regardless of the reactions of people around them.

Moving and stationary Torah

When the oron travelled, Moshe said: "Rise up Hashem, and let Your enemies be scattered; and let those who hate You flee before You (10:35) 
And when it rested, he said: Return, Hashem, to the tens of thousands of the families of Yisroel (10:36) 

The gemoro (Shabbos 116a) says that these two pessukim constitute two separate parashiyos in their own right, and for this reason two inverted nuns appear before and after them, so that they must be conveying a message of fundamental importance.

It is only when the oron, i.e. the Torah, travels, only when it is being disseminated to distant quarters, to all Jews around the globe, that the Jewish nation is worthy of defeating its enemies and having them flee before them. It is only when bnei Torah are concerned not only for themselves, but for the whole nation, that we are saved from misfortunes. It turns out that outreach is a recipe not only for spiritual growth, but also for our physical survival.

However, for the shechino to remain with us, we must ensure that the oron rests, i.e. that the Torah remains concentrated in and focused on its main abode, the Yeshivos and Kollelim.  Without them the nation has no hope of surviving.

indivisible Torah
      This was the form of the menorah: hammered work of gold, from its base to its flower it was hammered work (8:7)

The menorah was chiseled from one whole unit rather than being made piece by piece and then connected together. Since the menorah is a symbol of the Torah this may be taken as a reference to its indivisibility. Just like a soldier does not have any discretion to decide which orders to obey, so too the soldiers of Hashem cannot pick and choose between different types of mitzvos, because they all have the same divine source.

The entire menorah, including its base and flowers, were part of the chiseled unit. This indicates that hidur mitzvah, the beautification of mitzvos by observing them in accordance with all their details and embellishments, are part and parcel of the performance of the mitzvah itself.

Early retirement
         From the age of fifty he shall retire from the service of the work, and do no more work (8:25). Rashi: the work of carrying on the shoulders; however, he can return to [the work of] locking the gates, singing, and loading the wagons

Why does Rashi refer to the work of locking the gates, and not opening them? We can understand this on the basis of the statement by the Chofetz Chaim zt”l , who said that anyone who has reached the age of 50 has to slacken his interest in worldly matters to some extent, and to prepare himself for the world which is completely good. In addition to "locking" neila also means “closing”. Hence, Rashi’s reference to locking the gates may be taken as an allusion to the work required to be intensified as we reach the age of 50 and enter the closing stage of our lives.

      He shall minister with his brethren [literally: he shall serve his brethren] in the Tent of Meeting to keep the charge, but he shall not perform the service (8:26)

Sometimes a person’s main task in this world is to serve his brethren by performing charitable deeds and the like. A charity overseer once told Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld zt”l that he had decided to resign from his position and dedicate his life to learning Torah. So far from expressing his delight, Rav Sonnenfeld responded that the gemara says that a levi with the job of singing, who instead serves as a gatekeeper, is subject to death by the hands of heaven (Masseches Arachin 11b).

Just like the work of the leviyim was divided between gatekeepers, guards and singers, so too some people are required to dedicate their entire lives to Torah, whereas others are supposed put a greater emphasis on other aspects of avodas Hashem. The main thing is that everybody's intention should be to perform the will of our Father in Heaven. Rav Sonnenfeld told this person that he must continue with his current activities.  

    And you shall be to us (instead of) eyes (10:31). Rashi: you shall enlighten us [with your guidance].

We would have thought that the generation of the wilderness had no shortage of zekeinim to enlighten and guide them. Why did they need Yisro?

One possibility is that righteous proselytes and baalei teshuva who cleave to Hashem following their intellectual searches are in a better position to teach the rest of the nation about intellectual faith and serving Hashem with our intellect than those who have been educated from childhood to follow in the path of Hashem and who have become accustomed to it. This may be what chazal had in mind when they stated that baalei teshuva are superior to tzaddikim.

Similarly, nowadays we find that many of those involved in outreach are themselves baalei teshuva originally, and this is only natural because they are best qualified to engage in these activities.

Rav Sternbuch heard an alternative explanation from the late Satmarer Rebbe, Rav Yoel zt”l. Yisro grew up amongst non-Jews, and had been one of Paroh’s advisers. He was therefore very conversant with the outlook and mentality of the erev rav, which were now having such a negative influence on the Jews and giving them so much trouble and he was therefore best qualified to advise the nation about how to deal with them.

Simple Faith

      Not so is My servant Moshe; he is faithful in all My house (12:7).
    Moshe Rabbeinu, the greatest of the prophets, remained faithful “in all My house”, i.e. in all matters relating to avodas Hashem he maintained pure and simple faith performing mitzvos without seeking to comprehend them with his intellect. Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov zt”l would say that after everything he had attained, he wished to serve Hashem with simple faith.
      The Chosid Yaavetz, who was born in Spain and was forced to leave during the Expulsion in 1492, wrote that during the period of the Inquisition the Jewish philosophers were the first to convert or to become Marranoes, whereas the non-intellectual population, imbued with simple faith, refused to succumb. The philosophers just used their philosophical knowledge to rationalize their actions. Whilst there is room for a philosophical appreciation of Hashem’s existence, for example in the context of outreach work as we have just seen, experience shows that simple emuno is the higher level to strive for.