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.
Friday, July 6, 2012

Respecting talmidei chachomim

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

pride and humility

The medrash says "What motivated Korach to make a dispute with Moshe Rabenu? He saw the section dealing with para adumo”. The commentators have difficulties understanding this medrash.

In the mitzvah of para adumo we are commanded to use the cedar tree, which symbolizes pride, and, by contrast, the hyssop, which symbolizes humility. The para adumo was metaher teme’im and metame tehorim. (it made those who were impure pure and made impure the ones that were pure) Pride is one of the most severe sins, but sometimes it is essential to utilize it. If a person, when first embarking on his avodas Hashem, tells himself that he is nothing, then that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, he must initially use the qualities of the cedar tree and strive for greatness. For example, Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l would point out to each of his students that they had great potential and inherent greatness. Only once a person has managed to realize some of his potential, should he start using the qualities of the hyssop, and remind himself of how far he still has to go to completely fulfill his potential.

Korach learnt from parshas para adumo that even someone who has not yet attained the superior levels of holy people should endeavor to attain them. Although the Rambam does say that everyone is obligated to strive to attain the level of Moshe Rabbeinu, Korach in his great desire to emulate Moshe and Aharon, thought that if he would only obtain a position similar to theirs, he would also be able to reach their high levels. His mistake lay in assuming that obtaining a high position is a prerequisite for greatness (see more on this below), and in failing to accept Hashem’s decree regarding the appointments of Moshe and Aharon.

Alternatively, Korach was hinting at the fact that the para adumo came to atone for the chet hoegel, (sin of the Golden Calf) and his argument was that since Aharon had still not achieved complete atonement for that sin, there was no reason why he should be more suitable for the kehuna than Korach.

Good intentions not enough

“And Doson and Avirom” (16:1). Rashi: He dressed them with cloaks made entirely of blue wool. They came and stood before Moshe and asked him, “Does a cloak made entirely of blue wool require tzizis, or is it exempt?” He replied, “It does require tzizis.” They began laughing at him saying, "Is it possible that by a cloak of another material, one string of blue wool exempts it, and this one, which is made entirely of blue wool, should not exempt itself?”

The talis made entirely of techeles was an allusion to the argument that since the entire congregation was holy they did not need a leader. Although not every member of the nation might be on the level of Moshe and Aharon, their intentions were good, and Moshe and Aharon had no right to lord it over their coreligionists. Surely, they concluded, Moshe Rabenu was only interested in leadership for his own purposes. Moshe replied that even a tallis is made only of techeiles it was still not exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzis. In other words, good intentions are not enough, and the nation does need a leader.

The early Christians lehavdil also argued that a good heart and a person's intentions were the main qualities which Hashem is interested in, and therefore most of the divine commandments could and should be dispensed with. Similarly, one still comes across some not-yet observant Jews who defend their way of life by claiming that they have a "Jewish heart” and that is the main thing. In reality, of course, the Torah expects us to combine physical mitzvos with pure intentions, and both are indispensable.

The art of forgiveness

“Moshe heard and fell on his face (16:4). Rashi: because of the rebellion, for this was already their fourth offense. When they sinned with the calf, “Moshe pleaded”; in the episode of the complainers, “Moshe prayed”; with the spies, “Moshe said to Hashem, ‘But the Egyptians will hear…” , but now, at Korah’s rebellion, he became disheartened”.

The gemoro in Masseches Yomo (87a) relates the following episode. There was a butcher who offended Rav. On erev yom kippur that butcher did not come to Rav to ask his forgiveness, and so Rav decided to go to him to give him the opportunity to appease Rav. However, instead, the butcher told that him that he had nothing to say to him. After that he suffered a work accident and was killed.

This gemoro teaches us a big chiddush: someone who has offended another person must degrade himself and beg forgiveness from his victim. Rav surely forgave the butcher in his heart, but that was not enough. For that reason he went out of his way to give his "enemy" a chance to obtain forgiveness, but he lost that chance.

 Here too, Moshe made himself available and waited for Korach to seek his forgiveness. When he saw that this was not happening, he realized that this was a very problematic situation as far as Korach was concerned. Although he could ask Hashem once again to forgive Korach’s rebellion against Hashem, as he had done on three previous occasions, and he could also forgive Korach in his heart for the offence against himself, he knew that that would be not be enough until Korach himself would ask Moshe Rabbeinu for forgiveness. That was why Moshe fell on his face, not knowing what to do.

“Careers" in the TORAH world

“Is it but a small thing for you that Hashem has separated you from the congregation of Yisroel to draw you close to Him…” (16:9)
  Rav Yecheskel Abramsky zt”l used to apply this possuk to a ben Torah who dedicates his entire life to Torah. He said that someone who sits in the Beis Hamedrash and sanctifies himself through Torah, should not think in terms of obtaining a position in the Torah world. The best "position" a person can attain is to be a ben Torah and thereby cleave to Hashem. Accordingly, the possuk is saying the following: “Is the “position” of being a member of shevet levi, or a ben Torah, through which Hashem draws you close to Him, such a small thing, that you now also seek the kehuno. Why are you looking for a more important position than to be a member of shevet levi, or to be a ben Torah? You will not find any better position than that.”
      Hashem separated shevet levi, and every ben torah, from the rest of the congregation, and He has great expectations from them than from the rest of the nation. This position comes with responsibilities attached to it. Hashem wants a ben Torah to maintain sacrosanct learning schedules, get up on time, and not whenever he feels like it etc. If he accepts the yoke of Torah, Hashem will remove the yoke of making a living from him.

Disgracing talmidei chachomim

“If one man sins, shall You be angry with the whole congregation” (16:22)

If only Korach himself sinned, why was Hashem in fact angry with the whole congregation?

Their sin consisted in not protesting, or not protesting enough, the way Korach had publicly disgraced Moshe Rabbeinu with his accusations. Someone who witnesses the disgrace of a talmid chachom, and does not protest it, is considered an accomplice in the very severe sin of bisuy talmid chachom, which Hashem is very particular about.

Spicing our wealth

“It is like an eternal covenant of salt before the Lord” (18:19)

Just like salt spices food, so too do the matnos kehuno and all types of charity spice our possessions. When we give charity we prove that there is a purpose to our wealth. On the other hand, the assets of wealthy people who spend all their time aimlessly accumulating more and more possessions serve no purpose whatsoever. Only someone who observes the mitzvah of tzedoko properly, and dedicates a tenth of his assets to needy talmidei chachomim or other designations set out in the hilchos maaser kesofim, will be blessed and can live secure with the knowledge that his assets are serving a useful purpose.