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, July 19, 2012


By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

just reward

The midrash says: "Hashem said: Pinchos legitimately obtained his reward [of kehuno]”. How are we to understand this in the light of another Chazal which tells us that there is no reward in this world?

Since Torah and mitzvos have an eternal effect on the neshomo and on the upper worlds, it would not be appropriate to limit the reward for our deeds to this ephemeral world, and, therefore, in principle, our actions are rewarded only in the eternal World to Come. However, someone who goes beyond the strict letter of the halocho and performs actions, which he is not obligated to perform merely out of his great love of Hashem, is rewarded mido keneged mido (measure for measure), beyond the letter of the law, in this world too.

Pinchos was not obligated to kill Zimri and in the specific situation in which Pinchos found himself he was certainly not obligated to risk his life (the gemoro in Sanhedrin relates various miracles that took place which saved him). Hence, it was only fitting that Pinchos, who went far beyond the call of duty, should receive his reward also in this world. So too are we rewarded in this world whenever our actions are performed with extra love, devotion and dedication.

Compromise for the sake of Peace?
"I hereby give him My covenant of peace (25:12)
   The vov in the word sholom (peace) is cut short (ketuo), so that it reads shalem (complete, whole). Since “the ways of the Torah are pleasant and all its paths lead to peace”, observing the Torah must perforce also lead to peace. However, sometimes we must abandon the ways of peace in order to preserve the completeness of the Torah and the Jewish nation. Our secular and quasi-religious brethren often preach that we should be more lenient, to make life easier for them. If only we would be more flexible, they say, they would be more amenable towards leading a religious lifestyle, or at least towards meeting our requirements.

Our response is that the Torah is not a man-made system of legislation, which is ours to dispense with based on the whims of any particular generation. Genuine peace cannot be achieved by cutting short even one letter of the Torah. When the sheleimus (completeness) of the Torah is at stake, preserving it takes precedence over preserving peace. For example, if our erring brethren suggest "compromises" in the form of "only" so and so many boys that must be drafted to the army, it is not within our power to agree to such proposals.

Zealotry WITH LOVE

“Because he was zealous for his G-d and atoned for the bnei Yisroel” (25:13)

The conventional picture of a zealot is of someone who is cruel by nature and persecutes anyone with views that do not take his fancy or merely as an act of personal vengeance disguised as some holy endeavor. The genuine Torah zealot, by contrast, has no personal score to settle with anybody. In fact, he should have no personal interest whatsoever in the outcome of his actions. His sole desire is to increase peace in the world.

Pinchos risked his life in order to prevent a desecration of the Divine name. He was overflowing with love for his fellow Jews, and the possuk here is emphasizing that his seemingly cruel act aroused Divine mercy and atonement for the whole nation. Since he made peace between Hashem and his holy Nation, he was rewarded with a covenant of peace.

It says “his G-d” and not just “G-d”, because a person's closeness to Hashem depends on his level of avodas Hashem. The closer he wants to be to Hashem, the closer he actually becomes to Him. Thus, Pinchos attained his level of zealousness by virtue of his personal closeness to Hashem. 

Hidden enemies

“Harass the Midianites, and smite them” (25:17)

Chazal tell us that that we were not commanded to take vengeance on the Moabites, even though they also submitted their daughters to immorality, because they did so out of fear of the Jews, as opposed to the Midianites, who got involved in a quarrel in which they had no personal interest, and also for the sake of Ruth and Naama who were destined to issue from Moav.

However, although this explains why we were forbidden to wage war against Moav, it still seems surprising that we were not commanded to harass or hate them. Perhaps this was because the daughters of Moav did not commit their actions in secret, and did not conceal their intention to cause the Jews to sin, as opposed to the Midianites, who furtively advised the Moabites from a distance to lead the Jews astray through immorality. A hidden enemy who pretends to mean us no harm is far more dangerous than a declared enemy, who we know to keep a distance from, and that is why we were commanded to harass and smite the Midianites without mercy.

Feeling responsibility for the entire nation

“Korach's sons did not die” (26:11) Rashi: “They were originally involved in the conspiracy, but during the dispute they contemplated repentance; therefore, an elevated area was set apart for them in Gehinnom, and they stayed there”.

After having been involved in the dispute and contemplating repentance, they should have attempted to influence others to desist from the dispute. Instead, they made do with saving their own skin and avoiding punishment by breaking away from their previous sinful behavior. Since they did not feel a responsibility for the welfare and fate of all their fellow Jews, they did not merit to enter gan eden, which is designated for the entire nation.

If we feel mutual responsibility for the interests of all yiden when there is a rebellion against Hashem or His Torah, even in situations where our own interests are not endangered, we will obtain the commensurate recompense awarded to the entire nation, but if we are not concerned for the souls of our erring brethren, not only will we not share in such a reward, but we will also be forced to witness the punishment of the wicked, due to our failure to attempt to get them to desist from their wicked deeds.

On the other hand, not only were the sons of Korach spared from having to actually endure gehinnom due to their thoughts of repentance, but Shmuel, whose stature was equivalent to that of Moshe and Aharon, issued from them, and their songs for the honor of Heaven are also to be found in Tehilim. Clearly, then, their repentance was accepted by Hashem. This shows how precious even thoughts of repentance are in the eyes of Hashem, and the eternal rewards that await those who have them.

Spiritual heirs

If a man dies and has no son, you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter (27:8)

The gemoro (Masseches Bovo Basro 116a) derives from this possuk that whoever does not leave a son behind to inherit him Hashem becomes angry with him. If someone has not been fortunate enough to leave behind a son, what sin has he committed?

The inheritance referred to here is not a monetary or physical bequest, but rather that of a son who continues in the path of his father after his demise. If a person does not make the financial and emotional investments in the education of his children required to ensure the future transmission of the Torah and the values of our forefathers, he is held responsible for this failure.

In addition to physical sons, a person leaves his mark through students, or anyone on whom he has had a positive influence during his lifetime. Any time they continue on the path set out by the deceased they bring about the everlasting elevation of his neshomo so that he is amply rewarded for his efforts in this world.

Moshe Rabbeinu’s VISION

 “And when you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people” (27:13)

Moshe Rabbeinu had no desire to see Eretz Yisroel like a tourist. By this stage of his life he had become so pure and holy that his spiritual essence dominated his physical senses, and his sense of sight was no exception. Hashem was telling him that when he would ascend Mount Abarim he would perceive the spiritual characteristics and advantages of the holy country, which he was not permitted to enter in a way that no other flesh and blood could perceive, and even Moshe Rabbeinu was only in a position to perceive this at the time that he was about to depart from this world.

Jewish leaders

“And he took Yehoshua” (28:22). Rashi: He took him [by encouraging him] with words, and informed him of the reward in store for the leaders of Israel in the World to Come

A Rebbe once noted that the rewards awaiting Jewish leaders are limited to the World to Come, since in this world they often endure only suffering for their actions. Yehoshua had witnessed how the nation had treated Moshe Rabbeinu since he took them out of Egypt. Instead of being grateful for his selflessness to them to the extent of being ready to have his name is struck off from the Torah for their sake, they had accused him of stealing and even of adultery. Yehoshua knew that any leader of the Jewish nation could not expect any satisfaction in this world from his thankless task, and so Moshe had to encourage him by emphasizing the rewards awaiting him in the hereafter.

Lay leaders of the community and askonim too should not expect any gratitude or rewards for their actions in this world, but they will amply rewarded in the World to Come for all their deeds.