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, September 13, 2012

Preparing for Rosh Hashanah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


”And it will be, when you come into the land” (26:1); “Perform this mitzvah since because of it you shall enter the country”(Masseches Kiddushin 37b)

Why is the performance of the mitzvah of bikkurim specifically credited with granting us the right to enter Eretz Yisroel?

Rashi (on 26:3) connects bikkurim to the trait of gratitude, because when offering them the person expresses gratitude to Hashem and acknowledges that everything is from Him. Similarly, our right to Eretz Yisroel is contingent upon feeling gratitude for having been granted the eretz hakodesh.

On Rosh Hashono we tend to focus on the future, wondering which events will transpire during the coming year. However, we should also be thinking about the past year, and feeling gratitude for all the chesed which Hashem has bestowed upon us.

We always read the tochocho just before Rosh Hashono, and pray “tichle shono vekileloseho” (“Farewell to the year and its curses”). What does this mean? Surely the tochocho and its messages will remain just as relevant in the coming year! When we rebel against Hashem, we may deserve to be punished, and yet we look back at the year which has elapsed and feel gratitude that the tochocho has nevertheless not been fulfilled; this gratitude in turn facilitates and catalyzes the teshuvo process, because instead of feeling despondency about the state of our avodas Hashem we remind ourselves that just as Hashem has spared us from the worst punishment until now, he will continue to shower us with His mercy if we only invest all our efforts into doing genuine teshuva and coronating Him on Rosh Hashono.


“Look down from Your holy dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Yisroel” (26:15)

We ask Hashem to look down on the deeds committed by all the nations and compare those to the performance of the Jewish nation. We request such a comparison, because that way we will achieve a much better "score", making us worthy of being the recipients of Hashem's continued bounty, than we would if we were to be judged only by virtue of our own actions.

Alternatively, although tzaddikim of our generation, who have been taken from us and have joined the pamalia shel ma’alo (celestial retinue) are familiar with the specific trials of our generation, and are in a position to serve as our defense counsel, heavenly beings such as angels, who have no idea of the tribulations experienced by mortals that lead them to sin, are incapable of interceding on our behalf, and, on the contrary, are only familiar with the middo of din, (character trait of Divine judgment) which requires us to be destroyed due to all our acts of rebellion against Hashem. Hence, we ask Hashem to look down from His holy dwelling and cleanse us Himself by activating the middos of chesed and rachamim, and pay no regard to the arguments advanced by the angels.

Upholding the torah

“Cursed be he who does not uphold the words of this Torah” (27:26)

The Ramban cites a Yerushalmi that even someone who has learned, taught and observed the mitzvos, but is in a position to uphold the Torah, and fails to do so, is covered by this curse.

This means that rabbonim who are able to stem the tide of secularization and heresy will not be spared from this curse, however much Torah they have spread to those who are already observant. Conversely, the reward of those who refuse to make peace with the status quo, who fight against anti-religious incitement and engage in activities that strengthen their spiritually weak brethren, is increased manifold, and they will enjoy the blessings set aside for those who uphold the words of the Torah.

Reward in this world

“And all these blessings will come upon you and cleave to you, if you obey Hashem, your G-d” (28:2)

In general, there is no reward in this world for the mitzvos, which we perform. However, one of the exceptions to this rule is the reward set aside for those who observe stringencies, which act as fences protecting the actual halocho. Although it is important to know the distinctions between strict halocho and stringencies, those who do consciously go beyond the call of duty, will be rewarded in kind: Hashem will go beyond the strict rule, and reward such persons already in this world.

Looking to the top

“And you will be only at the top, and you will not be at the bottom” (28:13)

This possuk seems to incorporate a superfluous repetition: is it not obvious that someone at the top will not be at the bottom?

The Or Sameach explains that a person must realize and feel the vacuousness of this world and that the whole purpose of his creation was only for the sake of the next world, the only location where it is possible to obtain eternal reward. A person's thoughts should "be only at the top”, lest he dwell upon and limit his goals and ambitions to this "bottom" ephemeral world.


“Because you did not serve Hashem, your G-d, with happiness and with gladness of heart” (28:47)

The Arizal writes that this sin is considered so severe, and one that calls for all the punishments enumerated in the parsha, because the greater a person's joy when performing mitzvos and his enthusiasm to fulfill the will of his Father in Heaven, the greater is the esteem with which his avoda is held in the eyes of the Creator, since it serves as an indication of the depth of his love and fear of Hashem pulsating in his heart; by contrast, those who serve Hashem by rote and mere habit distance themselves from Hashem, and their punishment is correspondingly great.

The Arizal himself is said to have commented that he had merited great insights into the kabbolo because of the joy with which he observed mitzvos. Moreover, the Chasam Sofer notes that the "ministering angel of forgetfulness" have no dominion over the Torah learnt by those who serve Hashem with joy.


“Yet until this day Hashem has not given you a heart to know eyes to see and ears to hear” (29:3)

Although the home of intelligence is the mind, this possuk nevertheless refers to the heart, because a person will only be deemed worthy of attaining true comprehension of the Torah if he does not approach it like some secular discipline studied at University. He must rather work on his emotions and develop a strong desire to understand the Word and Will of Hashem, and the source of such a desire is the heart. That is the recipe for success in his learning.

For this reason we ask for divine assistance in acquiring an intense desire to learn Torah every day in ahava rabbo: "fill our hearts with the ability to understand and comprehend, to listen, learn and teach”. This request is especially apt at this time of year since three times a day in the amido in birkas hashivenu we emphasize the link between coming closer to Hashem’s Torah and doing teshuvo: “Cause us to return, Our Father, to Your Torah; draw us near, Our King, to your service, and bring us back in perfect repentance to Your presence”.