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.
View my complete profile


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.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Battle against the Yetzer Harah

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Lifelong battle

If you go out to war against your enemies, and Hashem your G-d will deliver it into your hands, and you take its captives (21:10)

The Zohar says that our main enemy is the evil inclination, and if we make a point of waging battle against it, Hashem will deliver it into our hands. Rav Moshe Schneider zt”l always said that if we remain inactive the evil inclination will succeed, and we can only hope to overcome it by engaging in combat tactics.

If we fail to do teshuva Hashem takes our Torah, mitzvos and prayers, and holds them "captive" until we have achieved complete teshuva. Only when that happens are we re-credited for all those good deeds.

However, the plain meaning of these pesukim requires some explanation. Some people imagine that the Torah prefers that the soldier make a "deal" with the yetzer horo, rather than give in to it completely, since it would be difficult to overcome it altogether in a situation of war. It is forbidden to countenance such an explanation, because Chazal have told us that this yetzer can always be overcome by means of proper Torah study. Furthermore, the type of war in question is a milchemes reshus in which only the most righteous participate. Why would such people be faced with a nisoyon of the eshes yefas to’ar?

The Or Hachayim on this section hints at the real explanation, which is offered by the mekubolim. The possuk says that the soldier "desires" her. This cheshek refers to an unnatural urge, and one that is untypical for a person of this caliber, even in the circumstances of a war. His task is to overcome it. If he still feels the same urge even after the captive has made herself repulsive, and even after relations with her on a one-time basis, it may be a divine sign that the unnatural urge has spiritual roots and this woman is meant to be brought within the Jewish fold. Thereafter, if he wants to continue to live with her, he has to convert her first.

Sechel and middos  

If a man has a wayward and rebellious son (21:18)

The Ibn Ezra says that a ben sorer umoreh is punishable by sekiloh because since his sole goal in this world is to pursue the pleasures of food and drink he has acquired the status of an apikores. Why does such a person deserve the extreme appellation of an apikores?

A person who conducts himself in a completely unbridled manner without any desire to achieve closeness to the Creator is presumed to eventually become a robber, and is already currently considered to be an apikores (heretic) because he has two disadvantages. Firstly, he does not believe that he will be held to account for his actions before Hashem, and secondly, his actions of stealing from his father and being a glutton indicate that his character traits are also corrupt. Someone with only bad character traits and correct views can overcome his corrupt nature with some intellectual effort, and someone with some positive character traits can utilize those to improve his behavior, but a ben sorer umoreh, who has neither advantage, has no hope.

DOmestic harmony

His father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city (21:19)

The gemara says that if the father comes without the mother their son does not acquire the status of a sorer umoreh. This halocho seems puzzling at first sight, but there is a deep psychological insight behind it. If the father comes without his wife for such a crucial matter it is probably because they are quarrelling and therefore the son's immoral behavior must be attributed to the unsettling environment in the home, and is not due to his fault.

 Harmony between parents is absolutely crucial in the domestic arena, and, at the very least, there should these be no disagreement or arguments chas vesholom in front of the children. This is an elementary and indispensable obligation on the part of all parents. In any case, it would not be appropriate to subject such a son to the death penalty in the expectation of future wrongdoing, because the external cause of his current behavior – his parents’ lack of harmony - may disappear, and in its wake, his unacceptable behavior.

Protesting injustice

The girl, because she did not cry out in the city (22:24)
   The Torah deems silence in a situation where one could have protested to be the equivalent of consent. The Chidushei Harim proves from this possuk that anyone who is in a position to raise a protest about a sin or injustice that needs to be rectified, and fails to do so, is held responsible for his failure to act, and is deemed to agree and be an accomplice to the crime that is being committed. This is an important principle to bear in mind in our generation, which unfortunately does not lack breaches of Torah laws or principles, which may not be overlooked.

Lack of consistency

Because they did not greet you with bread and water on the way, when you left Egypt (23:5)
    The Dubna Magid zt”l says that the Moabites claimed that they did not have the financial means to provide us with bread and water, but Hashem will show them how they managed to come up with money for all sorts of other purposes. Similarly, in our future judgment, when we will be asked why we did not learn more, and we will respond that we were too busy making a living, we will be shown how we managed to find the time to engage in all sorts of superfluous activities, and upon being questioned why we did not give more charity and we will respond that we did not possess the wherewithal to do so, we will be shown how we spent our money on many unnecessary things. 


And he did not fear God (25:18)

Since Amolek is the source of all tumo in the world, it seems strange that the possuk would choose to focus specifically on this deficiency of a lack of yiras shomayim. This shows the depths to which someone without fear of Hashem can reach, as the possuk says, “Surely the fear of G-d is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake”.
In recent generations we have witnessed the unprecedented phenomenon of Jews who not only lack yiras shomayim but even deny the very existence of a Creator, claiming that everything we experience can be attributed to nature. This is the outlook preached by Amolek. However, such a phenomenon should not surprise us, since Rav Moshe Kordovero zt”l already said that in the generation before moshiach some members of the Jewish nation will adopt aspects of Amolek. We are enjoined to love our fellow Jews, but not those who actively incite others to adopt this philosophy of Amolek.

FOCUSSING on the positive

You shall not despise an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner in his land (23:8)

This commandment teaches us the extent to which we must feel gratitude even towards those who have caused us so much harm and suffering. Although the Egyptians behaved with such unspeakable cruelty during the time that they hosted us, their negative traits did not necessarily pass down to their descendants, and we are forbidden to despise them, due to the fact that even at the time they served as our hosts.
If we make a point in our daily lives of dwelling only on the positive aspects of those with whom we come into contact, instead of concentrating on any negative ones, Hashem will repay us in kind and will concentrate exclusively on our positive thoughts, speech and actions, and they will protect us from, and counterbalance the effect of, our negative points.