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.
Saturday, October 27, 2012

Living for Others

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Types of greatness

“Noach was a righteous man” (6:9).

Rashi quotes the gemoro (Sanhedrin 108a) that some people interpret this phrase as a tribute to Noach, and in a generation of righteous people he would have been on an even higher level whereas others argue that it is derogatory, because in the generation of Avrohom he would not have been considered righteous. Since the Torah testifies again below that Hashem said: "For you I have seen righteous before me in this generation” (7:1) how can we understand the view which maintains that the phrase at the beginning of the parsha is derogatory contrary both to its plain meaning and that possuk  below?

In truth, according to both opinions Noach was righteous because he withstood trials on a daily basis surrounded as he was everywhere only by wicked people, and this alone entitled him to be awarded the title of a righteous person, and if he would have had the opportunity to engage in avodas Hashem in a generation which did not require him to constantly withstand tests, he would have been even more righteous, whereas those who say that he would not have been considered to be a person of stature had he lived in the generation of Avrohom contend that although he was righteous in his generation specifically because he exercised tremendous dedication, determination and self-discipline by refraining from sinning in such a challenging environment, if he would not have had to face such challenges he may not have attained such high levels. It therefore turns out that both opinions praise Noach for his actual behavior during his lifetime.

Moreover, according to the latter opinion, since Noach did not engage in chesed with his fellow human beings by beseeching Hashem to save them (see more on this below), he would not have been considered of any importance in the generation of Avrohom, who dedicated himself to the spiritual and material well-being of the members of his generation. We conclude the first brocho of the shmona esrei with mogen Avrohom, in order to emphasize the fundamental importance of this trait, and that when we excel in it, we are entitled to ask Hashem to reciprocate by activating His middo of chesed in our favor.

Outreach candidates

“Noach walked with Hashem” (ibid). Rashi: Noach required Hashem’s support to uphold him, but Avrohom strengthened himself and walked in his righteousness by himself
Noach may have required Hashem’s support because he was only righteous for himself, and did not get involved in the affairs of his fellow human beings, as opposed to Avrohom, who attained his faith through intellectual enquiry. Although Noach’s righteousness prevented him from becoming enticed into participating in the wicked deeds of his contemporaries, it was not sufficient to attract them to follow the righteous path. Avrohom, on the other hand, who understood the internal wisdom of the Torah was capable of influencing others to follow his path.
We have often emphasized the importance of simple unquestioning faith, but someone who has a thorough grasp of the fundamental principles of Judaism, having delved and enquired into them, and who possesses the talent for disseminating them, may be more successful in doing outreach work. A person who combines a deep inner faith independent of intellectual enquiries, who has nevertheless undertaken such studies, would make the ideal candidate for outreach work.

the power of REPENTANCE

“And the rain was upon the earth for forty days and forty nights” (7:12). Rashi: He brought them down with mercy, so that if they would repent, they would be rains of blessing
Noach’s contemporaries committed all the cardinal sins, and (unlike the generation that built the migdal Bovel) even their character traits were totally corrupt, and yet Hashem still waited 120 years to see if they would repent. Had they done so, they would have been forgiven, and the rains would also have turned into rains of blessing, even though the repentance would only have been motivated by fear of an impending deluge. How much more so is the power of teshuva me’ahavo, when a person repents out of love of Hashem and a desire to do His will. When that happens Hashem showers us with unlimited blessings.

Noach’s ATonement

“Come out of the ark” (8:16)
The Zohar contrasts Noach’s conduct with that of Moshe Rabbeinu, who asked Hashem to delete him from His Book rather than found a new great nation. Noach too after having been told about the forthcoming mabul should have pleaded for his contemporaries to remain alive until they repent, instead of thinking only of himself and his family.
Hashem could have found another way to keep the animal world alive other than the ark, but it was a way for Noach to achieve atonement for his sinful conduct in the period leading up to the mabul.  Hashem was telling Noach: “You wanted to live a solitary life, and did not care enough for your fellow men, now you will be forced to live for an extended period on your own with your family in ‘solitary confinement’ from the rest of the world. Moreover, you refused to act with kindness to your fellow men, now you will be forced to perform ceaseless acts of chesed for an entire year for all the animals”.
Noach suffered terribly in the ark, from the stifling heat (the water outside was boiling and there was no ventilation inside the ark), from the stench emanating from the animals, from the attack by the lion and so on. This suffering facilitated the process of atonement. However, since the period he was to spend inside the ark was a punishment to atone for his previous behaviour, Noach was not permitted to leave it until commanded to do so, so that he could be sure that his sin had been forgiven.

“And he took of all the clean animals and of all the clean fowl and brought up burnt offerings [olos] on the mizbeach” (8:20)
Once he had left the ark, Noach offered up olo offerings. This type of korbon atones for sinful thoughts, and in this case Noach, after having witnessed all the destruction, regretted not having prayed for his generation, having deemed himself to be unworthy of affecting the divine decree. Modesty in and of itself is one of the most important character traits to develop, but we see here the disastrous effects of failing to act or to pray on behalf of others due to unwarranted modesty. Only once it was too late did Noach realize his mistaken attitude, and wished to atone for it through these korbonos.

“But your blood, of your souls, I will demand” (9:5)
It is forbidden to murder someone else in order to shorten their suffering or even to commit suicide in order to shorten one's own suffering.
In the Warsaw ghetto the rabbonim that still remained issued a proclamation that our wicked enemies had made us despise this world, but they could not deprive us of the world to come, and someone who committed suicide would not have a share in the world to come. According to reliable witnesses the vast majority, being imbued with complete faith, withstood the test and did not commit suicide.
Rav Yaakov Yechiel Weinberg, the Seridei Esh zt”l, told Rav Sternbuch that it was a common phenomenon in the Warsaw ghetto for people to get married in the afternoon, in the full knowledge that they might be taken to their deaths before the day was over. They refused to let their circumstances deter them from performing mitzvos as much as they could.
 The emuno of those people, who almost went out of their minds due to the suffering they had to endure, was astounding, all the more so since these events took place not many centuries ago, but very close to our own times. May they inspire us to withstand the more mundane trials of our own generation.