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, November 1, 2012

Kiddush Hashem

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Trusting Hashem

“And Hashem said to Avram, "Go from your land” (12:1) Rashi: for your benefit and for your good
  This commandment was one of the ten trials enumerated by Chazal with which Avrohom was tested. If Hashem assured Avrohom that this move would be for his benefit, why was it was it considered to be a test?
   In Choron Avrohom Ovinu not only lived in physical luxury like a king, but he and his wife also thrived on the spiritual plane, having been successful in drawing myriads of people closer to Hashem. It seemed to make little sense to uproot himself and emigrate to the unknown territory of Kna’an. To believe wholeheartedly in Hashem's assurance that this step would be for his good instead of saying: "please Hashem, I would rather do without these benefits and stay right where I am” required complete emuno, and Avrohom’s unquestioning faith is therefore considered to have been one of the ten trials.
   For this reason too it says in the parsha of the akeido (the binding of Isaac) “Go [lech lecho] to the land of Moriah”. This phrase too indicates that the instruction was for Avrohom’s benefit and for his good, even though it seemed contrary to logical considerations. What would happen to the promise of descendants through Yitzchok and how could he continue to fight against child sacrifices? The akeido was the ultimate trial, and only someone like Avrohom who had internalized the fact that only Hashem knows what is best for us, could have withstood it.
      On the possuk "And Avrom took Sarai his wife” the Medrash says that Avrom had to convince his wife to move with him to Kna’an. Why should she have needed to be convinced to move together with her husband? Avrohom had received direct divine reassurance that the requirement to move immediately would be for his benefit, but she had not been told anything by Hashem, and so she might have thought this instruction did not apply to her and felt that she specifically should remain in Choron and continue her important for work of bringing people closer to Hashem. Hence she needed to be convinced.


“And you shall be a blessing” (12:2)

The Medrash reads brocho as breicho (pool) - just as a pool (mikveh) purifies the impure, so shall you purify those who are far removed from Hashem. The Avnei Nezer zt”l comments on this that not only does a mikveh purify, but it also does not receive any tumoh. Similarly, someone engaging in outreach work must be like a mikveh: not only must he possess the ability to bring others closer to Hashem, but he must also be completely immune to the pernicious influences that are usually prevalent in the environments in which he is forced to engage in this holy activity.

It is true that someone who sacrifices his ruchniyus for the sake of drawing others closer to avodas Hashem will not decrease, but in fact increase, his share in the world to come, and he will also receive His blessings in this world (a lesson we learn learn from Avrohom Ovinu himself), this only applies if the person’s character and own spiritual level are sufficiently high to be impervious to any external influences. Sacrificing one’s own ruchniyus in the sense of slowing down our spiritual growth, by reducing the amount of time spent in accumulating Torah knowledge, for example, is one thing, but to engage in outreach work at the cost of actual encroachments on our current level of avodas Hashem is something that must be avoided at all costs.


“Please say that you are my sister, in order that it go well with me because of you, and that my soul may live because of you” (12:13) Rashi: They will give me gifts

We know that Avrohom kept the whole of the Torah, so why did he say about his wife that she was his sister, thereby exposing her to the danger of immorality which, according to some opinions, even females must give up their life for rather than transgressing it?

Before matan Torah (the giving of the Torah) divorce was effected by a mere expression of will on the part of the husband to separate from his wife, followed by an act of separation. Avrohom was therefore saying that if they would take her she should say that she was his sister. That constituted a conditional act of divorce, and the condition was fulfilled when Soroh made this statement and was taken away. She was therefore no longer a married woman, but Paroh was still punished, because taking Soroh away forcibly and forcing her to be his maidservant, constituted an act of theft.

Avrohom was interested in obtaining the gifts subsequently, not because of a desire to become enriched, but in order to publicise the greatness of the Creator, in that Paroh who had intended to steal Soroh had not only been prevented by Hashem from doing so, but had even presented Avrohom with an abundance of gifts, and sent guards to watch over Avrohom and Soroh. This kiddush Hashem would help Avrohom in his efforts to draw people closer to Hashem.


“And he gave him a tithe from all” (14:20)

Rashi cites the Medrash that Avrohom gave Malkizedek a tithe from all the spoils that he had taken, because he was a priest. He probably did so because he did not want to benefit from the property of the wicked, since no success comes from such assets. The Ohr Hachayim Hakodosh zt”l comments that although Avrohom was entitled to waive his right to the spoils of the war in favor of the King of Sedom, as soon as someone gains possession of property, the obligation to separate ma’aser in favour of the poor comes into play, and the ma’aser acquires a quasi-hekdesh quality, which is incapable of being “renounced” by the owner of the property: even if he returns the property to the original owner, he must still separate the ma'aser¸ because it has been acquired by the poor.

Although it is forbidden to give a present or return a lost object to an akum, the Rambam rules that is it is permitted to return it if his intention is to create a sanctification of the divine name, and since Avrohom intended to publicize the fact that he had not waged war for the purpose of monetary gain but only to save lives, it was permitted, and in fact a mitzvah, to return the spoils.

Cost of miracles

“Fear not, Avrom; I am your Shield; your reward is exceedingly great” (15:1)
Chazal say that Avrohom was worried about losing part of his portion in the world to come. This seems surprising since he had already demonstrated self-sacrifice and been the beneficiary of miracles, for example in the fiery furnace in Ur Kasdim. However, when Hashem changes the course of nature and reveals Himself through open miracles, this calls for correspondingly superior behaviour on the part of the beneficiaries of such miracles, and, in the absence of such behavior, the punishment can be very severe.
  That was also the motive of the meraglim who did not want to enter Eretz Yisroel: they knew from personal experience that Hashem was perfectly capable of performing any miracle to ensure their continued survival even in the most hostile surroundings, but were worried that the nation was not on a level to live up to the standards required of the beneficiaries of the miracles that would occur, were they to enter Eretz Yisroel.

Countering Yishmoel

“And Yishmoel his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised of the flesh of his foreskin” (17:25)
The descendants of Yishmoel continue to practice milo (albeit without perioh) and the Zohar notes that the merit of this act is sufficient to provide them with the right to dwell in Eretz Yisroel for a long time, and gives them the ability to persecute us in the last generations before moshiach.
    Since their power stems from the bris milo we are able to counteract their influence by observing our own bris, by guarding our eyes and keeping away from printed or electronic media, which purvey immorality. Strengthening the sanctity of the os bris provides us with the ability to weaken the power of Yishmoel’s descendants, and even if other nations join them to wage war against us, we will be in position to subjugate them. May it happen speedily in our days.