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.
Friday, December 14, 2012

Our relationship with Gentiles

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch


“Yaakov sent angels ahead of him to Eisov” (32:4)

When Rav Sternbuch was a child his father asked him why Yaakov had to send real angels. Why could he not have sent ordinary people? Rav Sternbuch responded that had he done so Eisov would have killed them, but his father explained that since Yaakov had sent presents to Eisov he would be likely to think that Yaakov had become like him, steeped in the affairs of this world, and Yaakov therefore sent angels to indicate that he was still exclusively focused on spiritual issues and uninterested in worldly affairs.

600,000 angels had been dispatched by Yaakov. These were beings that Yaakov himself had created as a result of all his Torah, mitzvos and good deeds. Each mitzvah performed by a yid creates an angel which acts as his defense counsel whose importance and power depends on the concentration, dedication and joy with which the person’s deeds are performed. However, Eisov remained unmoved. Having been educated in the house of Yitzchok and Rivka he knew all about the world to come, but his intense craving for "cash" here and now, for fulfilling all his material desires in this world, almost completely clouded over his intellectual knowledge. In any case, upon being faced with all these important angels, Eisov realized that Yaakov had remained the same righteous person who was totally immersed in spiritual matters.

No compromises

“I have sojourned” (32:5) Rashi: "I lived with the wicked Lovon but still kept the 613 commandments and did not learn from his wicked deeds”

Yaakov was telling Eisov that even though he was willing to compromise in gashmiyus and send him lots of presents, he should not think that in matters of ruchniyus there was any room for compromise. Even in the hostile environment of Lovon’s house he had not given up even one mitzvah.

Alternatively, Eisov initially thought it was difficult to observe the Torah and therefore had not been that interested in Yitzhock’s blessings, but upon seeing the presents and how Yaakov was benefiting from both worlds Yaakov was worried that he would become jealous of him. He therefore emphasized that he had lived with Lovon and had had a very difficult time observing the 613 commandments there. That way he hoped to prevent Eisov from becoming jealous.


“He divided the people who were with him… into two camps” (32:8)

Yaakov Ovinu prepared himself with presents, prayer and war and the Medrash says that each camp prayed for itself. Yaakov did not want everybody to rely on all the people accompanying him. He therefore divided up the people into two smaller camps so that each camp would pray and cry out to Hashem to save them as if they were the only camp. Being relatively small in number, their prayers would be more likely to be sincere and heartfelt instead of relying on their own prowess.

In the recent war in Gaza more than 1000 missiles were fired at us causing relatively few casualties or damage. Hashem was testing us to see firstly whether we put our faith into our strengths and wisdom and in the “Iron Dome” system or whether we rely totally on Him, and secondly, whether we react with appropriate gratitude for His protection over the nation now that the war is over.

Our enemy wants to lose

“He said, "I will not let you go unless you have blessed me” (32:27)

Chazal (Masseches Chulin 91b) say that the angel told Yaakov that from the day that he had been created his time had not come to sing a song of praise until now.

The Chebiner Rov, Rav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l explained that although the yetzer horo’s task is to lead us astray, since he is an angelic being who knows the truth he is happy when we overcome him. Therefore, when he saw that he was unable to overcome Yaakov, neither in his pose as a talmid chachom nor in his pose as a Gentile, he was happy and asked to be released, because now for the first time, the time had come for him to sing Hashem’s praises: in other words, there had been no more appropriate time for him to be happy and sing than now when Yaakov had overcome him.

Yaakov replied that he would not release him until he had blessed them: in other words until he had confessed that Yaakov had managed to overcome him, and that the yetzer horo no longer had any power over him. Even if we cannot emulate this completely, it remains our task to attempt to vanquish the yetzer horo to the best of our ability, thereby causing our "enemy" ultimate joy and satisfaction.


“And he fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (33:4). Rashi: Rabi Shimon ben Yochai said: It is a well known principle [halocho] that Eisov hates Yaakov, but his compassion was moved at that time, and he kissed him wholeheartedly

Rav Menachem Zemba zt”l hy”d comments that Rabi Shimon is the one who is usually doresh ta’ama dikro (derives practical conclusions from rational reasons for commandments) but in this case he emphasizes that the phenomenon of anti-Semitism is an irrational halocho. How else can we explain the fact that the Jews are accused of being socialists on the one hand and capitalists on the other hand, of being rich and successful but simultaneously also poor and lazy and a burden on the state?

The maskilim ("enlightened ones who wanted the Jews to integrate more into secular society) argued that if we changed our external appearance and adopted the positive aspects of our host culture the Gentiles’ animosity towards us would disappear. This argument was conclusively debunked when Germany, the cradle of haskolo (the Jewish Enlightenment movement) and assimilation, became the source of unparalleled cruelty, destruction and annihilation during World War II.

The Kloisenburger Rebbe zt”l, a Holocaust survivor, asked why Yaakov’s sons insisted that all the male inhabitants of Shchem circumcise themselves in the parsha of Dinoh. On a plain level this was to serve as proof of their sincerity, but the Rebbe suggested a different reason. Had Yaakov’s sons subsequently committed an act of "mass murder" on the uncircumcised population the whole world would have been in uproar, but now that they were circumcised the surrounding nations would consider them to be Jewish, and the murder of Jews is something that can be committed with impunity. Similarly, concluded the Rebbe, the Germans and their henchmen, could never have got away with killing six million Gentiles.

Our erring brethren were and remain unaware that, as noted by the Medrash Hagodol Eisov’s hatred towards Yaakov was created by Hashem for our benefit to prevent our assimilating amongst the nations and remaining a holy nation. No amount of public relations can change this fact and the genuine response to anti-Semitism lies in increased observance of Torah and mitzvos.