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, December 27, 2012


By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

Assessing damages

“And Judah approached him and said, "Please, my lord” (44:18) Bereishis Rabbo: "Rabi Simon said: "In our laws it says: ‘If he has nothing, he shall be sold for his theft’, but this one [Binyomin] has something to pay”.

We can understand this medrash in light of a dispute between the acharonim (later commentators) regarding someone who damages an object which has market value and also a higher value to its owner based on his specific situation. For example, the market value of a used item of clothing may be very low, but its owner would be willing to pay more for it than the market value, because it fits him well or he is used to it etc. How much is the damaging party liable to pay - the market value or the subjective value of the damaged item for its owner?

The Nesivos states that even if the object is worth a lot to the damaged party, the damaging party is not liable to pay more than the market value, but the Chazon Ish disagrees and holds that the subjective value of the item for its owner is the determining factor whenever a bais din decides how much damages to award to the damaged party. The prevalent custom adopted by botei din is to adopt the approach of the Chazon Ish (although only a quantifiable monetary value for the owner is taken into account, and not some sentimental value, e.g. one stemming from the fact that the owner had received the item as an inheritance from his ancestors).

Yehuda admitted that for Yosef himself the cup was worth a lot because he practiced divination with it, but its real market value was no more than that for a standard cup, and that he was willing to pay. Moreover, he was in possession of the cup itself, so that there was no need at all to sell the thief into slavery according to our laws. Yosef’s entourage, on the other hand, responded that the cup had immense value for their master because he used that cup specifically for his divination purposes.

Moreover, they may also have argued that it only had the ability to serve as a tool of divination as long as it was in Yosef’s possession, but as soon as it had been stolen and transferred to the thief’s possession it lost this ability, so that the value of the cup - which had been enormous hitherto - had depreciated incalculably as a result of the theft, and only by serving as a slave for an extended period could the thief compensate for the loss he had caused.

The language of emotion

“Let your servant speak a word in my master’s ears” (ibid) Rashi: "may my words penetrate your ears”.

The Brisker Rov zt”l related that before the war the Polish government enacted a decree requiring everybody to learn Polish and mathematics. The rabbonim considered this to be a grave interference by the government with their internal affairs, and convened a meeting which was attended by many rabbonim and admorim in order to discuss ways to abolish this decree. The rabbonim decided that the best way to proceed would be to send a delegation of gedolei yisroel to the Minister of Education and explain to him why this matter was of such deep concern to them. None of the rabbonim spoke Polish except for one rov, and it was proposed to send him as a spokesman. However, the Chofetz Chaim zt”l opposed this, arguing that the authorities would be likely to respond: "You see, you can produce enlightened Polish-speaking rabbis, so why are you opposed to our new law?”

Instead, the Chofetz Chaim, who like all the others only spoke Yiddish, offered to be the spokesman himself. When he appeared for the interview with the Minister, he started to speak in Yiddish but quickly burst into uncontrollable tears. Although he did not understand a word of what the Chofetz Chaim was saying, the Minister was much moved. He said that he had not realized that this issue was so important for the rabbis, and assured them that he would issue instructions for the decree to be abolished.

Similarly, Yehuda thought that Yosef did not speak Hebrew, but he decided to speak it nevertheless in the hope that his words would penetrate Yosef’s ears and heart.

Keeping Loshon hakodesh holy

“And behold, your eyes see… that it is my mouth speaking to you” (45:12) Rashi: "in the holy tongue”.

The Chasam Sofer explains that Yosef wanted to convince his brothers that he had remained faithful to his religion. That is what Yosef wanted to express to them by telling them that he was still speaking Hebrew. He was emphasizing that he was still adhering to the holy way of life of the forefathers and he wanted his brothers to make their father happy by conveying this to him. Loshon hakodesh is not merely a language, but a symbol of sanctity. When the Jews were exiled to Bovel, they started speaking the local language, Assyrian, since they realized that their spiritual level had declined to the extent that it would no longer be appropriate to speak loshon hakodesh.

Until recent generations loshon hakodesh retained its quality as a language which was deemed worthy to be used only by someone on a sufficiently high level, and people were also aware of the special sanctity of Eretz Yisroel and our concomitant responsibility to behave accordingly in the eretz hakodesh. Using loshon hakodesh to speak loshon horo or other forbidden matters was unthinkable, especially not in Eretz Yisroel. However, as part of their program of "normalizing" our nation and secularizing holy concepts in order to advance their agenda, our erring brothers chose loshon hakodesh as their vernacular. This has had the tragic result that apart from the “hijacking” of holy words and concepts (such as “mishkan haknesset”) ivrit is not only used to articulate loshon horo, but also contains coarse or brazen terminology.


“I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up, and Yosef will place his hand on your eyes.” (46:4)

The same Hashem who took us down to Egypt also took us out of it and gave us the Torah. Life often seems like one big mystery. Why do the righteous suffer? Why do some people suffer from poverty, health problems etc. when less righteous people seem to have less problems?

Yosef did indeed place his hands on his eyes. He asked no questions. Instead of becoming embittered at his fate, or bearing a grudge against his brothers, he went out of his way to assure them that everything had turned out for the good and that they should not be upset. Hashem wants all of us to place our hands on our eyes and trust that He knows what is best for us even if cannot understand it. We will be rewarded for our faith and patience when all the intricacies of the divine plan will be revealed in the future.

Yaakov and yosef

“And Yosef harnessed his chariot, and he went up to meet Yisroel his father, to Goshen, and he appeared to him, and he fell on his neck, and he wept on his neck for a long time.” (46:29). Rashi: Yosef presented himself to his father.

We can easily imagine how happy Yosef must have been upon finally meeting his father, and yet he was even happier at the joy experienced by his father after all the sorrow he had to endure thinking that his son had died. Yosef “presented himself to his father”: he put his own personal joy aside in order to concentrate on increasing his father's pleasure as much as possible. This teaches us that in order to perform the mitzvah of kibud av vo’em properly, we not only have to honor and assist our parents, but also to feel joy at their happiness, thereby proving how important they are in our eyes.

Rashi tells us that Yaakov, for his part, neither fell on Yosef’s neck nor kissed him since he was busy reciting Shema. By accepting Hashem's unity upon himself at the hour of his greatest joy, Yaakov was emphasizing that nothing is of any value or importance compared to the paramount principle of Hashem's unity. At the same time, Yosef became so moved at the sight of his father, who, due to his great holiness, was not willing to enjoy the sight of his son before mentioning Hashem's name and His unity that he wept on his father's neck "for a long time". He cried, firstly, because such a righteous person, who lived in accordance with an absolute set of priorities, had suffered so much, and, secondly, because his father's awe-inspiring conduct made him regret not having had the merit of being in the vicinity of such a great person for so many years and this stirred up his yearning be in his vicinity once again.


“So that you may dwell in the land of Goshen” (46:34)

Despite their yearning to be with each other after all these years, Yaakov and Yosef decided that it would be best for Yaakov and his descendants to live far away in Goshen as outcasts in the company of shepherds, even though this meant that Yaakov and Yosef would not see each other again until just before Yaakov's death. Yaakov and his sons could easily have lived comfortably in the city next to Yosef, but decided instead to say that they were shepherds, who were hated by the Egyptians. Yaakov reasoned that the only way he could be saved from the tumoh of Egypt was by secluding himself in Goshen and learning Torah day and night.

The Rambam talks about the powerful influence of the environment, and we too should not underestimate its pull. The precedent of Yaakov demonstrates how important it is for us to get our priorities right and live in the vicinity of religious people rather than living a life of luxury amongst non-Jews or Jews who do not share our values or lifestyle.

Religious dispensation

“Only the land of the priests he did not buy” (47:22)

As steeped as the Egyptians were in immorality and idol worship they still understood that people who dedicated their lives to a religious purpose had a different status to other people and must be left to lead their lives undisturbed. Even during the period of the harshest decrees against the Jews during our exile in Egypt, the Levi’im, who made up about 10% of the population were exempted from slavery, in their capacity as religious ministers.

How tragic it is that in Eretz Yisroel, of all places, some of our brethren still have to come to the realization that by encroaching on the inviolable status of bnei Torah they are only shooting themselves in the leg, because any material success which they enjoy is due to the merits created by those very same people whose way of life they completely fail to understand.