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, January 10, 2013

The Eternity of the Jewish Nation

By Rav Moshe Sternbuch

History repeats itself

"A new king arose over Egypt” (1:8) Rashi: “Rav and Shmuel: one says he was really new, and the other one says: His decrees were new

According to the latter opinion, if these edicts were renewed, what were the contents of the original edicts?

Initially, Paroh wanted his Jewish subjects to become totally assimilated and he was opposed to the territory of Goshen becoming a semi-autonomous kingdom. Thus, he had suggested to “appoint them livestock officers over my cattle” (Bereishis 47:6). In other words: “Let us all become one nation and let them serve our religion.” When this attempt failed, and our ancestors refused to change their names, language or clothing, Paroh decided to enact laws that denied them any rights as citizens, and emphasized that they were nothing more than slaves who had nothing in common with their host nation. From our viewpoint, the initial policy was no less a decree than the new one. It may have been sugarcoated, but the policy was identical: to destroy our religious identity.

This scenario repeated itself in Western Europe. When the ghetto walls were removed, large numbers were enticed into assimilating into the surrounding non-Jewish culture by being offered equal rights and opportunities. Unfortunately, this strategy succeeded only too well in many countries, and after more than a century, the country, which up to that time in many ways epitomized everything that Western culture had to offer, renewed its edicts. Within a very short period, these new laws resulted in crimes which by common consent outdid even the terrible misdeeds of Paroh’s compatriots.

“Who did not know Yoseph” (ibid)
   Paroh did of course know about Yoseph. According to the second opinion, he knew him personally, and even according to the first opinion, he must have heard about everything he did for the benefit of the nation. However, when someone lacks gratitude he pretends that his benefactor never did anything worthy in the first place, in order to soothe his conscience. The medrash says that someone who is ungrateful to a human benefactor will also deny that he is a recipient of blessings from the Creator, and will eventually deny His very existence, just like Paroh did.
By contrast, we are enjoined not to despise the Egyptian since we were strangers in his country (Devorim 23:8). Notwithstanding their persecutions, we are still meant to feel gratitude towards them for hosting us in times of trouble (Rashi ibid). The Torah puts such great emphasis on feeling gratitude for others, so that we may come to feel gratitude towards the Creator, whose kindness is limitless.

Protesting injustice
“Let us deal shrewdly with them” (1:10)
  Chazal tell us (Masseches Soto 11a) that Bilom who advised Paroh to kill the Jews was punished by death at the sword, whereas Iyov, who kept quiet, was punished by having to endure terrible suffering. Why did his mere silence warrant such a severe punishment?
  This teaches us what a serious sin it is to hear about plans to commit mass murder and remain silent and indifferent as if this matter is of no concern to him. They say in the name of the Brisker Rov zt”l that Iyov was punished measure for measure: he kept quiet thinking that protesting would not help anyway, in return for which he suffered afflictions which made him cry out even though he knew that his cries would not alleviate his suffering.
  When a fellow Jew is suffering spiritually or materially, and we are able to protest, but do not care enough to do so, being concerned solely with ourselves and those closest to us, we must realize that this is a serious transgression. Similarly, when decrees are enacted endangering our spiritual or material welfare we are duty-bound to at least cry out and object to such measures, in order to show that we care. Even if our protests are not crowned with success, we will at least have done our bit.

expecting the redemption
“And his sister stood from afar, to see what would happen to him” (2:4)

Chazal say that because she waited here, Miriam was rewarded by having the whole nation wait for her when she became a meztora after she spoke negatively about Moshe Rabbeinu. On the face of it, she did little more than satisfy her natural curiosity to see what would transpire with her baby brother, so why did this act deserve such a great reward?

The first thing we will be asked when we are judged is whether we expected (tzipisa) the redemption. Rav Yechezkel Abramsky zt”l noted that it does not say “kivisa leyeshuah,” because every believing Jew hopes for the redemption. The question we will be asked is whether we expected it the same way that we expect someone to arrive for an appointment at a prearranged time. We don't hope that the person will arrive. We expect him to. Hashem has not revealed a prearranged date for Moshiach to come, but we are meant to hope and wait for him in eager anticipation and expectation bechol yom sheyavo.

Similarly, Miriam waited with the conviction that the yeshuah would come for her brother. She did not know exactly how, but she harbored no doubts that he would be saved, and merely waited to see what form the salvation would take.

Qualities of true leaders
“He struck the Egyptian” (2:12)

 Rashi on the previous possuk states that Paroh had appointed Moshe over his house, and yet when Moshe saw one Jew hit another, he did not keep quiet and rationalize that his job was to deal only with lofty royal matters and not with a dispute between two private Jews. Instead, he risked his own life when he saw one Jew raise his hand at another.

No matter how busy they are with public matters, our gedolim have always been concerned for each and every individual. That is why they are called our "shepherds", and why Moshe Rabbeinu and Dovid Hamelech practiced this profession. Each and every sheep is equally dear in their eyes.

Rav Sternbuch once met someone who, when he became a rov, went to see Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzhinsky zt”l. Rav Chaim Ozer asked him what he felt to be the duties of a communal rov. He answered with a whole list of tasks such as maintaining appropriate kashrus standards. Rav Chaim Ozer responded that he had forgotten the main thing: a rov must take care of widows and orphans.

  “Moshe consented to stay with the man, and he gave his daughter Zipporah to Moshe” (2:21)

Chazal tell us that Yisro agreed that Moshe would marry Zipporah on the condition that the first son produced by their marriage would be handed over to idol-worship and Moshe agreed. Moshe was punished for consenting to this when his grandson Micho served idol worship.

The Gerer Rebbe, the Beis Yisroel zt”l, explained that Yisro’s request is not to be understood literally. He rather argued that it would not be feasible for Moshe to bring up all his sons in an insular Torah-only environment. At least one son should be exposed to the philosophy of idol worship, so that he would be able to refute it. Moshe Rabbeinu was punished for agreeing to this request, because, as we saw last week, it is a parent’s job to ensure that his children receive an intensive Torah education. There will always be enough people to engage in da me shetoshiv outreach activities, and it is not a parent’s job to educate their children by exposing them to non-Jewish or anti-Torah material.

Eternal nation
“The thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being consumed” (3:2)

Throughout history, our foes have endeavored to destroy us physically or spiritually, and when they witness our suffering they imagined that this nation, which is such a thorn in their eyes, was finally going up in flames. However, we are a nation that defies any laws of nature or history, so that even when the bush is burning it never becomes consumed, and since we enjoy special Divine Providence, we will remain an eternal nation. 

UtiliZing the potential of the Shovevim Period
“Now [ve’atah], behold, the cry of the Bnei Yisroel has come to Me” (3:9)
     What is the meaning of ve’atah in this posuk? Perhaps the prayers of the nation in Egypt had not been recited with sufficient outpouring of emotion, but Hashem, taking into account their dire situation and suffering, said He would nevertheless be willing to accept their prayers "now" even though they had not sufficiently repented, because of the state of the generation. We too should plead with Hashem to have regard to the condition of our generation and hasten our redemption.
We have entered the period of Shovavim, and the commentaries make a distinction between superior [illa’a] and inferior [tata’a] repentance, saying that although, strictly speaking, in order for repentance to be effective the sinner must want to repent due to a feeling of awe before the greatness of Hashem (yiras haromemus), in our situation today in this bitter exile, when tumah is so pervasive to such an unprecedented scale, Hashem listens to the cry of the Bnei Yisroel and makes do with "low-grade” repentance, which is motivated by yiras haonesh (fear of punishment). The main thing is to regret the past and remove any trace of tumah from our homes. If we do so, Hashem will surely have pity on us and listen to our prayers.

HAshem awaits
“Hashem said to Moshe, "Ehyeh asher ehyeh”[I will be what I will be]” (3:14)
The more that we let Hashem into our lives and make Him part of it, the greater will be the Divine Providence that we enjoy, as it says: "Let Your mercy, O Hashem, be upon us, to the extent that we have waited for You" (Tehillim 33:22). Similarly, says the Kotzker Rebbe zt”l, Hashem tells us: "I will be wherever I will be”, i.e. wherever someone lets Me in and wants Me to be there.


Yulia Parnos said...